I’ve been writing some non-Gratitude Project posts lately, which both confuses and fulfills me. I don’t want to continue the project, for reasons I’ve stated before, but I do want to continue to write. So how do we resolve that conundrum? Well, I don’t know what the best answer to that question is. But what I do know is that writing helps me feel a sense of purpose, even if no one is around to read what I’ve been writing. Sometimes I leave a post feeling more confused about it. Sometimes I leave one feeling angry. But I can tell you how I always feel when I start to write a post, or when I start to write anything for that matter: hope.
Hope is a pretty significant word in my vocabulary. I think a lot of people would consider me a relatively hopeful person and as someone who usually is able to inspire hope in others (or at least I hope so). Today in particular, I’ve come to realize how prophetic the word has been for me, and how truly important it is to my unique self.
As such, I want to give you a few vignettes that explain how the word “hope” itself has played a crucial role in my life, more specifically in my adult life. I have to rewind all the way back to ten years ago in order to detail it for you, so I hope the bolded “2009” below doesn’t give you any anxiety about the almost-over decade of the 2010s or uncomfortable flashbacks of Michael Jackson’s nationally televised funeral.
There’s a song that not a lot of people know about. I only came across it in 2009 when I was a fourteen year old high school freshman doing my weekly Glee-stalking. When Idina came on the show to play Jonathan Groff’s glee club coach and Lea Michele’s biological mother, my own self-constructed rabbit hole led me to a piece of music I would come to adore to this day. It was a song called “Hope”, written for the at-the-time extremely popular “Stand up to Cancer” campaign in partnership with the MLB. Proceeds from purchases of the song went toward the initiative to fund cancer research. If you haven’t heard it, then please do yourself a favor and take a moment to listen (link provided here).
I wrote about this song in my freshman year fall semester Music Appreciation class in college for an assignment in which we had to analyze a piece of music we loved. There were a ton of songs I could have chosen. I could have written about a song written in 3/4, like “The Hill” from Once, or one that fused the orchestral sound with rock, like Muse’s renowned “Exogensis”. But I wrote about this one. I chose this song because I needed a lot of hope then. It was a time when I felt defeated, forgotten, and disappointed by all that I thought was promised to me. This song was a big reason why I was able to lift myself out of that and accept my path, and it only felt right for my first assignment ever in college to be centered on this exact one.
I’m listening to this song right now, hoping it gives me much needed inspiration to write the rest of this post.
Approximately ten years after being introduced to the song, I was introduced to what may have been the most appropriate show for me to be introduced to: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It was a fictional show, but one that made me feel less alone in my experiences. There’s a scene in season 3 that really stuck with me, and it’s when Rebecca is on the airplane going back to LA after a visit with her mother on the East Coast went completely haywire. I won’t divulge the specifics of that scene for anyone that has yet to watch it. But I will share a picture I found on Google Images that depicts what I am trying to convey:
There at the very bottom of the picture is that word “hope” again. But before that is the word “help”, a word that I hardly ever used before. Others would use it around me, so freely even, but for me it just didn’t feel right. It’s why I never went to office hours during undergrad and part of why I didn’t ask for it when I was auditioning for college theatre programs during my senior year of high school. It felt as though if I said the word “help”, that I was asking for too much. This moment in the show though encouraged me to ask for that help. I’ve been getting that help for about three-ish months now. I’m not cured. I don’t know if I will be anytime soon, especially given the fact I haven’t told my therapist the full truth of what I did. But I know that there’s hope things might one day be different.
I’m someone who, at my core, believes in redemption. It’s one of the things I love about Christianity. It’s why I love Snape’s character arc in Harry Potter. It’s why I rooted for Rebecca Bunch throughout the course of her show’s run. I think that, if I’ve had faith in so many other people in my life, I surely deserve to give it right back to myself.
June 1, 2019
Four months later, I’m watching one of my YouTubers’ “Day in the Life” vlogs and have become fascinated by a piece of jewelry she highlights in the video. She doesn’t mention the name of the store from which she bought it nor the maker. Regardless, I utilize my Google search talents, complete with my refined Boolean search techniques I picked up in grad school, and find it: Sashka Co., a store which sells glass beaded bracelets made by artists in Nepal and which donates ten percent of their entire proceeds to charities around the world.
I bought the same bracelet my vlogger had- no, not because I was trying to copy someone yet again this time (though Diana is in fact amazing), but because what she showed was simply gorgeous and I thought it would be a nice addition to the white dress I am wearing to my Drexel commencement in a little under two weeks. I perused the website some more and found they sell charms with words to go along with it. I look through the collection and the very first one says “Hope”. I buy that, too.
Seeing the word sparked something in me. It made me want to forgive myself and try to move on. I can’t tell you that I’ll be doing either of those things in the near future, but I can tell you that I hope I can. There’s no excusing or negating any wrongdoing or misbehavior. But there is hope that things will work out in the end. There’s hope that things will change as they should. Hope that the sick will be healed. Hope that those who desire it will find their fulfillment. Hope that there’s a purpose to this blog and to this story. Hope that I can grow from my experiences. And more specifically, there’s hope that I can use everything that I’ve learned to transform into the person I know I’m capable of being.
Tonight I was reminded of another piece of art I studied in college that talks about hope and, like Idina’s song, characterizes hope as a bird:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.” – Emily Dickinson
I’m unsure of the species of bird that personifies hope. The obvious might be the phoenix, the one that rises from the ashes. It could be like the eagle that has come to represent American hope. But it could also be a mockingbird, one of the most annoying of the entire species that many seem to hate, with their persistence and their noisiness.
Let me say, I’m probably the mockingbird in this situation. What I love about the arts and about poetry is that there are multiple interpretations and point of views to consider (which is part of why I can see the double entendre in Harper Lee’s title, whether it be intended or not). And that’s why I think any one of those birds is a perfect substitute for the “bird” Emily writes and Idina sings about. And even if I am the mockingbird, there’s hope for me, too. There’s hope for anyone that wants hope. For hope can be heard in the darkest, loneliest, and strangest of places, never once giving up the song it sings so beautifully.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness” – Desmond Tutu