The other day as I was doing a bit of early (well, very early) spring cleaning, I walked into my daughter Zoey’s room to put away some of her art supplies. She was there, standing at the window, her little face pressed up against the glass. I stopped and watched her for a minute, wondering what she was doing. Outside, snowflakes quietly fell from the sky and danced their way to the courtyard below.
Zoey finally noticed me standing there, and she glanced back at me briefly before resuming her stance at the glass.
“What are you doing?” I finally asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.
When she spoke, her warm breath left a small circle of white fog on the glass. “I’m hoping for a snow day.”
* * *
When we were kids, every day was full of happy, hopeful things. I’m reminded of this as I listen to all the hopes my daughter has: I hope we get to paint in art class today. I hope I get to sit next to my best friend at lunch. I hope we get to practice our leaps in ballet. I hope I get picked as the line leader.
I hope we have a snow day.
But then we grow up and adulthood happens. We accept the reality of our days and hunker down into the lives we think we need to live, perhaps forgetting along the way about that little thing called ‘hope.’ Because when our hopes—big and small—don’t happen the way we want them to, we have a tendency to give up on them.
But wait. Don’t give up so soon. Science suggests that the simple act of being hopeful is nothing but good for you.
In a 1991 study, University of Kansas psychology professor C. R. Snyder described hope as the interaction between your goals, your sense of personal agency, and your path-finding ability. In essence, it’s your ability to link your present to your imagined future.
In his additional studies on hope, Snyder discovered correlations between high hopefulness and diverse measures of success. One that focused on college students found that highly hopeful college students get higher GPAs, are more likely to graduate, perform better in track and field, cope better with injuries, and have greater “psychological adjustment”—a fancy term that basically means being able to handle the cards that life deals you.
This mechanism had a lot to do with how highly hopeful people conceive their goals and the ways that they are able to attain them. Snyder calls hopeful people “goal investors”: They diversify the things they want out of life, and sub one in when another can’t be reached. They adapt. They adjust. They roll with the proverbial punches.
Near the end of his life, Snyder compared hope to a rainbow: “A rainbow is a prism that sends shards of multicolored light in various directions. It lifts our spirits and makes us think of what is possible. Hope is the same — a personal rainbow of the mind.”
As we’ve mentioned before, nostalgia, like hope, creates optimism toward the future. So imagine what would happen if you combined the two? Powerful stuff, that’s for sure, and it’s what we’re all about here at the Nostalgia Diaries: celebrating the past to create better todays and tomorrows. We love to reminisce and use our past in a way that allows us to appreciate our present and look ahead to the awesome—and authentic—futures we can make for ourselves and our loved ones.
* * *
The look on Zoey’s face as she stared out into the freshly-white world was full of longing. She has a lifetime of hoping in front of her, and I want to make sure her heart remains hopeful. And since the process of growing up will surely find ways to try and squelch that, who was I in that moment to start the process too soon? So instead of responding to her snow day desire with what I was thinking (which was along the lines of something practical, like “It’s only supposed to snow an inch!” or “Honey, it takes a LOT of snow for Denver schools to close!”), I knelt down beside her and said, “I hope so, too.”
The next day school was, of course, still in session, but that didn’t seem to deter Zoey from finding something else to be hopeful for. She sat in the backseat on the way to school—boots, earmuffs, and gloves on—ready to battle the cold air and snow-packed sidewalks with enthusiasm.
When I dropped her off in her classroom (after taking at least 5 minutes to unbundle her), she ran up to one of her best friends (most likely the one she hoped would sit next to her at lunch), and exclaimed, “I hope we get to go outside for recess. That way we can catch snowflakes on our tongues!” The girls giggled excitedly as Zoey blew me a kiss and waved me goodbye.
I headed to my car and thought about the amazing way my daughter was able to change her perspective when what she hoped for didn’t come to fruition. At 5, she’s already practicing the art of psychological adjustment.
As someone who sometimes get impatient with her life, this was a good lesson for me, because I have some lofty hopes:
- I hope my daughter never loses her excitement for life;
- I hope she grows up to become whatever it is she wants to be;
- I hope she is safe, happy, healthy, and loved beyond her wildest dreams;
- I hope that one day I am able to find comfort and consistency in my life, that I can stop going through my days feeling like I’m in a constant state of limbo;
- I hope one day I am able to find a place I can really call “home”;
- And one day, someday, I hope I am able to find someone who will fall in love with me—all my quirks, all my baggage, all of me—and that our hearts will match up in the most perfect way possible and our love will be so powerful that it will be able to withstand anything life may throw at us. (Hey, I said they were lofty…)
The things I hope for might not happen anytime soon, but until then, I can press my nose up against the windowpane of life, reveling in the moments that are slowly falling into place around me and blanketing me in layer upon layer of beautiful things to be hopeful for. And someday, I know all of these things will pile up high enough to turn into something magical and wonderful and amazing.
And when that happens, I’ll be living a life of perpetual snow days.
Sounds like a good plan to me.
* * *
Talk to us! What are you hopeful for? (It’s okay if it’s just a snow day; you have to start somewhere, right?) Let us know in the comments!
Week 9 Suggested Reading
Hope for the Flowers
by Trina Paulus
“How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” With over 2 million copies in print, Trina Paulus’ classic Hope for the Flowers is a story “partly about life, partly about hope, and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read).” If that whimsical description doesn’t want to make you rediscover this timeless tale of striving for more, we don’t know what will.
* * *
Extra Credit: Wondering just how hopeful you really are? If you’re up for a little quiz today, take the Adult Hope Scale (pdf), which was built to measure Snyder’s “cognitive model of hope.”
* This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you purchase a product after clicking an affiliate link (and it doesn’t even need to be the product I’ve linked to), I receive a small percentage of the sale for referring you, at no extra cost to you.*
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.