“It's amazing how a little tomorrow can make up for a whole lot of yesterday.”
― John Guare,
2016. A year we’re glad to finally be done with. A year that filled us with fear, despair, sadness, hopelessness, and all the other negative-nesses. A year where Trump was elected president. A year of terrorist attacks, shootings of innocent people, and beloved celebrity deaths. I’ll stop depressing you now. It’s a year we want to leave behind and move on from, and it has us thinking, “What next?” Will 2017 be worse or better? Should we be hopeful, or cautious?
Personally, it wasn’t such a bad year for me. A lot of great things happened in my life in 2016. But for many people, it was the opposite. As we end the year, I wanted to write this post, my last one, as one of hope. More on why I’m saying goodbye to my blog later. For now, I want tell you about my students.
I’ve been coaching middle school color guard for about six years now. I love it. My students drive me crazy sometimes, and the school district presents many hurtles for me to overcome every single year, but I’m still coaching for minimum pay twice a week because I love it. My middle school years were the worst of my life, and I never wanted to return to those years, yet now I happily go back every week.
My students are eager to learn, full of young curiosity and hope, full of self-consciousness, and playfulness, and sometimes full of attitude. They are a great age to work with. They’ve taught me that I have to be careful about what I say or do around them because they will absorb everything. Everything. They taught me that the top priority for a preteen is still to have fun and play, even if some of them think the games are stupid and they’re too old or too cool to play along. They continually show me how much a person can grow in such a short time. My favorite part of teaching is that my students all come to me with no prior experience, all brand new. They come timid and scared and full of self-doubt. Then a year later, they’re begging me to teach them different tosses, because they believe they can do them now. They want to learn more dance moves because they’ve improved on what they already know. They grow and they’re not scared anymore.
Psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory in 1991. It basically says that, “hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.” Having hope means you see a good outcome for something because you know you’ll find a way to make that outcome happen. It seems that the younger we are, the more hopeful we are, because life hasn’t kicked us around enough yet. We’re more resilient when we’re younger. I remember my students had lost a competition and they were so sad, and it pained me to see them that way. Five minutes later (legit five minutes), they were laughing and happy again, which just baffled me. Their lives move on quicker, I guess.
I’m only 24, still very young, but I feel so much older than I was. A few years ago, I’d meet people in their late twenties and they were just so jaded, while I was so full of hope and excitement about life (and a lot of fear). They seemed so done with life and like there was no point to hope about things anymore, especially when it came to relationships. I’d think to myself: 1) they weren’t so much older than me; 2) how did they become that way?; 3) I hoped I’d never become like them. Now, I feel like it’s happening, and it’s just so sad to lose hope. Lose hope in dreams, in what we thought our lives would be, in relationships, in people. People keep reminding me that I’m just 24. That just makes me think it’s a really young age to become hopeless and jaded.
But I know I’m just being dramatic. I like to do that sometimes. I like talking to my aunts and uncles a lot, and my older co-workers. It always surprises me when I talk to a middle-aged person who is trying to figure out their life the same way I am. They should have it figured out, shouldn’t they? They’re old! No offense to all the old people out there. Sometimes when I see them still trying to get a career going, date, keep a marriage together, support their families, find their dreams, and struggle with pursuing their dreams or something more practical, I despair to think that I will never achieve what I want. I’ll spend my life trying to “figure it out.” Other times I think, wow, if they can still be so hopeful and still keep going, then so can I.
We may lose the resilience of an eleven year old as we get older. We don’t recover in five minutes and move on with life. We face the consequences of our decisions and the actions of others for years, the rest of our lives even, but we still have the capacity to expect things to get better. It’s what keeps us going.
In “The Psychology of Hope” by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., she explains that all hopeful people share four core beliefs:
- The future will be better than the present.
- I have the power to make it so.
- There are many paths to my goals.
- None of them is free of obstacles.
Think about a goal you have, a dream, or some hope for the future. We all have more than one. Here are my dreams, some big, some not so much. I want to be a great writer. I want to publish a novel in my twenties, and then if I become successful, there’s these apartments in Pasadena that I’m in love with and I want to move there for a few years. By the time I’m in my thirties, whether I’ve published a novel or not, become successful or not, I want to be married and building a family. Once I'm married, I want to live in one home for the rest of my life and build a strong foundation there so my family knows they always have a place to come back to. I want to marry someone I love with all my heart, who loves me with all of his, and work on a having a good marriage until we die. I want to spend my life writing, because it’s what gives me the most sanity, fulfills my passion, and right now is the greatest love of my life. When I die, I want to be remembered as a great Mexican-American novelist and have a spot in the Poet’s Corner in St. John’s Cathedral in New York. I also want to have lived a life where all of my relationships with family and friends was caring, respectful, and loving.
I’m hopeful about my dreams, though sometimes I don’t think they’ll happen or that they’re not entirely realistic. Sometimes, I’m terrified I’ll never have any of it, or that it won’t happen the way I think it will, which it probably won’t. Often, I feel like a person more filled with fear than hope. Joyce McFadden writes in her article, “The Psychology of Hope and Fear,” that, “The best part of fear is that it teaches us what we’re afraid to lose, and the best part of hope is that once we know what we’re afraid of losing we can set about nurturing it and keeping it strong and safe. And hope should be by far the greater force in this equation.”
For everyone who has had a terrible 2016, I ask you to find a way to make next year better. Kaufman says that hopeful people have the ability to think more divergently, meaning that they can come up with a lot of different ideas and strategies for achieving a goal. People who lack hope don’t think there is any way to make a situation better. I guess that’s the definition of hopelessness. McFadden says, “When you feel hopeful… Your world expands with ideas for how the hope could gather even more momentum. You feel motivated forward.” Life keeps moving forward whether we want it to or not, and whether we feel like it’s moving backwards or staying put. So, why not move forward with it? Why not be hopeful? I hope you have a much better 2017, and many more good years to come.
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson
p.s. Why am I saying goodbye to my blog? Over the past few years, I’ve written almost 120 posts, I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and writing, I’ve been dedicated and have had times of discouragement. My purpose has always been to help others, while helping myself in the process. When I first started, I didn’t want to write personal stuff about my life very often, but people kept asking me to include more of myself, so I did. I put a little of myself, sometimes a lot of myself, into each post more and more, trying to be as vulnerable as possible. I’ve believed in the power of vulnerability and that being vulnerable allows other to do the same. I’ve just reached the point where bits of me have been given so often over a long period time that I feel depleted. I know I still have more to give, but I don’t want to live feeling like I’m running low. I want to refocus my energy to other writing projects and find other ways to help people. I’ll never stop writing, because I never have, but this blog has reached the end for me. I still have plans to start another one, though it will be different.
Thank you to all the readers I’ve never met, and all the friends and family who have supported me. It means so much.