I was waiting for my flight in the Bermuda airport when I noticed a group of recent high school graduates. Many of the teenagers were wearing freshly minted hats and t-shirts sporting the names of the colleges they would be attending in the fall. What struck me was the look of hope and happiness that they seemed to share as a collective.
I look back at photos of me at 17, wearing my brand new University of Georgia t-shirt and that identical look, which I now recognize as hope, tempered with just enough arrogance to disguise my trepidation. I remember how eager I was to go away to college; I was so excited to leave New York – to start anew on what was, to be cliché, the beginning of the rest of my life.
Happiness existed because there was so much hope. It seemed, for the first time, that the future was wide open and anything was possible. Fast-forward just a few years in college – I started to realize that I wanted more. Maybe it will be better when I am working, I thought; after all, I’d finally have money to do the things I wanted to do. There could be nothing worse, of course, than being a poor college student.
I eventually discovered that you can be farther down the food chain than a poor college student – you can be an equally poor waitress with a college degree. I knew that my choices to pursue certain dreams led me to the place where I found myself then. But even on my worst days, one thing kept me going.
I realized that I was still young and the opportunity to start fresh and get my life in order beckoned. In the face of uncertainty, I remained optimistic. I made small decisions, and I made big and terrifying life-altering decisions. And I did so believing that sacrifice could bring me to a better place.
Seeing that group of graduates reminded me that, lately, I had forgotten about the promise that hope can bring. Realizing what hope looked like on another person’s face reminded me that it wasn’t on mine. I had begun to give up. I let myself be a victim of my own choices and let other people’s choices bring me down.
When I find myself wishing that I could go back and do everything over again, I need to stop and remind myself why I made those choices in the first place. I have to quit looking in reverse and start looking ahead. And most importantly, I have to stop giving up. When it seems like everything sucks, that is just the universe’s way of reminding me that giving up on hope is not an option.
Because sometimes all you can do is just keep swimming.
“Her green plastic watering can
For her fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself
It wears her out, it wears her out”
– “Fake Plastic Trees”