Don’t Be Surprised… by Valentina Khan

We are people, navigating in a large world filled with expectations, hopes & dreams. I find that happiness is comprised when we share our expectations with other people. I do think it’s right to expect things, and hope to receive things like love, respect, and honesty. However, I just want to share that when it doesn’t happen, not to be surprised…

  • Don’t be surprised when you are driving innocently down the road minding your business and someone drives by and cuts you off. Not cool, but try not to react. Just try. I recently did react, and it got me in trouble. The crazy guy ended up following me on the freeway for a while, I had to call the police. Reacting to bad behavior is never a good idea. Lesson learned! As a woman in particular, I was really scared. I also had both kids in my car. As a responsible driver, I just think we always have to take the high road. I really wanted to roll my window down and give him a good talking to, but I knew my toddlers were scared and absorbing the situation. I wanted to show my son and daughter what a calm, strong and street smart person does: not engage and call the police! 
  • Don’t be surprised if a neighbor doesn’t greet you on a walk. People have tunnel vision, and don’t necessarily see passed their own front doors. They just focus on their lives, and might not be aware of their surroundings. Even if they are aware of their surroundings, maybe they aren’t that nice, or friendly and want you to know by ignoring you. Yes, people have different prerogatives and for some winning a popularity contest isn’t on their agenda. It’s not you. Don’t think about it. Move on.
  • Don’t be surprised if and when your parents ever lie to you and never admit or are defensive about it, and are unable to apologize to you, because you are the child (even if you’re fully grown). That’s how some parents operate. Oh well. This goes beyond the scope of parents, but anyone you love. I suppose you can just drop them all together, or just accept their super flaws and know how to navigate around people like that. People are tricky, sticky, and at times just icky. I suppose we all can be. 
  • Don’t be surprised if someone sick really does expect you to stop what you are doing and make chicken soup for them. This is the best time to exercise compassion, consideration, selflessness and empathy. You lose a little, you fall a little behind, your life is paused…be prepared for it mentally and physically. It happens. I often get anxiety thinking about when the time comes to care for a loved one who is sick. As a woman, I feel the caregiver title is heavy and at times burdensome. It freaks me out all the people I care about and would pause my life for. But rather than looking at it with fear, I look at it as a blessing. It’s a blessing to take care of someone who needs you.  That’s my new approach. End of story.
  • Don’t be surprised if your infant child doesn’t sleep more than a two hour block and you will be a a cranky parent for having your sleep broken for many months, maybe even years. Very few people talk about the “dark side” of parenting…there is a dark side. Lack of sleep is a huge culprit to it. Be prepared and have a plan to counteract it. Mine is the little moments of savasana I steal in yoga. Those 5-10 minutes on a yoga mat have become my salvation. Of course I prefer my comfortable bed and 8 hours of sleep. But I’m not getting that, and I’m done complaining about it. No one wants to hear it. So instead. It’s my yoga membership, my mat, and a few moments to catch up and reset and restore.
  • Don’t be surprised if your toddler draws on your walls, pees or poops on the floors, or throws food. Own a pet before you decide to be a parent. And while you’re at it, live with your potential spouse before you get married. I mean it. It’s not something you hear a Muslim girl talk about typically. But I’m of the opinion, you meet someone you like them a lot, you both should have the best intentions for a long term life together, so move in before you tie the knot! Then, get a pet. See how you both do with the pet. It all starts with that initial moving in together. 
  • Don’t be surprised when someone brings you a gift. So nice! The best time to gage your own generosity and ability to reciprocate.
  • Don’t be surprised when your “friends” laugh at you, not always with you. These “friends” will talk about you. Pick your friends wisely. Being wise takes time…you might not pick great friends until you are in midlife. If you do end up having great friends by your side since childhood, appreciate them, love them, be courteous and cherish them. Never take for granted a solid friend. We’ve heard it before, you don’t pick you family, but you can pick your friends. 
  • Don’t be surprised if people are selfish, self obsessed, self absorbed. Human nature. Sucks to witness it, but it’s a sad truth.
  • Don’t be surprised when humans are kind, compassionate, generous. Also, human nature. What a treat and absolute pleasure to witness. Shower those people with praises, hugs and kisses they deserve it, and might even need it. Never hold back a compliment or praise. Who cares if it goes to there head. Get it off your mind and into theirs.
  • Don’t be surprised when people misunderstand you. Work on your communication skills better. Speak more clearly, look at them directly, use logic and reason and let them digest your words. This is a skill, also takes time! 
  • Don’t be surprised when people you love don’t heed your advice. Give it and walk away. The rest if up to the person.
  • Don’t be surprised when you mess up. When you do or say something that questions your character. Instead talk about the f-ups in life aloud. Admit them, show your vulnerabilities, and your growth. Even if you f-up multiple times, f-ing up is part of the journey of life, but how you handle it is what makes the f-ups worth it.  I hate it f-ing up. I wish I were f-up free. But I’m not. Instead of moping about it, I find that if I talk about it (kind of too frequently, sorry to my family & friends who have to hear about it!) I humanize myself and I love myself more. I love myself for forgiving myself…but I still hate f-ing up. 

