On Hope: I May Have a Problem


"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." -Nelson Mandela

Ever since I first stumbled upon these words on January 17th, I haven't stopped thinking about them. They've climbed out of my computer screen and, like vines, have wrapped and twisted themselves all around me.

For almost two weeks now, I've wrestled with the words and what they might actually look like in my life. What choices am I making out of fear? What choices could I make out of hope? Which choices are wise, cautious choices and which ones are steeped in sanitized safety?

I have a dark little secret I've been hiding.

Every time I've sat down to grapple with these questions, it's as if I've taken a small sip of hope--I like to envision it with a bit of tonic water, some ice, and a squeeze of lime. I've been holding the glass close to my lips these past two weeks, letting the contents sting my nostrils. Eventually, sips quickened and became gulps. I've kept pouring into my glass, cutting more limes, refilling the ice trays. And after days and days and days of downing this stuff, when I finally went to stand up, the room was spinning. I started thinking wild thoughts. I could feel the liquid courage coursing through my veins.

Friends, I'm completely, shamelessly drunk on hope.

I'm gone, man.

I'm so gone, I don't even care what making hopeful decisions "looks like" anymore. You see, when you've had too much hope to drink, you don't worry about the details anymore. You say whatever hope brings rushing out of your mouth. You throw your chair down, march in a crooked line to the dance floor, and start moving your body in awkward and glorious freedom. It doesn't matter what people think at that point--hope has taken over.

I know some of you are laughing at me. I know some of you are shaking your head, thinking, So sad. So naive. If only he could see what we're seeing. It's quite embarrassing, really.

I'm okay with that. I'm okay that you think almost all of those things; you can even go as far as to feel pity for me. I know I'm stumbling around, eyes glazed over with dreams, moving my limbs with the grace of a giraffe on sedatives.

Do not, however, mistake me as naive. I know full well the dark side of hope and its brutal, crippling hangover. I know the cost. I know the risk. I've paid dearly, and I have the scars to prove it.

I understand that I'm headed for disappointment.

I understand my heart will be broken.

But here's what analyzing that Mandela quote, what binge drinking hope has made me realize:

I'm so done being afraid of disappointment and fearing the worst. 

You know, I used to be young and reckless with hope. I used to climb to the roof and, with stupid confidence, declare that I could make the leap into the pool below. I used to laugh when people would tell me I couldn't or that I was crazy.

I've lived for some years now an existence in which I let sensible, sober people convince me that my dreams were too big, that my hopes were too high, that my expectations were too great. I came to believe that I wasn't allowed to ask or hope for anything good, let alone great. I buried my bottle. I flushed all my hope down the drain--every last drop.

That dry, hopeless way of living? It's been more unbearable than any disappointment I've felt from trying and then failing.

Never again. I will not resign myself to that timid, tame life.

Instead of cowering in the shadow of disappointment, instead of covering my eyes to avoid seeing a potential tumble, instead of piling up stones to protect my exposed heart, I want to stare straight down the barrel of the gun. And I'll have a goofy grin on my face, and I'll be singing a slurred, falsetto rendition of Teenage Dream. I refuse to bow down to the fear of failure.

This kind of approach to life isn't for everyone. It's foolishness, really. You have to be ready to peel yourself off the floor again and again when disappointment inevitably knocks you off your feet. You have to keep opening your chest at the risk of adding another scar to your heart. You won't escape unscathed.

You have to be slightly off your rocker to sell out to hope.

Just so happens I'm looking to get a little crazy. To the people are also crazy enough to join me: