Words by: Zayan Ismail Art by: Adrienne Aw
As I write this on a gloomy day, it’s hard to stay positive with such dull weather, with the state of the world, in this economy in crisis. The world as we know it is always in flux. Conversations around the climate crisis, a recession and a never-ending array of diseases that seem to prolong the pandemic. The resulting rise of the cost of living, inequality and discrimination seem to have set root in our public consciousness — and become so normalised and trivial. It is true that in these trying times, much remains beyond our control. Society is as polarised as ever, causing many to seek validation and acceptance as they feel left out and unheard. The question is then, how do we find hope? Can it even exist in such dire circumstances? What is all this talk about hope anyway?
In the dictionary, hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen”. Is it possible to be thoughtlessly optimistic without understanding the consequences of life?
I have learnt that the first step to instilling hope over fear is letting go of your rigid expectations and control — at times, we need to let go of our control (Ctrl), à la SZA. I’ve learnt a lot from that album, written and performed by the multi-Grammy-nominated artist and all-around best human being. On harder days, I would listen to SZA and her thoughtful words on living through life’s ups and downs, and finding hope through music. When we let go and just accept the delayed flight or the poorly made coffee (maybe the barista is just having a bad day?), things begin to seem less important. Hope is discoverable in the most unexpected places — and to find it, we must be present, mindful, and grateful for what we have. In this way, we can create positive outcomes for ourselves rather than longing for them without an ounce of work.
Trust me. It’s not easy to be positive all the time! It does help, though, if we stay optimistic and focus on the good instead of the bad. It’s like when you draw the death card in a tarot reading (for my fellow believers). While it might seem to foretell an untimely demise, it’s actually all about fresh beginnings and letting go of the old. Like hopelessness, being hopeful is also how you look into situations in your life — sometimes, with a little faith and dedication, things are better than they might seem on the surface. On difficult days, even the mere fact of existence gives me enough hope to continue.
Perhaps you find hope in writing, just like me, in my efforts to find substance and meaning through advocacy for marginalised communities. Whatever they might be, our hobbies remind us why we love the things we do; even in the clothes we wear, the colours, shades, prints, and designs feed our creativity and vibrance. The books we read give us something to look forward to escaping in, and allow us to understand life from different perspectives. And if we choose to listen to these new ideas, perhaps we can find more hope through mutual understanding rather than conflict. In a world like that, there will be plenty of hope for everyone. Let’s try to respect each other’s differences and agree to disagree.
While reading an article in Vogue (UK), one line stuck with me: “When I chose to relax my subservience to the demands of gender roles, I started looking elsewhere for other unnecessary baggage I could get rid of”. It reminds me of the need to resign from my own rigid ideals and look beyond the horizon for new inspiration. To believe in something bigger than yourself in that way can not only free you, but also liberate you from the shackles of societal pressure, help you find the light and courage to be yourself, and believe in your ideals. Sometimes, the daily grind distracts us from what matters most (money isn’t everything, it’s true). The whole purpose of self-discovery is to reignite that fire for the important stuff, because were we all put here just to work nine to five, endlessly, on a floating piece of rock? I think not!
Remaining true to who you are and focusing on your interests, passion and drive is what matters. Focus on the good and do good unto others. Who knows — maybe someone typing a few words from a faraway land can bring a shimmer of hope to many, just as I read an article in Vogue and was reminded to believe in myself.
I sincerely hope that my drawn-out philosophising on hope at least got you thinking. Finding hope is difficult when it often feels like Earth is falling apart around us, but the act of persisting despite everything is testament to the enduring human spirit. We can look towards a brighter dawn: a breath of fresh air, another cup of coffee, a good book to read, a getaway vacation, a cute outfit, friends and family. When you feel down, have courage to look forward and beyond — for in that brighter dawn lies many possibilities.