When I was little, golden locks of curls tumbling down my spine, I used to slip on my pink gumboots at my grandparents’ farm. I’d start my day hand-in-hand with my grandfather to feed the chickens, dote over the newborn puppies and head back home.
I’d go back to the house, take off my pink gumboots and sit reading if I wasn’t driving my parents insane. I spent most of my childhood stuck in books. And for the moments I wasn’t, I was dreaming of being out on the farm with my beloved grandfather, whose spirit ignited me.
There was something about him that drove me to do what I do now. He took interest in my writing career as it grew onwards and as I swapped my blonde locks for dark brown strands of straight hair, he was still there cheering me on and lighting up my world.
He gave me hope. And even as we said goodbye to him on that final day, he still gave me hope from knowing I had him always there in spirit, watching me, empowering me with his smile and laugh and showing me that life truly can be peaceful.
He solidified that hopefulness for me that I’m sure brought me here to this moment.
I take a lot of that with me these days. My lifestyle is completely different and my day-to-day job has me whirling with deadlines and demands. It’s what I always wanted, but the reality is that you’re never quite satisfied — you always want more. And with wanting more comes needing hope to gain more.
Life’s been a lot harder this year, both for me on a personal level and then COVID-19 taking over the world. But it’s forced me to refocus and remember why I used to love running around in pink gumboots and not caring about anything else. It was those moments of spontaneity that brought hope that every day was going to be just as good.
And it still can be.
We’re losing the hope we need to thrive
As a society, we’ve grown to be more pessimistic than we have ever been before. Even as the quality of life gets better (albeit the pandemic) and technology continues to make for both medical marvels and new job opportunities, we’re never truly happy with what we have.
In the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, social distancing and isolation have forced me to rethink these attitudes.
Everything we took for granted in our daily lifestyles — from going to the gym or even buying groceries — we’re now craving from inaccessibility.
We’re itching to get our fix of cappuccino from our favourite cafe (I just ordered one off Uber Eats out of desperation) or dying to catch up with the girls over brunch.
We sit in our homes right now and hope that the curve will flatten; that we’ll be able to go out and connect with our family and friends physically; that we’ll be able to send our children off to school and not hesitate.
We still have this hope. But we’re starting to lose it to hopelessness.
Hopelessness is the root of all evil
In his book Everything is Fucked, Mark Manson describes hopelessness as an as the avoidance of “the construction of hope”. He says:
“Hope is what we believe to be greater than ourselves. Without it, we believe we are nothing.”
And he’s correct. When we lose our ability to form hope, we lose our connection to life and its meaning. Getting up in the morning becomes more and more of a chore until finally, we just don’t.
I’ve seen Tweet after Tweet and stories plagued across Instagram lately of those struggling to find a purpose while we’re in this “lockdown” effect.
Where we should be constructing hope, we’re swapping it out for emotions like hopelessness — we’re losing what Manson describes as “hope narratives”.
Hope narratives are what drive us. We get up each day knowing we’re trying to aim or live for something in particular — even if that’s just to get the dog to sit down when she’s asked.
It doesn’t matter how small or large these pieces of hope are, either. They just need to exist. The moment they start fading away, we become nihilistic and prone to not caring at all.
And, yes, you’ll probably criticise me for plaguing this post with as many Manson quotes as possible, but they're so highly relevant right now. They literally made me stop and question myself last night, as I was heading to bed.
If you’re not getting angry or you’re not getting sad, there’s a problem there in itself.
If you’re feeling indifferent about everything that’s going on and just feel . . . nothing . . . that’s a big issue. You’re inevitably feeling hopelessness.
You’ve lost what Manson calls your before/after story, and you need to find it again. Think of it as your “own personal mini-religion of purpose”.
I lost mine at the start of 2020, but I found it again in my passion for words and remembering how much I truly live for the art of storytelling.
I use this mini-religion to craft what pays my rent and give my brain its fix of the written word. It’s my drug and I’m fine with that because I’m not lost in hopelessness.
Even as I sit here in self-isolation and worry about when I’ll ever be able to enter a ‘normal society’ again, I am filled with faith that one day, we’ll return to a world where we are far more appreciative about the everyday details.
My hope narrative is the before/after story of my words, and my words are what gets me through anything. And that’s enough to fuel me for eternity.
So let me ask you: what’s your hope narrative?