Ironically this holiday season, I’ve been thinking a bit about a time in my life when I lost all sense of celebration. 

In seventh grade, I attempted to take my own life.  

My hard times had begun some years earlier, during the summer following fifth grade.  One morning, I waved to my friend John Gridley IV as he was practicing tennis in McKennan Park.  A few hours later, he was pronounced dead at Sioux Valley Hospital after being hit by a car while riding his bike, just as we had countless times together.  Not many years later my Grandma Nancy died from a brain tumor.  My child’s brain struggled to process life’s chaos.  I started thinking to myself, “If it all ends in heartache and death anyway, what’s the use?”  Then I turned that harsh, critical, cynical eye on myself with my speech impediment, coordination difficulties and acne.  All things I felt powerless to combat.  After that, my perspective shifted to the world and its many wars and seemingly endless brutality.  The world was hopeless.  I was hopeless.  Life was hopeless.   

From where I stand now, I can see where I got into trouble:  I had started demanding perfection of life and feeling intense fear, anger and hatred when life didn’t echo the precise perfection I was demanding right back to me.  This state of mind, being and acting left me incapable of offering love and hope to an uncertain future.   

The reason I’m thinking about all of this is because of a simple question posed on social media by Awkwardly Awesome Podcast Alumni and friend, Jenny Thrasher.  She asked, “How would you define hope?”  This five word question invited me to finally think about and define this powerful four letter word for myself.

This is a revised version of my comment to her post, “Hope is understanding that winters, both literal and metaphorical, always change into springs, that most problems have multiple solutions, and that growth is always occurring regardless of the weather. Even though we don’t always get what we hope for, hope is an ever present constant, working behind the scenes, even when we refuse to acknowledge it.”

I hold so much gratitude for being given the opportunity to grow beyond the agonizingly lonely, tragically self-centered, deeply fearful seventh grade boy I once was.  

Maybe part of hope is simply looking back and realizing that things we once hoped for have been fulfilled in one way or another.  Maybe that’s enough to give us some faith or even abundant faith as we journey into 2024.

With that I pass, the gift of Jenny’s profound question onto you:

How would you define hope?

Wishing you and those you celebrate holidays full of happiness and abundance.

JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment.  He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.

He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “Doing your Imperfect Best ™”.

His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.