Words have definitions that explain what each of them is for and how they are used, but there’s an emotional attachment and definition to words as well. The word “expected” we commonly define as something we knew was going to happen and mostly as something to look forward to: hope, desire and at times deserve. While ‘unexpected” we typically use for those moments that we never saw coming: surprise, shock, denial and even disappointment. For me, emotionally, it takes the meaning of change, acceptance and of endurance as my life has been filled with both the expected and the unexpected.
After graduating college as an art major I did what many graduates do in Puerto Rico, get a retail job until something good comes along. I began working at a brand name clothing store, and for years I had listened to stories from friends working in retail, I expected and pictured the worst environment possible. Strangely I came to rather enjoy my job, the environment was positive, employees were friendly my growth was fast and steady and even weird to me I was learning things that could be applied later on in life. While working at the store I also found myself auditing a class in the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras Campus (UPRRP), which was set up by my mentor from art school telling me “For me business is too abstract, I can’t understand it”. Going into a business class and knowing nothing about business I took this to believe it was difficult to understand, specially coming from the arts where the structure is freedom. I was prepared to study and work harder than the other students just because I expected I wasn’t going to understand it. Little did I know that majoring in industrial design gave me the tools to build a business, it was the same process and instead of being behind in class the teacher found me excelling past students in their field. Who would have guessed right? Both these experiences show that we may expect things from people and places because of what others speak and that the expected can sometimes not prepare us for an opposite outcome because of a bias that has been implanted by the words of others, and it can make us hesitate when deciding.
Important to note that because these expected experiences were positive doesn’t mean they all are, some can be negative and at times they can transform from negative to positive over time, and even vice versa. For me that was proven true while working at the store, our team leader had been promoted to manager and I took upon myself to show that I can be a leader and put myself in the position to demonstrate it. After a couple of months, the managers all commended me for my great work and for leading the team, finishing work early, taking on extra tasks and giving a hand to other teams. Several telling me “that position is yours”, I felt great, on top of the world, I had trained my team, I changed the dynamics and culture and it payed off. That feeling of great fell over the following 6 months, my team was doing amazing but I didn’t understand,”Why haven’t I been promoted? I deserve this.” I slowly saw how the managers stopped paying attention, stopped speaking to me even though the team was doing great. A few weeks before winter holidays began I started to feel that attention shifted towards another employee I trained, and I began thinking he’ll be the new leader. A few weeks later it was announced that this other employee was the new leader as I had expected. The rest of the employees around were caught off guard, they thought it would be me, their leader for 8 months. I had expected a positive outcome out, I did a great job and over time my expectations changed about what my role would be, I adapted and embraced the change whether I wanted to or not.
Now, surprises the things that come from nowhere. It can be the end of a relationship, getting married or being offered or given something out of the blue. For my team it was their colleague getting promoted, for me it was something out of the blue while attending my business class. As I left the classroom the professor stopped me and said “There’s an organization that helps build new businesses within the campus and they need a designer for prototyping and some other design stuff. Are you interested?” Literally out of nowhere I was being offered a job as an industrial designer just months after graduating, I was getting a referral and a job with UPRRP. Completely unexpected, if you were to ask me “What are you going to do tomorrow?” a job interview wouldn’t have been the answer. In full honesty an interview with an organization that knew nothing of art and design was intimidating and nerve-racking, but it went incredibly well and I ended up being their industrial designer. I got a job not only designing but growing and applying everything I learned in class as an entrepreneur.
The ways we see and embrace the expected and the unexpected change over time. Yes it can make you feel on top of the world, below it and most of time intimidated and scared without experiencing anything. We must be able to draw out our own conclusions and shouldn’t tell others “this is what’s going to happen”, everybody’s experience is different, bias can be hurtful and you may be taking opportunities away from your family, friends and others.