Apparently, We Are All Clay Jars 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as “cherishing a desire with anticipation.” Which, as we all draw nearer to graduation I would say is how I feel about May 5; hopeful. However, the archaic definition of hope is trust. And trust, I think, is harder to obtain than hope sometimes. Hope is internal. Hope is something that sits under your breastbone and burns with little sparks to keep you moving. Trust is an elusive concept. Most of us don’t even trust our own bodies or minds, riddled as we are with diseases both mental and physical. This idea made me think of the story of Pandora and her box.  

Pandora in Greek Mythology was a woman fashioned from clay by Zeus who was married to Prometheus’s (the guy with the fire and the eagle liver thing) brother. As a wedding present, Zeus (lightning thunder dude who liked to change into animals to have affairs with mortal women) gave her a clay jar or box and told her not to open it. As all Greek myths go she opened the jar and let out all the evil, disease, and nastiness that the world now contains, but she shut the box before Elpis, the Greek minor god of hope could escape.  

There are a lot of different theories and interpretations of and about this story, but one that gives me hope is the idea that the clay jar was representative of the human body. Hear me out. So Pandora was the first human made out of clay by Zeus, given the clay jar with all the evil of humanity inside of it. She opened it and now all that was free in the world but the only thing inside the clay jar was hope. The only thing left inside this physical metaphor for the human body was the small, flickering idea of courage and belief. Which means that while people can be evil, can be sick, can commit atrocities beyond imagination, the only thing that is inherent in all of us is not good or evil, but hope.  

Hope therefore is the truest human expression, the truest emotion that all humans share. The universal truth of humanity is hope, and if we go off of the original definition is trust. I hope for my future that I can embody this more, that I trust more, that I hope more. There are goals, aspirations, working hard, and planning, but hope is what keeps those fires lit.  

 

There is another interpretation of Pandora’s Box, and it is that Elpis is really the minor god of foreboding, that ominous and ever-present fear that is the acid that eats away at hope. And while that sounds like a terrible thing to keep trapped inside of a clay jar, this too brings the reader of Pandora’s Box hope. For fear is locked in a vault somewhere it can not touch the sunshine rays of hope we hold in all of us.  

It’s About Time

Life can seem rather hopeless. You may worry about where your future’s going, you may feel stuck in bad situations, or you may worry about a loved one. Sometimes we feel constantly stressed and see no end in sight. At least once in our lives, someone or something has hurt us badly and we begin to think that we can’t deal with this pain. But we can. And suffering like this, or any other terrible mental pain, doesn’t have to last forever. 

Being hopeful is especially difficult when we’re suffering. How do you ignore it and go on with other things in your life when it’s constantly on your mind? A common but not-so-helpful piece of advice is to just get over it or decide to be happy, but this is rarely possible without ignoring reality and lasting issues.  

Hope doesn’t come naturally. You have to will it to come and search for it again and again. Everyone needs help finding hope with other people sometimes, too. But in any situation, you are the catalyst. It’s also important to remember that life is never truly hopeless and pain can show us how good the rest of our lives are. 

People in pain also often think about time as a source of hope. “Time heals all wounds” is a common saying when thinking about mental scars, but can be used as an excuse to not find any actual healing. Sometimes, yes, you just have to suffer through the pain and remember that it won’t last forever. But that can be extremely difficult, and if this pain is something too awful, unfamiliar, or commonly recurring, living through that time may seem impossible. And how long will it last? There is no timeline for how long anyone “should” mourn and suffer, even with situations that others can handle quickly and easily.  

Time may not directly be a source of hope, but I believe that it always can give an opportunity for people to actively search for it. You may not be able to suffer for however long and eventually not care anymore, but especially with chronic and life-changing situations, you have a chance to get help from friends and other resources. Time gives us an opportunity to look for ways to cope and prevent or prepare for similar pains, if possible. This can mean confiding in people in your personal life, seeking some sort of closure, practicing self-help or meditation, altering your lifestyle to improve overall happiness, or going to counseling or therapy temporarily or short-term. 

