: to cherish a desire with anticipation
: to desire with expectation of obtainment
: to expect with confidence
Hope is a word we are well familiar with. Too often, it shares the same corner of our linguistic minds as the word “love.” Often used, it often slips into casualness, sweat pants and shortcuts rather than the complex richness and romance we associate with the words found in the above definition. We find ourselves saying things like, “I hope you have a good day” and “I hope the weather will be nice tomorrow,” but if you consider the manner in which this sentiment is imparted, would you say that you’re expecting with confidence that that person’s day will be a good one, or that you’re cherishing a desire for fine weather with the anticipation that it will happen the next day?
“Cherish,” “desire,” and “anticipation” are vivid and active words, painting mental expressions of those words with the deepest, most intense colors we can imagine. When we use them, our language is charged because the pigment has not been muddied by overuse or other complex shades. This is not to say that we shouldn’t use words too much—after all, where would writers be if we couldn’t talk about the things that really matter? However, just as a painter should always bring a clean brush to a fresh color, we should be careful not to forget how bright these four letters can be on their own. Compared to the bright crimson, viridian, or gold of words we save for special occasions or formal writing, the pale, powder blue of a quick “I hope” seems quite paltry indeed.
For me, hope has always been the color blue. This may just be my perspective, but in my mind, there are of a lot of things in common between a wide open sky and a wish. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that many of the things we associate with hope—the original, core meaning of this word—have to do with flight. One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickenson begins by saying, “Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul.” Hope is often compared to a bird, and who has not dreamed (or hoped) of flying?
Whether we lean out of car windows to stare after white jet trails against a wild blue afternoon, startle a flock of birds up from the ground, or stand on chairs with blankets tied around our necks, at one point or the other, I believe we’ve all wondered what it would be like to conquer gravity, to face it on its own terms and ascend.
Yet, no matter how easy birds make it look, there is a struggle involved with flight. Each downward beat of a wing, each burst of thrust from an engine asks us to remember that it’s not easy to leave the ground. Hope is very much the same way. A steadfast and earnest wish is much more difficult to sustain than the brief catchall we often use in expressing a small want for good weather. In flight and in hope, it takes a lot of work to get off the ground and stay there. With perseverance, hope promises us the sky.
As we know, we weren’t made with wings, and maybe this is why we’re terrified of falling. Hope, more than being a stubbornness to not look down, can be our wings. It can take you to great heights, yet in the face of storms and turbulent weather, those wings can seem quite small and weak. Suddenly, you’re tumbling out of that blue sky.
But falling doesn’t mean you’re losing hope.
Perhaps most importantly, the last definition of hope is trust. Trust is putting faith in something or someone other than yourself, and by its nature, demands that you let go, free falling into the unknown holding as tightly as you can to the knowledge, the belief that someone will catch you.
This is a lesson that I am still learning. I have high hopes for some of my dreams, and at times, I feel like I’m sitting at the edge of the atmosphere, looking down on all the details from such a height that all obstacles and minutiae meld into distinct possibility, a beautiful whole that makes me thrill with big ideas. There are other times when the day-to-day details seem to be pulling me back down, and I lose sight of that whole. Excitement gives its seat to worry. Gravity is too much, and I feel I’m falling out of orbit.
Yet, even as the clouds rush past, I still have hope. I know there’s a plan for my life and all its sundry parts, even if I can’t see it right now, even if I think I’ve been plummeting for a long time now. Perhaps for the first time, I’m looking down at the unknown, and I’m learning not to be afraid of falling.
If you don’t let go, you can’t know what will happen. You have to trust. Like jumping from a high dive or a plane, there is trepidation in this. What are you putting your trust in? Is it strong enough to catch you?
If you trust it, let go. It’s scary at first, those first moments of last-second worry broadcasting panic, but then exhilaration takes over. Freefalling is real, vibrant hope because you are having faith that this is not the last time you’ll fly. Besides, who’s to say you’re not falling into the sky?
So here I am, freefalling!
I hope someone will catch me.