Mission Impossible

We keep being told we live in a divided society but ask anybody how they feel about being hopeful that THIS year is going to be different, and you might find common ground. We’re battle‑weary, when it comes to being hopeful. We’ve hoped, collectively, rather a lot over the past couple of years, and look where it’s got us.

Public Service Announcement: there are many reasons to be hopeful.

Sometimes, it’s hard to notice the hopeful things. Humans have a habit of imposing a narrative onto everything, usually in retrospect, and usually starring ourselves in the lead role. Actually though, perhaps the most elated I have felt recently was when I squatted down in the grass with a small friend of mine and we watched a ladybird swim across the surface towards a leaf and my small friend assisted this ladybird with a blade of grass. Have you ever barracked for a tiny critter? That’s the kind of hope that costs you nothing.

Did you know you can be a pessimist or a realist or riddled with anxiety and still be hopeful? You can! The thing about hope is that you don’t have to believe something WILL happen. You just gently hold the possibility of it happening somewhere close to your chest. You can, in that quiet way, hope for the impossible. You never know what the narrative timeline has in store.

Will someone you’ve never even heard of be in the right place at the right time and lift you onto a whole new plain of existence? Will a person you are yet to meet offer you the opportunity of a lifetime? Save your life? Inspire you? Hold your hand?

Is someone, somewhere, working away at a problem that worries you? Is there a scientist, or a doctor somewhere, right now, thinking through the intricacies of a problem that will make life better in a way you never dared hope? There might be. You don’t know.

Is there going to be a brand new book that completely transforms the way you think about the world? We don’t know! Maybe not. But it’s not impossible. That one day in the future, sitting in a library maybe, or handed a book by a friend, you might lose yourself in its pages and emerge altered, thrilled, delighted.

Is there going to be a TV show better than any other TV show you’ve ever loved? Has it not come out yet, the one you’re going to watch and rewatch and love and quote lines from? Are the people who are going to write it writing it now? Are the characters coming to life, the ones you’re going to enjoy so much? No idea. But it’s possible!

There will be bad times ahead. Our narrative tendencies rarely allow us to think that we might make mistakes again, or that fate might throw another six and leave us reeling. But even then, even in sorrow or despair, there is kindness and love and an idiot friend doing a stupid face at you when you’re trying to have a serious phone conversation with the power company. If you think of the people you love the most – the friends, the family, the people who said the right thing at the right time – it’s often in the worst times that those connections are strongest. You can be a pessimist or a worrier or a realist or a grump and still trust and hope that you and the people you love will find a way.

The new year is the ultimate metaphor for a fresh start. The idea that we can wipe the slate clean and start again is just us attempting to take control of that narrative, but we forget, when we write the new one, that the old one was once a mystery to us. We didn’t foresee the friends we have now. We didn’t foresee the way things would go. The people who disappointed us, the wrongs that were committed by us and against us – these things weren’t always FACTS. They used to be possibilities.

Public Service Announcement: anything is possible. Not likely. Possible. We have no control over any of it, so we might as well go with the flow. Watch the ladybirds. Enjoy a world full of potential friends and works in progress and rapidly developing science and a TV show that used to be just a thought someone wrote on the back of an envelope. Happy New Year. You never know what’s coming next.

By Lorin Clarke.

Lorin Clarke is a Melbourne-based writer. The new series of her radio and podcast series, The Fitzroy Diaries, is on ABC Radio National and the ABC Listen app now.

This article first appeared in The Big Issue Ed#652.