chronicles of hope
What feeling regularly greets you when you hear your alarm in the morning?
When I wake up – invited to participate in another day by the chime of my clock – I’m inevitably awakened by a wave of anxiety. It’s as if my body were saying, “Nope. Not today. Not again.” It’s a startling way to wake up.
To combat this momentary morning panic, I have begun setting my alarm five minutes earlier (I have found that this is the ideal length for a concise yet convincing pep talk). After a few deep breaths and the occasional snooze or two, I begin each day with a bold and audacious practice. I sit in bed – in all my tangley haired glory – and I dare to hope that today will be a great day. There are good things in this world - like breakfast for dinner, sunsets, getting lost in a book, and your favorite song – but we don’t get the privilege of experiencing them if we fail to accept our daily invitation to join the beautiful mess.
Lately, my five-minute practice has proved difficult. Some mornings, my courageous attempt at hope feels childish – like trying to put a band-aid on a gushing head wound. When I look at the state of our shared local, national, and global affairs, I feel a heavy mix of despair and urgency threatening to pull me back into bed.
“Don’t go out there,” it persuades me, “It's hopeless. You’re too small, and these problems are BIG.”
I used to believe that this existential warfare was unique - a product of my tendency to abide in melancholy – but as I have moved in closer to those around me, I’ve discovered I'm not alone in my pessimism. I'm realizing that it's not uncommon, rather that there is a collective feeling of despair slowly being weaved into the narrative of our daily lives.
In a 2017 study done by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, it was found that the effects of depression are spreading across the country at an alarming rate, with the percentage affected rising from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent of the American population in just ten years.
This dramatic increase in depression has hit our teens and college-aged students the hardest, with the proportion of depressed youth increasing 37% percent from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014.
Our generation is historically the most anxious and depressed our country has ever seen, and the statistics are continually growing grimmer.
So… What now? When faced with the unforgiving truth of our human condition, we are presented with a choice of great importance: we can stay in bed - turn up the sound machine, bury our faces in the pillow, and drown out the world - or we can find a reason to get up, to show up, and inspire others to do the same.
We can find hope.
When our collective circumstances seem daunting it’s easy to get overwhelmed, to feel insignificant, and forget to shine, but it’s times like these that we are called to shine a little brighter. Maybe your life will be the only light illuminating the dim path of a neighbor, perhaps the joy you radiate will be enough to bring a flicker of hope to an otherwise unsympathetic world. Call it what you may, but there is an undeniable light in each of us – inspiring others to move closer and keep going in the face of gloom. Finding hope isn't a denial of the evil in our world, rather it’s quite the opposite. Finding hope is the courageous choice to look at the calamity around you, acknowledge it, and refuse to give it the power to demand your fixation. Finding hope is reminding ourselves that even the smallest amount of light can drive back the darkness. It's remembering that the smallest candle can illuminate a dark room and one smile can soften a heart.
So, with this rhetoric of hope written across my heart, the walls of my dorm room, and this blog, I am setting out on an adventure - an exploration of hope - to discern what keeps people going in the face of undeniable suffering. With this mission, I am venturing into the Vanderbilt community to conduct a series of interviews based on two central questions:
- What facet of humanity’s undeniable darkness has foraged deep into your heart? What is it about our collective brokenness that affects and upsets you most?
- In the face of such darkness, why do you keep going? What invites and inspires you to get out of bed each day? Where do you find your hope?
It is my intention that these interviews can be an inspiration to both myself, those whom I meet, and all who follow my journey. I write this in curious anticipation - I am ready to see how our community continues to hope because I could use a loan myself. I am not an expert in hoping - I suspect none of us are – but we each have our own ideals of goodness, holding up a light to what is true. Together, perhaps we can remind each other to seek higher purposes and to hope for something better than the darkness. We can share our collective sorrows and joys - stitch them together with vulnerability and raw truth - and compile our very own, very human Chronicles of Hope.
I am not sure where I am going, but I'm hungry for hope and I imagine I’m not alone. In truth, I can’t do this alone. I need your stories. I need your honesty. I need your hope. So, my friend, will you join me in this pursuit of the light?