I don’t get why everyone’s so in love with the concept of hope.
Seriously. Everybody’s all like, “Don’t give up hope,” and “Without hope, we’re nothing.” But can we just take a moment to differentiate between the words, want, hope, and fantasy?
Want. Noun. A desire for something.
Hope. Noun. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Fantasy. Noun. The faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.
So the difference between want and hope is expectation. I could want a million dollars, but I don’t expect to get it. Therefore, I do not hope for a million dollars. But I do hope in the sun rising. That is a desire, and an expectation.
There are two differences between hope and fantasy. One is the outcome – how probable is it? Do I want a million dollars? Do I sometimes imagine what it would be like to have a million dollars? Yeah, sure. But the idea of having a million dollars is highly improbable, so again, I don’t hope for it. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, it is very possible that the sun won’t rise tomorrow, but it is more likely that it will… So I don’t fantasize that the sun will rise, I hope that it will.
The other difference between fantasy and hope is that fantasy doesn’t include expectation. Pay attention, because at first glance, this concept looks the same as the previous one. I can fantasize about having a million dollars, and I don’t actually believe I’m going to have a million dollars. But what about those who fantasize realistic things, but don’t expect them to happen? For instance, you could apply for a job, and be fully qualified for that job, but not get it, because there is also someone else that is just as qualified for that job. There are some who would hope for the job, and some who would fantasize about getting the job – they want and imagine it happening, but they don’t believe it will actually happen. Okay, so maybe that’s a self-confidence thing – it’s still possible that they could have gotten the job, but they don’t believe in themselves enough to have hope. But it proves my point: imagination does not necessarily equate to expectation.
Adversely, sometimes you can fantasize about something so much that it starts to seem like more of a possibility in your head, and so your fantasy transforms into a hope. And that is the most dangerous thing to ever happen.
This is what really messes me up. You see, wants are perfectly natural, and human. And so are fantasies. And so is hope, right? Except that sometimes, hope is more soul-crushing than anything else… just because you expect something doesn’t mean that your expectation is justified. I could expect a million dollars, but that would be so unrealistic, so why would I do that?
It’s a difficult game to play, because, as I said before, a lot of the time we don’t hope for things that are possible, because we can’t understand that they are possible. And so in those moments, it’s great for someone to push you to hope. But nine times out of ten, my wants are fantasies. I don’t want to be told to hope in those circumstances. Hope is hurtful in those circumstances.
Some call this pessimism. Okay, fine, if there’s truth in that, then I’d rather be pessimistic than continually upset when life doesn’t match my expectations. But if you apply for a job, and you don’t have hope that you will get the job, and you do get it, how awesome is that feeling? Your fantasies just became a reality! I wish that I thought all of my wants were fantasies, because my life would feel like a fairy tale. But that, I’ve been told, is more hurtful than helpful, in the long run.
This is something I’m struggling with hardcore right now. I don’t want to expect unrealistic things, but if I don’t expect anything at all, then I get taken advantage of. I need to have standards. I need to understand what is realistic. But a lot of the time, I can’t tell whether a want is realistic until I see the outcome in retrospect. And so begins the anxiety.
So let’s push ourselves to have wants, and to have realistic expectations, and to be very careful about keeping those things separate. Sometimes they do align, sure. But let them align naturally, and not because we force them to. Hope is only helpful when it’s reasonable.