Even the cynical chick tells everyone to look on the bright side now. Wow, that’s disturbing. And yet, it’s how bad things have gotten around here. Your dreams, you achieved them.
But then they curdled. Ewww.
You know what’s up. Welcome to the third round of severe budget cuts at a mid tier university, or a Fortune 500 Company. Wherever you wanted to wind up. Hey, cheers. At least you have an excuse to drink more. Don’t mind if I do. That’s what she said.
No, really. That’s what she said. Drink more. The cynical chick. Followed by what I said. On it. So what she said, times two, I guess.
Hope always sprouts up in the worst situations. Not exactly hope that your company — or university — will survive.
Just hope that there’s a future of some kind…
One that doesn’t involve waking up at 6 am to ask some jerk face if he wants extra foam on his latte.
Hope. It creates an alternate reality. One that might never happen. Maybe that’s why some of us think it’s evil. But it’s not. Hope is the medicine you need. And just like every medicine, you can overdose.
Everyone talks about achieving your dreams. But what if you do that, and then lose them? Not because you did anything stupid. Nah, you did everything super perfect. You’re an 11 outta 10. But sorry, your dreams are shutting down due to technical difficulties.
Please stand by…
By technical difficulties, I mean the utter buffoonery of your bosses. If your company were a person, the law could charge them with manslaughter. You tried to speak up, but they didn’t listen. It’s like they tried CPR with a sledgehammer. You did your best to intervene. But they were like, “Don’t worry, we got this. Hit her again!”
Sucks, doesn’t? On an epic scale.
At least pop stars get to piss away their fortunes on drugs and castles and sports car collections, and whatever else Nic Cage bought. But not you, sweetie. Didn’t even enjoy the slightest whiff of cocaine.
That’s the question I’m interested in these days. What you do when someone else blows your dreams.
Maybe clinch a grudge. Go all Taxi Driver on the douche bags you hold responsible. Sure, all that sounds really productive. Or maybe… you do the hardest thing, and hope.
Your relationship with hope... It’s complicated. Back in college we all thought we were so cool quoting Nietzsche to each other in bars. We loved that story about Pandora’s box, from All Too Human:
In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.
— Nietzsche, I’m pretty sure
But now, this story confuses me. Nietzsche says Pandora didn’t let hope escape her magical box. But he also says Zeus feeds us hope. Let’s square the circle. You’ve felt hope. I’ve felt hope.
We’ve all felt hope. It’s out of the box. Nothing to be done.
And yet, hope is the only thing that can make me happy sometimes. Hope isn’t evil. It’s an experience. The thing that keeps us going.
Hope can feel passive. But also bold. Audacious. Dangerous. Sure, hope can even kill you. Sit around all day and hope. Wish. Dream. Fantasize. You’ll just waste away with the best high.
And yet, that’s where everything starts. A little bit of hope isn’t evil. It’s a beginning. Maybe all you got. All the other stuff that came out of Pandora’s box isn’t evil, either. It just is.
Just a few years ago, I walked around Harvard on grant money. Someone had paid me to do special research at their libraries. And that’s exactly how I felt. Extra special. Even almost got laid.
Almost getting laid can feel amazing. Pure hope. You meet a cute guy at a bar in Boston. He’s a grad student. You’re a professor.
Well, assistant professor.
He wants you. But he also hopes to be you one day. You can feel the hope in his pulse, as he fondles your hand.
You’re about to kiss, when your friends pull you away. Right, because a major conference is also happening here. MLA. It’s December. Cold outside. Your friends tugged you back because you’re engaged.
And this is how you overdose. Having everything you want. Perfect job. Fiance. Potential lover. Friends who save you from a big mistake. It’s only downhill from here. And up again.
The gates of Hell say, “Abandon all hope.” At least according to Dante. He nailed it. That’s the worst thing we could imagine — an eternity, never wanting things to get any better.
Heaven would be the same thing. It’s a perfect world. Things can’t get any better there. Everything’s already perfect.
So hope doesn’t really exist in heaven, either.
Hope just might be the human condition. If that’s true, then you have to lose your dreams at some point. Or get bored with them. Maybe that’s why so many rock stars and celebrities go supernova.
But a handful of people manage to do all right. They achieve their dreams. They hold onto them. Like a drunk girl at one of those country bars with the mechanical bull. They ride the dream.
The dream tries to buck them off. Fun for everyone.
Jeez, I’ve thrown a lot at you. Heaven. Nietzsche. Bulls. Angels. Pandora’s Box. You probably don’t know what the hell to think anymore. So let’s boil it down. Micro-dose on hope. Plan for the super cynical chick to start espousing fortune cookies. Move in with your dreams. Deactivate your dating profiles. But don’t delete them.