Don’t Forget How to Hope

The most important skill we’ll take from this time

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

A week into the pandemic, my kids and I got out the markers and made signs to hang in our living room window: You are loved. Thank you, doctors and nurses. We’ll get through this. Hope didn’t come naturally in the uncertainty, but getting out the art supplies was my way of keeping my eye on the future so I could stay afloat in the present. More than a year later, I’m feeling grateful I won’t have to bank on all those What Ifs much longer–– but I’m also already missing the looking-forward perspective.

A month before lockdown, I wrote a piece about hope nostalgia, my way of describing the bittersweet feeling I often experience after something positive happens. You know how, after something you’ve been looking forward to for a long time finally happens, melancholy descends? Of course, you’re thrilled about the Good Thing — but even though you got exactly what you wanted, you kind of miss the Time Before. You miss anticipation, and all the ways it inspires and motivates.

As more and more people get vaccinated and closed-off parts of life start to open up again, many of us are on the brink of the Good Thing we’ve been gearing up for over the last 13 months. It was, to say the least, a shitty year –– but like most shitty things, that stretch of time wasn’t without life-shifting lessons.

We developed new routines. We gained perspective on what really mattered. We grew in empathy and banded together with others (and maybe let go of the people holding us back). The thing that binds all these lessons together? Hope.

Forced out of familiarity, we all learned how to press on in difficult moments, believing that better days lie ahead. Hope is what kept me connected to other people when I wanted to withdraw. Hope kept me invested in my work when I felt like it didn’t matter. Hope soothed my anxiety and even motivated me in big (hopefully good) decisions I wouldn’t have otherwise made.

I’m just as excited as everyone else to take spring break trips with my husband and kids (Siri, remind me to use those 2020 flight credits before they expire) and to have a giant charcuterie plate at the wine bar down the street. But in the bustle of returning to a version of life I once knew, I don’t want to forget how to search for the good.

Writer-mom hybrid. Health & psychology stories in NYT, WaPo, Allure, Real Simple, & more.

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