Hope deferred and whatnot

It turns out some of my life theories I used to have are bogus.

And as much I don’t like to be wrong, I guess it’s not the end of the world.

In my younger days, I was hopeful for things I wanted sometimes, but for those occurrences that didn’t seem as likely, I had a strategy that many people can probably relate to: Don’t get my hopes up, and I can’t be let down. I had been in too many situations in which my lofty hopes left me disappointed and hurt.

Allow me to cue up a rather shallow example.

When I was in the eighth grade, *NSYNC came to town. As a middle school girl who thought she was in love with Justin Timberlake (he is still so freaking cool), I didn’t simply want these tickets—I needed them. I wasn’t being dramatic about this at all. But did I make my family stop at some random parking lot near a gas station on our way home because there was a radio station there doing contests for concert tickets? Absolutely. I waited in the heat in a ridiculously long line to play some matching games, hoping with all hope that I would be successful, and I did not win. It was pretty upsetting, even with the orange Gatorade my mom bought for me while I stood in line.

And it didn’t stop there.

KISS FM held a ticket contest, and all I had to do was be the whatever-number-it-was caller. Thankfully we had a phone with redial by that point. My parents weren’t thrilled about me hogging the home phone (Zach Morris was the only person I knew with a cell phone back then), but I wasn’t thrilled about them not understanding the importance of *NSYNC. It was difficult to get along during those years. I called, and I called, and I called some more. All I heard was that stupid busy signal noise that is about as annoying as a cricket outside your window when you’re trying to fall asleep. It really was a long shot for me actually to win those tickets, but for some reason, I had this tremendous hope within me that believed it was truly possible.

Imagine the disappointment I felt when it didn’t happen.

It’s moments like that one that led me to my “don’t get my hopes up” ordeal, and I went years with that mindset. It’s not that I thought everything was hopeless, but I struggled to let my hopes soar because I really didn’t want to be let down. I’ll never forget the moment when everything changed though. I was a sophomore at Texas A&M, and I worked a part-time job at a daycare. There was a precious little girl there named Hailey, and we were building a sandcastle (it really was just a mound of dirt—neither of us had strong castle-building skills) and chatting about the important things in life, like our favorite flavors of Capri Sun. Then she stopped suddenly to tell me that she hoped one day to live in a castle as pretty as ours (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) and that she also hoped her mom would let her have ice cream that night. I’m not sure if sweet Hailey lives in a castle now or will anytime in the future, but you should have seen her eyes light up when her mom said she could have ice cream for dessert.

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We always hoped the students would work hard and be nice.

I will always remember that moment because it reminded me how wonderful it is to have hope. Hailey didn’t concern herself with doubts of whether or not she would get ice cream or whether or not she would eventually live in a pretty castle—she simply let her hopes allow her to believe it was all truly possible.

We encounter a lot of situations in which we need hope. Often those times need action to go along with the hope, but the hope has to be there first. The thing about hope is that it can really hurt. My friend Lindsey and I were chatting recently, and she reminded me of the first part of a Bible verse that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And it’s true. Sometimes we hope and pray and wish for things to happen—whether it’s loved ones being healed, finding our soul mates, getting certain jobs we really want or a number of other desires—and when they don’t, it legitimately hurts our hearts.

But then there’s the other half of the verse: “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” That’s Hailey finding out she can have ice cream. That’s your friend finding out he’s cancer-free. That’s Elle Woods passing the LSAT. That’s your friend finding out she’s finally pregnant. That’s the guy you have a crush on in your pre-cal class talking to you and actually knowing your name. That’s watching the game-winning shot go through the net. That’s the perfect pitch ending in a walk-off home run.

That’s the the risk of having hope being worth it.

The things we hope for aren’t always going to happen. But sometimes they will. There’s an unknown aspect of hope, and it’s beautiful and frustrating at the same time. Even if that hope ends in heartache, though, at least you were brave enough to believe. Because without hope, what do you have?

Definitely not the possibility of *NSYNC tickets.

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