A New Hope

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Hope is strange.

It's not a common position to take, hope is supposed to be a good thing, inspiring, powerful, life changing. Sure, it can be all those things, but I have a very different relationship with hope. One that I think is... strange. Hear me out.

The Light Side

I think hope, like anything in this world has two sides to it. There's the flashy popular side, which is uplifting and inspiring, which allows you to lift a car, grow wings and fly (not really, don't try this at home). It's happy and colorful and bright and innocent. It's a piece of that little wide-eyed kid inside of us with big dreams, big ambitions and an unending curiosity and wild imagination. This side of hope, the Light side, if I may, allows us to believe anything is possible and gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. It's cozy and comfortable like a childhood blanket that protects us from all the monsters in the night.

The Dark Side

But here's the thing. Hope also has a Dark side. It holds on to us, tight like a parasite, sucking all the energy out of our days and our nights to keep that cozy comfortable flame burning. And the day we run out of energy to give it, we're left with a darkness so absolute that we don't know what to do, where to turn, our internal compass goes haywire and we got lost, wallowing in the (ironically) hopes that someone will come and light that fire again. Because hope left unbridled turns into expectations. And expectations is a dangerous game.

Expectations: Hope's Evil Twin

Expectations is the crushing weight we carry on our shoulders every single day. We let others add to it, we often add to it ourselves, but we rarely ever take away from it or put it down. Because that in our minds would be failure.

We expect to have a good day every morning, we expect to do well at school, or that job, we expect ourselves to be great cooks or painters, we expect, we expect, we expect. If it happens, it feels great for about two seconds before we're expecting ourselves to do even better and even better and even better. And when that doesn't happen, like it often doesn't, we feel robbed. Cheated out of our entitlement. We lose hope. And we start to believe the absurd notion that we cannot do those things at all.

We set ourselves up to fail by expecting ourselves to succeed.

It's a trap. (get it? get it? No? A Star Wars fan you are not, I see.)

To Hope or not to Hope?

Now I know all this sounds very bleak and cynical. Believe me, that's not the case at all. If you ever get to know me, you might think I'm one of the most hopeful people in the world. That nothing gets me down (Of course, I might be exaggerating just a teeny tiny bit).

The truth is, I have a unique relationship with hope.

I've fallen into the trap of hopes turning into crushing expectations before. I've lost sight of what I really wanted, who I wanted to be, and instead got too caught up on what I was expected to do and be. And when I inevitably failed to meet those expectations, I stopped trying. My energy ran out and my hope was extinguished. I stopped enjoying living, and I had to search myself for a reason to wake up every morning.

Eventually, I believed I was a failure. That I could do nothing, be nothing. Ironically, that was my saving grace. That belief broke the shackles of expectation. If I was a failure, I didn't have to expect anything from myself. I was free to be anyone, anything, there was no correct answer, no better or worse, I was doomed anyway so anything was a bonus. Unbeknownst to me, in a little corner of my heart, hope had kindled a little spark again.

Over time, I taught myself not to expect anything, good or bad. I learned to enjoy the small things that make life worth living like long walks with music or a conversation with a dear friend. Hope and I are friends now. We visit each other, enjoy each other's company for a while.

Hope lets me believe I can do anything at all.

But I remember not to expect to do it well.

Then Hope reminds me that it's okay not to do it well, and that I should do it anyway. And with a little hope by my side, I usually surprise myself and do better than I ever thought I would. Not as well as I expected myself to, but that's okay.

So there you have it.

Hope is a strange thing. Beautiful, uplifting, it lets us redefine what's possible, allows us to surprise ourselves and unlock our potential. But right on it's heels is expectations, the Dark side. that sets us up for disappointment, and doesn't allow us to appreciate and enjoy how far we've come, always driving us to look for more, for better, better, better. One cannot exist without the other, and in the right proportions, they make each other stronger. Hope lets us dream, expectations motivate us to strive to achieve them. Hope tells us we can, expectations tell us we should. In the right combination, it allows us to live a life of appreciation and challenge.

A life of strange duality, where we strive to grow, yet are happy exactly where we are.


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