Expectation vs. Reality

I often see posts where people write to their younger selves, typically telling them that everything turned out ok. That's great, and a good practice, but I recently heard a story that altered that setup a bit. Peter Emshwiller recorded himself at age eighteen, asking questions to his future self. Recently, at age fifty-six, Emshwiller recorded his responses and spliced them into his original video. What resulted was this.

What's interesting is that the younger Emshwiller was certain he would grow up to be dashing and famous, but that wasn't necessarily the case, as the older Emshwiller revealed. This got me thinking: what are things that eighteen year old Niki expected of her future self? How would she respond to twenty-six year old Niki and her life? Since my video recording and editing skills are limited (read: non-existent), this won't be as visually captivating as Emshwiller's work (read: there's no video folks), but hopefully it will be somewhat enlightening - at least for me.

Eighteen year old Niki on the left, twenty-six year old Niki on the right
Employment - Expectation
When I was eleven years old, I watched Legally Blonde for the first time and decided that I was going to be a lawyer. At eighteen, I had the expectation of wearing power suits and winning cases from age twenty-five to forever. There was no doubt in my mind that I could and would do it, to the point where I didn't even have a backup career in mind.

Employment - Reality
Both eighteen year old Niki and Elle Woods would be surprised to see twenty-six year old Niki. In my senior year of college I struggled with the LSAT, I struggled with application essays, and I struggled with the thought of leaving all of my friends and family for at least three years of law school. If you happened to see a struggle bus in Fall 2010, I was probably driving it. During my final semester of college, I decided to go to grad school instead. I got my master's degree in public administration and currently work in the non-profit world. No power suits. No cases to win. However, I have maintained strong relationships with my family and friends, I don't have ungodly amounts of student loans hanging over my head, and I'm doing work that I feel is important and catalytic. If eighteen year old Niki is disappointed that I'm not a lawyer, I would tell her that she's healthier and happier because she changed her mind at the last minute.

Love - Expectation
Even though my love life only existed in my imagination at eighteen, I still had a love life plan:
1) meet a tall, dark, handsome man in law school and fall in love [he even had a name, Eli Montgomery (so refined), and he was also going to be a lawyer]
2) marry said tall, dark, handsome man right after law school graduation & live happily ever after

Love - Reality
I actually stayed pretty true to this one:
1) I met a tall, dark, handsome man in college and fell in love (his name was Tadd Fortner, not Eli Montgomery, and he was a web development student)
2) I married said tall, dark, handsome man right after grad school graduation, & we're currently living happily ever after

You're welcome, eighteen year old Niki.

Life in general - Expectation
My younger self expected a life based on things - I wanted a huge house, an expensive car, and the nicest clothes that money could buy. I was going to be a lawyer and be married to a lawyer, so why not focus on the finer things?

Life in general - Reality
At twenty-six, it's not the things that I have that actually matter to me, but the experiences I've had. I have what I would consider a nice house; it's not huge, but I love it and all the times that it's filled with the people, cats, & hedgehogs that I love so dearly. My car wasn't expensive when I bought it in grad school, even though I was just working part-time, but Bernadette (yes, my car has an awesome name) has taken me on so many adventures - vacations, hiking trips, and family visits - that I will never forget. As for clothes, I don't buy them unless they're on sale, and what I actually remember most about them are the jokes and shenanigans that my friends and I get into when we're out shopping.

Maybe eighteen year old Niki would be disappointed that I'm not a rich lawyer with a rich lawyer husband and lots of expensive things. Twenty-six year old Niki, however, is not. Although there is still so much that I want to do, I feel that by going against the expectations I made for myself, I have lived more than the eighteen year old version of me would ever have anticipated. I have seen so many beautiful places and things, met incredible people, and found legitimate happiness in marrying a weird man and making a life with him and our even weirder pets. Would I have been able to say that if I had stuck to my original plan? I can't say for sure, but I feel really good about the choices I've made and where I am today.

What would your younger self think of where you are now, Hipsters? Comment below!

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