I'll throw in my story, as a relatively new skier as well.
I started skiing for the first time in Nov-2003, just a couple of months short of my 29th birthday.
I had no conception or expectations of skiing. I'd lived in Chicago prior to 2003, and skiing is not really in the mainstream media. Even living in Denver, it's not like you can see skiing on TV all the time. My only exposure to skiing prior to my own experience was "Better Off Dead", and watching a few ski-jumping crashes. Perhaps for ski fanatics like us here on Epic, it's easy to see/notice skiing in the media, but for the beginner/non-skier, I'd dare say that they really don't see much of skiing outside their own experience to form much expectations.
So when I first clicked into skis I had absolutely no expectations. Once I was able to handle the greens, I got into the mindset of using trail rating as a measure of my progress -- "If I can do blues, I'm pretty good", "If I can do blacks..." and so on. Then one day I overheard someone in the cafeteria talking about his friend: "You know, he's a great skier, but he doesn't need to ski double-blacks all the time. He can ski greens all day and have just as much fun." That started the change in my outlook. I picked up carving, and didn't pay too much attention to the trail-rating.
I started my second season with one goal: "Get on a lift without worrying about if I can make it down in one piece." Mind you, I didn't say "ski" it -- I just didn't want that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you're sitting on a new lift looking at the terrain underneath thinking "Oh s*%t, how am I going to get down this?" I did end the season skiing blacks and double-blacks, but not the point of total comfort -- I could do it if conditions were good, but ice, bumps, crud, and trees still threw me off big time.
So at the start of my third season, I still had the same goal: "Get on a lift without worrying about if I can make it down in one piece." ESA went a long way to fulfilling that goal. Now I do feel comfortable going up on a new lift without looking at the trail map. In fact, after ESA, I never even looked at the trail-ratings while skiing new areas/trails. True, big bumps still throw me (e.g. Pali), I still do defensive moves in really tight trees (like where your shoulders/arms are brushing the trunks), but overall, I feel like I can handle most stuff without doing myself great harm.
Goals for next season: get better in bumps, tight trees, try launching stuff (like cornices), but most importantly, have as much fun as possible skiing as much as possible.
I don't know if there's a point in any of this, but just wanted to share my experience.