For Allison

At the beginning of the year, on a blustery cold day, I went to Balzac’s for one of many coffee dates I had this winter with my friend Allison.

We talked school, stress, heartache, and the future. Two women on the cusp of graduation feeling that “wow everyone has a job, is getting married, or going to grad school and I have no clue what my plan is” feeling.

It was a conversation that stuck with me because as I told her of the hopes and dreams I had for life after school, of programs to apply for, I said “I would really love to go do that, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up”. And I’ll always remember that she said, “But why not? Why not get your hopes up?”. This week’s post is inspired by her enthusiasm for life and her encouragement to get my hopes up.

Unlikely Dreams

Sometimes we dream unlikely dreams. And it’s easy to say “I would like that to happen but I’m going to assume it won’t because I don’t want to feel letdown when things don’t work out”. That is the safe thing to do, it keeps you from being vulnerable.

Brené Brown’s TED Talk (guys she just has realllllly amazing TED Talks – okay?) The price of invulnerability talks about why people avoid getting our hopes up and relates perfectly with today’s topic.

She speaks to the fact that “It is much easier to live disappointed than it is to feel disappointment… We sidestep getting excited about something, because we’re not sure it’s actually going to happen”. When we avoid getting our hopes up, and avoid being vulnerable to our hopes and dreams we aren’t really protecting ourselves from the disappointment.

Similar to this avoidance of vulnerability Brown also talks about “numbing” emotions, to avoid getting hurt. However, she argues it is problematic because “.. you cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb the dark emotion, when we numb vulnerability and fear, and the shame of not being good enough, we by default numb joy. We cannot selectively just numb the dark emotions.” So essentially, if we don’t let ourselves get excited about things we do avoid the feeling of being let down, but we also avoid the excitement about cool opportunities life presents us.

Sprinting into Hope

It might be vulnerable to invest your hope into something or someone, but the truth is certainty about things evades our lives and we might never know exactly what we can get our hopes up about. Sometimes we get true signs of confirmation, like an acceptance letter that tells us we got into the program we wanted, but other times it is not so clear. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and let yourself get excited about things.

Don’t be afraid to get your hopes up. What is the worst that will happen? You might get hurt but you will move on and find something new to be excited about. Life is good, life is exciting and full of amazing things.

To me, it’s scarier not to get my hopes up. If you don’t invest in relationships? Sure you completely avoid the possibility of getting hurt but you also avoid the possibility of community, love, and worthwhile friendships. Not pursing dreams because you’re afraid they won’t workout the way you want? It avoids the disappointment but also the possible joy and success of putting yourself out there.

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking this is completely unrealistic because there are things we really can’t predict and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to get your hopes up – you’re right. Maybe it doesn’t always make sense, but I would rather it be a habit to be optimistic and occasionally try to not get my hopes up about something than form a habit of saying “I would really love to go do that, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up”.

Love is an Action

Another thing I love about Al is that she not only encouraged me to get my hopes up about the things I wanted to be excited about (but was afraid to be), but she got her hopes up for me too. When we talk about the future she talks about those dreams as if they will really come true. And if I point out to her that the future is uncertain she tells me we’re planning on those things to happen because she believes in me.

It can be hard to be vulnerable for yourself, let alone be willing to open your heart for the benefit of others, so I am very grateful for her. There is a Jamie Tworkowski quite I really like, that goes:  “You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things.” Al, I’m lucky to call you a friend and beyond thankful to have you in my life blessing me with your encouragement, love, and challenging me to believe in better things and to be the best version of myself I can be.

“Love ain’t a thing, Love is a verb”

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