Since 8th grade, I have backpacked at least 45 miles each summer, so when my friends and I decided to hike the volcano, Pichincha, one Saturday afternoon I felt confident in my abilities. However, as we rode up to the base of the mountain in el Teleferico (basically a ski lift) and the air was already difficult to breathe in, my mind quickly changed. As I huffed and puffed up the mountain my friends jokingly never let me forget my how confident I had previously been. Three hours of uphill climbing later, we reached what was supposed to be the top, and found ourselves engulfed in a cloud. We ended up having to abandon the mission, and go back down the mountain before we reached the actual summit.
I came to Quito, Ecuador feeling good about my knowledge of the Spanish language. My mind was changed once I realized how different each persons’ accent is, and when I found myself not knowing nearly enough vocabulary. My mind was changed about the simplicity of handling money when it became clear that NO ONE will accept a $20 bill because there’s no change. And, my mind was definitely changed in my abilities to get around when I had to speak to a policeman for 30 minutes just to figure out where I lived.
I came in with certain expectations for myself, only to have them shut down and turned into learning opportunities. When I expected burritos and enchiladas I got broccoli soup, and quickly realized that Ecuadorian food is not remotely like the Americanized version of Mexican food.
People always told me not to have expectations before coming here, but I have changed my mind about those. Some expectations are good to have, because then you can fully recognize how ignorant you are. I haven’t learned 1/100th of what I will this year, but I will know I have learned when all of my 125,687 subconscious expectations have been shattered. And then, I want my friends to look back and laugh at who I once was… and then continue to laugh at how much I still don’t know.
When we reached our top of that ragged, beautiful volcano, we should have been disappointed that we had come so far and tried so hard, yet couldn’t see the sign that said “Congratulations, you’ve reached the top!” But we weren’t. We were grateful for the rock climbing, sight seeing, sweat producing adventure that we’d just endured together.
I have expectations for what this year will bring, as I’m sure others have expectations of me, and that’s okay; that’s normal. All I know is that I am walking into a cloud, and I probably won’t come out for a long time.
No matter what I experience at the peak of this journey, I’m glad it won’t be what I expect because that would be plain boring. The more crushed expectations, the better. Bring it, Chimborazo!