Especially to all my awesome women out there. I’m speaking to you, to us.  Some of the above are never talked about, there is no handbook or manual to life as a female or simply life as a human and how to protect and preserve our spirit. 

So, I say, live life with eyes and ears open, and your mind aware to the realities of human nature. We all have good, and unfortunately we have bad. The person witnessing or receiving it should try their best not to be affected and rather live a life expecting good and bad from him/herself and from others all the while recognizing the bad. We can’t totally eliminate some of the bad we have but we can definitely tame it and not be surprised when we see it. 

I started to think about this more, when I would see the sides of people (and myself) I didn’t like. I would toy with the idea of not being around them anymore. Then the thought of not having that family member, or that friend, or that person I loved, would bother me. I started to make myself understand them more, and be forgiving of their particular character flaws. But I always have to check my own behavior too. I’m not always at my best, so it comes down to who is willing to deal with me and who am I willing to deal with. If it ever gets too bad and results in an unhealthy environment or relationship, then I tell myself “not to be surprised” and teach myself to be independent and nonchalant enough to let it bounce off me. 

Because, again, we are people, navigating a world filled with expectations, hopes &  dreams…I do think it’s right to expect things, and hope to receive things like love, respect, and honesty. However, I do want to share that when it doesn’t happen, don’t be surprised…


Valentina Khan, JD, MA is the Managing Director for Investors Philanthropic. She was born & raised in Orange County, California. She grew up in North Tustin, a supportive and kind town to which she attributes her love for diversity & doing community work. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California Bachelor of Arts, received her Juris Doctorate at Taft Law School, & continued her education with a Masters of Arts degree from Claremont School of Theology. She is the visionary and co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, & was a contributing member to the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, both of which are non-profit organizations that focus on building bridges of understanding, compassion, and friendship within the interfaith communities. Valentina is  the creator & teacher of Dance Barre ® a fun ballet barre fitness method, a yoga enthusiast, and lover of fashion and travel. She speaks five languages: English, Spanish, Farsi, Urdu, and (semi-fluency) French.

Author: Valentina Khan

Valentina Khan received her Masters of Arts in Muslim Leadership Context at the Claremont School of Theology. She also a law student graduate from Taft University. Valentina is a co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, an interfaith organization which promotes friendship, understanding, and striving for the "greater purpose" by dedicating time to community service and social justice. She was born and raised in Southern California, to an Iranian mother, and Indian father. Valentina has a diverse background that helps her identify as a "citizen of the world". She hopes to mediate conflicts between intra-religious and inter-religious groups and cultures, via conflict resolution, as well as promote the peace she knows can exist between people if they just put in the effort. Valentina is currently the owner of UpLift- body, life, community. A center for health, fitness, self-empowerment and community give back. In her free time she enjoys teaching yoga and Dance Barre, a method of ballet barre she created that combines ballet, various genres of dance, toning, stretching and cardio all in one. Her passion for the mind- body connection is a big part of her daily life in order to be able to be an effective bridge-builder and peace-maker in her community.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Be Surprised… by Valentina Khan”

  1. What wise advice. In my life the things that have hurt me most have come with surprise. For example, I expected patriarchal men to treat me as they did, but I didn’t expect it from feminists, and that hurt a lot more. You are so right that part of our expectations should be to expect worst–or at least not to be surprised by it–from everyone and everything. But not to make our shells so hard that we cannot also recognize and enjoy the good–which often comes when we least expect it. Lately I have been reflecting on the Minangkabau who say we should take the good from nature and throw away the bad. In other words, they don’t live with the fantasy that nature is only good. What you are saying is that we should not live with the fantasy that other people are only good. Wise advice.

