An Exploration of Those Who Compulsively Hope

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Words by Rachel Heffington

To sign up for hope is to sign up for heartbreak over and over again, yet to believe good is coming. Are the optimists and idealists stronger than supposed? There are those who compulsively hope. I stand among them. We, the sect whose capacity for pain and disappointment has grown deeply and quietly, slipping by unnoticed by others; a subterranean stream which pins reality to the floor and lets belief ripple over its face. Compulsive hope-ers who dare good things to come, dare people to explore potential, dare something wonderful to happen today, not tomorrow.

We are the incorrigible ones, ashamed, at times, of our capacity for joy and light. We try to muffle it, to hide it. It is not polite to hope. We don’t want to court aggravation. Our glow is an embarrassment. Against the pain and despair in the world, a smile becomes audacity. Laughter seems punishable. Hope, an idiot’s defense. So we who hope are assumed flimsy, weak, lacking empathy and understanding. We are considered too quick to forgive, too delicate to know, too happy to see. They think that we hope because we are senseless and that our joy is born of ignorance, not comprehension. So we bite our tongues and bide our time. Do they mistake our peace for passivity? And I wonder, when they muzzle our optimism and chain our ideals, when they will realize our courage.

Do they understand that it takes courage to hope? When all evidence runs to the contrary, believing that things could and will go right is ridiculous. Some people live their whole lives refusing to think that something marvelous could happen, or that they will succeed. And they are never disappointed, the ones who hope for hopelessness. Though it would be more respectable, less tumultuous, we dreamers cannot breathe underwater. We must have air. Our lungs were not built for the low-country so we mount high, fully knowing how far we will fall when the outcome fails to reach our altitude. It is a daily plummet, a battering against the sharp peaks of reality, yet we climb again. We love the light and we choose it, knowing full well that the ideal is seldom made manifest. We aren’t self-medicating with fairytales. We know what will be. We are only waiting for it to happen.

Do they know that it takes valor to dismiss cynicism? Although it is in our natures and therefore easier for us to hope than some, we are appalled at the cravenness of the world. It is not that we do not know darkness. The blackness sifts through our hearts and souls and we hate its smell, like battle-horses shying from cannon. Not only do we see what is, but we see what could have been, and the dissonance burns our hearts like coals. Do not try to brand us with submissive defeat. We are wounded but we find pessimism no balm. When we quickly forgive, we do not pretend there are no wounds. But we make ourselves open to healing. Even if that willingness to mend seems too ready to some among the realists.

Do they realize that it takes bravery to be invite criticism? We understand that our bent toward the positive is not universal. We understand that our optimism seems gauche and that we will be called insensitive. When we are awkwardly silent in the face of distress, it is not for lack of empathy. We want to help but the way we help is to hope. And you can’t hope for someone else. Hope is a thing that must grow of its own volition. If hope and speaking of hope is banned from a situation, we are wordless. To speak would be to frustrate, and having seen the weight of your pain already, we do not want to add to it. With our wings clipped, we lose our gracefulness. We feel helpless; we want desperately to help.

Do they realize it takes grit to endure? Hope is beautiful, light-filled, joyous and wonderful. And it is exhausting. The act of believing, though it is built into our souls, can also drain us. Since our days undulate with hope and disappointment, we are never fully at rest. The smallest things have the most significance, or could. When we are tired, we lose the ability to shut off the portions of our hearts and minds that want to track and delight in every movement of every piece of every opportunity. The rising and falling can be nauseous. Half sick, we still hope. We are extravagant with it, even to the point of wasting hope on things that truly do not matter. Or do they? Sometimes the idea that we could sit and believe nothing pulls us with nearly magnetic appeal. But it is not for us. So we hope on and brace ourselves for the next tumble.

Oh dreamers, oh despairing ones. There is a necessary place in creation for us all: the realists, the pessimists, the optimists, the idealists. Let us make a new definition for those who compulsively hope: strength, not weakness; intrepidity, not ignorance; valor, not vanity. We are the light-lovers, the wayfarers. We are the ones who draw warmth to their moon-cold world.


Together we bring dimension and diversity to the human race. Please don’t shut out the bright ones. We belong here, too.


Rachel Heffington is a freelance writer and recipe developer living and working in Southeastern Virginia. Though she always hovers on the edge of Too Many Interests, the place where you most often find her at play is in the kitchen, conducting delicious experiments for her food blog, Lipstick & Gelato. When not working, she is most likely hosting a dinner party or tracking down the best ice cream in town with a good playlist and a pod of friends.

Hope | Exploration | Optimism | Optimistic


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