EDITORIAL 2 Obiter Dicta Great Expectations Managing the aspirational gap between what is and what you expect M a n y of us go through our lives set ting what we like to label “goals” and “objectives” for ourselves. And for the most part this seems to be a healthy and productive thing to do. Though sometimes these aspirations morph into expectations, very high ones at that, and it is when this happens that we set ourselves up for potential struggles. Often we see this as simply the result of a desire for selfimprovement and the risk of disappointment is merely a cost to be paid. Maybe it happens as a result of confidence in what our future holds, or as a result of buying into the narratives that society presents us. It’s hard not to hold certain expectations of how our paths should unfold when we are led to believe that false dichotomies such as “right” and “wrong” exist. With the recent release of last semester’s grades combined with the flurry of calls for applications for intensive programs, international exchanges, and the Ottawa round of OCIs, this time of the year quite easily lends itself to the act of reflection. It is a fitting time to reassess our life goals and make adjustments where necessary. It can be an appropriate moment to take inventory of these expectations and assess whether they continue to stand up within the reality in which we exist. While some might be rejoicing in the discovery of their success, others are likely recovering from a wake up call that harshly brought them back down to reality. For the most part, it is to those individuals whom I speak because I also stood in this position a year ago, and even though I had not ‘failed’ in any objective sense of the word, relative to the expectations I had for myself, it felt as though I had. I’ve recently come to reflect on how our expectations can motivate us to improve ourselves, but also how they can equally leave us feeling disappointed when we don’t live up to what we imagined. The problem, as I see it, is that, for some of us, when we face weakness, when we stumble, when we ‘fail’ in our own eyes, we easily slip into a hyper-critical state where we no longer hold ourselves to the rational image of mere mortals. We suddenly expect ourselves to possess all the strengths and qualities of a superhuman being, and when the reality doesn’t match with that image, we shame ourselves for this perceived failure, entering into a vicious cycle that only serves to make matters worse. Much a. Osgoode Hall Law School, 0014g York University 4700 Keele Street Toronto, on m3j 1p3 e. ObiterDicta@osgoode.yorku.ca w. obiter-dicta.ca t. @obiterdictaoz “Fools and obstinate men make rich lawyers.” spanish proverb ê Life doesn’t always bring you to the destination you had planeed. Photo credit: Pat Cegan. in the same vein as perfectionism, failure to turn our high expectations into reality has the very real risk of bringing stress, disappointment, or unhappiness into our lives. Moreover, these expectations can, at times, be counter-productively high. They can stand as a barrier that holds us back from taking a different path; from gaining experiences that arise from simply remaining open to new opportunities that lie outside what we would have imagined for ourselves. The ‘failure is not an option’ mentality accompanying many top performers can potentially have the effect of binding these students to a very strict script they have created for themselves out of a fear of treading into the unknown and making a mistake. Sometimes we find ourselves so entrenched in the vision of a future that may or may not exist that we refuse to acknowledge or take advantage of paths that might lead us astray from what we perceive to be our destined outcome. I can understand the appeal of finding comfort within a world of uncertainty through this type of thinking. Admittedly, it is far easier to persist through adversity when we visualize the fruits of our labour waiting for us at the end. However, one of the many valuable lessons I learned from art school was that embracing, rather than fearing, the unexpected is a trait among those who find themselves further editorial board editor-in-chief | Karolina Wisniewski managing editor | Sam Michaels layout editor | Heather Pringle editorial staff business managers | Alvin Qian, Adam Cepler communications manager | Carla Marti copy editor | Subban Jama news editor | Mike Capitano opinions editor | Carla Marti arts & culture editor | Marie Park sports editor | Evan Ivkovic website editor | Asad Akhtar ahead in the pack. I would argue that an ability to spot and adapt to the surprises that come our way is a greater determinant of our success and happiness than the sheer “sweat of the brow.” Compounding the problem is the inherent nature of law school. When we stop and think about how we attribute meaning to the success we achieve in our lives, it becomes clear that we assess the value of our achievements relative to our expectations and the expectations of others around us. In essence, while we complain about being graded on the curve, for many of us, we have already engaged in a comparison process that subjectively measures our performance against our peers prior to walking through those front doors. Law school seems to have the uncanny ability to self-select its students based on these characteristics. It is in that light that I often tell myself that I am somewhat of an outlier; though I don’t say this with absolutism. Admittedly, there have been times when I fall into the very mindset of which I have been describing. However, for the most part, and I’m sure anyone who knows me can attest, my response to the pressures arising from the expectations that constantly surround us is, paradoxically, to hold low expectations. I don’t staff writers Kate Henley, Gleb Matushansky, Erin Garbett, Hannah de Jong, Kenneth Cheak Kwan Lam, Kendall Grant, Rob Hamilton, Esther Mendelsohn, Parmbir Singh Gill, Michael Silver, Nabila Khan, Sabreena Delhon contributors Benjamin Hognestad Submissions for the February 23 issue are due at 5pm on Febrary 14, and should be submitted to: firstname.lastname@example.org » see great expectations, page 14 The Obiter Dicta is published biweekly during the school year, and is printed by Weller Publishing Co. Ltd. Obiter Dicta is the official student newspaper of Osgoode Hall Law School. The opinions expressed in the articles contained herein are not necessarily those of the Obiter staff. The Obiter reserves the right to refuse any submission that is judged to be libelous or defamatory, contains personal attacks, or is discriminatory on the basis of sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Submissions may be edited for length and/or content.