    I do think there are points where we draw the line. For example, I made the decision to stay in touch with my father but not to visit him because when we were in the same physical space he always reacted against me in toxic ways. This decision felt like self-preservation and also kindness to him, because I don’t think he liked the self he became in my presence very much either. There are other people in my life that I did stop trying to be friends with when they consistently acted in pathological or toxic ways.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is so good !! I have said for years that one of my problems is I am always “surprised ” by others’ behavior in certain situations. I’m going to give this a lot of thought ! Thank you ! I thoroughly enjoyed the article and shared it !


  3. I think you pretty much covered it all, Valentina! I’ve thought for a long time (never spoke it out loud – being a “nice Catholic girl”) but agree that people should live together before marriage. Expecting an intimate, life long commitment without knowing if he picks up his own dirty socks, is unfair! And definitely, get a puppy.
    I also believe that we f-up so we will learn to have compassion for other people who “f-up”. We’re all in this life together. Never met a person who is perfect – not myself, not my best friend, and truthfully sometimes I wonder about the One we call “God”. After all, Who created this system? On the other hand, if all was whole and perfect, would we not be bored? So perhaps the Creator knows what She is doing? Perhaps the “trick” is to realize that we are not the centre of the universe, and to take pleasure in the “ups” and “downs” for what we can learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your reply, Barbara, made me smile. At 19 I decided (thanks to a wise but also fast boy) that yes, it is FOOLISH to think I could be married (in the 1970s) without ever having experienced intimacy. I was glad I did. My Catholic mother never taught me anything about sexual relations tho she handed me a book to read about my body at age 10. Way over my head. My mother did warn that I would likely lose any pre-marital relationship, and that boy’s eye wandered after a while. We DID marry when I was 23, despite that breakup, but after 8 years I knew it had clearly made a mistake and I left. After divorce, a wise and kind priest told me to seek an annulment so I could remain a practicing Catholic and continue to raise our son in my faith. Yet today, despite all the f-ing scandal, I still don’t like to judge that anyone f”d up. Mistakes we make – oh my yes, sometimes horrible mistakes – all of us. I am still, in 2018, less surprised each day at ANY kind of stupid or cruel behavior. Having taught people of all ages, I have watched countless teachers, parents and “leaders” of every stripe (including myself) make plenty of bad choices. May we all learn from them and cease repeating them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Valentina, thank you so much for this deep wisdom. I’m watching a young couple in their late 30s who have had many partners and are shy of marriage. If they can commit to being life-long partners after some years of living together (they already share a dog and cat), I believe they have what it takes to be compassionate to each other and allow this love to deepen for however many years they will live. My mother had never had relations with my father and though their married life was deep and “sweetened” by six children (following a heart-breaking miscarriage), my dad f’d up and fell asleep at the wheel at age 42, then “hell” broke loose. My mother was valiant, financially able to support us, but stoic. Her f-up was asking us to stop grieving and GO ON in the hidden grief-burying way she was living. Yet, we all survived and have thrived in wonderful ways, keeping our hearts open and crying whenever we need to – still.
    I’m also watching a 50 and 39 year old raise a feisty young toddler “prince” who wants his way and above all resists sleep! This couple too is learning with, luckily, a sense of humor though they are constantly surprised, for sure. We all gloriously make mistakes yet get life right on occasion. In terrible-two land it is both glorious and terrible!!!! Thanks again for this wonderful post! I will share it with many others.


  5. I think we can all learn something from you… I’m fortunate that our lives intersected. You are truly living the life you speak of here, and it’s lovely as are you.


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