Today I turned 30 years old. I feel I’ve learned a lot in my first three decades of life, but there is one concept that seems appropriate to focus on today as I battle the emotions of leaving my “fun” twenties and enter the decade known for pivotal decision-making; the concept of hope. Hope is what allows us to react to challenges positively. Hope plus action is the combination that keeps us moving forward.
Over the last several years I’ve been surprised at my stress levels. I’d call my mom in anxious confusion asking why I was having panic attacks at 28 years old and assumed that this would only get worse as I grew older. Some days I still feel like I’m being buried, like I’ve taken on more than I can handle and instead of rising to the challenge, I’m letting it crush me into a state of indifference. When you feel hopeless, it’s hard to stay motivated.
My outlook on my future fluctuates almost on a daily basis. I get overwhelmed one day, feel like I get very little accomplished, and start worrying about my life choices. The next day (or maybe a couple days later), I regroup, re-light the fire, quit feeling sorry for myself, and get back into my groove.
These are the crucial cycles of life. They’re crucial because they condition you into a hopeful outlook. When situations get tough a little voice reassures you that it will pass. It’s not going to catapult you out of stress, but it reduces the sting and allows hope to live.
Hope can pull us out of the darkest depths of doubt. I’ve witnessed yoga programs in Kenya change people’s lives. But why? Why would yoga in a community where shelter, food, and education are scarce help anybody? Because it provides hope.
While living in Madrid after college I became friends with a Bolivian woman who told me about a life experience that had influenced her move from her home country. Years previously some American med students visited her town. She had only surface interactions with the students, mainly just observing them, but seeing these young foreigners sparked a hopeful curiosity in her. She realized there was more in the world to see and learn. With a courage that I can’t imagine, she packed her bags, kissed her family and 3-year-old son goodbye (for now) and moved across the world in search of better opportunity. From Madrid she has built a new home in Bolivia and supports her entire family, all because of that spark of hope.
In sub-Saharan Africa where many of the tree projects we help fund are located, there is story after story of locals who overuse the land, taking any vegetation and food they can find. Living in poor rural communities with desolate lands is often a hopeless situation. Like anyone trying to survive, people in these difficult situations are forced to take extreme measures. When a program like Trees for the Future’s Forest Garden presents a chance to shift from desperation to potential improvement, hope is provided. And when a person like Ousmane (pictured below, right) takes action, a new purpose and future outlook are born out of that hope.
Hope is an incredibly powerful concept. Like most ideas, it must be followed with action to reach its full potential. The past 29 years have been a learning period. It’s been a time of understanding more about life, about myself, and about what really matters to me. Have I figured it all out? Heck no. But I have figured out one thing. Hope will keep me positive and action will keep me moving forward even after the toughest days.
So for the thirties and beyond, I’m going to keep learning and looking for ways to spread hope, whether it be an encouraging smile, a relatable blog post, planting a tree, or some action I have no idea will set off a positive reaction.
Here’s to hoping.