Time is a path for hope, but you must decide to take it. Hope can be found everywhere, but sometimes you have to look a little harder for it or get a second pair of eyes. So the next time life feels hopeless in some way, try reaching out for hope, in person or even online.  

Living in the Moment

Do you ever pay attention to detail? Do you ever look up and notice the pipes that line the ceiling? Do you ever look down and notice the stitches on your shoes? When your eyes are tired, when your body aches and your mind is filled with static, do you ever just pause and feel what it’s like to be alive?

The first time I ever meditated, I fell asleep. I was ten years old and at a performing arts sleepaway camp. One of my counselors didn’t like me. I was an annoying, repetitive child. Brilliant but brazen.  

She guided the campers in meditation every morning.  

“Look at the clouds,” she’d coo. “What do you see?”  

Blobs, I’d think.  

“What do you wish you’d see,” she’d ask.  

Everything.  

I took a deep breath. I let my chest expand and let the light peer through my half-closed eyelids. With arms crossed, I grabbed hold of my waist and squeezed rolls of skin until I felt something: the dull pinch of my own grip, materialized, hanging on. I thought about everything— what it was like to be breathing, what it would have been like to not– and soon enough my counselor’s droning voice faded, and I felt completely centered.  

I woke up to the sound of my own snoring. The other campers quietly giggled as morning meditation had been over for ten minutes.  

Since then, I’ve learned to meditate with my eyes open.  

Whenever I get anxious, I look at what’s in front of me, closely. Sometimes it’s a person, sometimes it’s just a bare white wall. I study it. I breathe and feel what it’s like to be in one moment in time, in one place on this earth. I stop thinking and just feel– feel what it’s like to be alive, to have ended up wherever I am.

Where I am doesn’t always matter; what counts is that I’m alive to see it, to be here, to end up in this moment, in this place. Even though clouds are blobs, and walls are white, I’m here. Being alive gives me hope.

Hope Aspirations

By: Corinne Jenkins

When I think about hope, one, particular person pops in my mind. My mom gives me the most hope out of anyone who surrounds meTo think I’m related to a woman who is so strong, intelligent, inspiring, motivational, and who has the kindest soul of anyone I know, is amazing. 

 

Sometimes I look at my mom and the person she is, and I hope to be like her one day. Someone who is capable and willing to get up every day and go to work, while also handling the many other aspects in life. She makes keeping the house tidy, taking care of our dogs, and only getting a few hours of sleep look easy. I can barely get up for my 11 a.m. most days, and my mom gets up every weekday at 4:30 in the morning. I’m 95% sure she has super powers, which I will hopefully inherit one day. 

 

My point is that I am in a stage in my life where the responsibilities are lacking. Sure, I have two jobs and I’m a full-time student, but my mom handles actual responsibility on a day-to-day basis, with ease. My hope lies in the desire that one day I can achieve my goals and handle my aspirations as courageously as my mom has 

 

As time continues to speed on around me, and my graduation date travels closer and closer, I feel at ease. I’m not as scared because if my mom could do it, if she could become a responsible adult in the real-world, with a real-life job, then so can I. My mom motivates me enough into believing that I can be like her one day, and I know I always have her to support me, which is the greatest gift of all.  

 

Having this role model in my life has given me a sense of ambition. I want to make my mom proud one day, and her giving me the strength to do so is something I could never repay. My mom gives me hope through her own, driven personality, and dream to become as successful as her. She is my hero, she is my inspiration, and she is certainly my hope. 

Lady Luck is Seen in Her New Role: Organizational Skills 

I have an interesting relationship with lucky charms. Having grown up playing select field hockey, all the girls had some keychain, Under Armour, socks, ect. that they had to have on them before they played in any competition game. One of my teammates, (a goalie the most superstitious of all players) wore the same pair of gross, falling apart socks until they literally were just tubes and could not be classified as socks anymore. I never really had anything like that; instead I had my routines, and they’ve carried over into a lot of different aspects of my life post high school.  

Before a game day, I would wake up two hours before we had to leave the house, even if that time was as early as 4am. I would eat the same breakfast, two eggs sunny-side up with an apple, milk, and either turkey or sausage. I always put my uniform on the same way; always put the right cleat on before the left. Once I was on the field I would spin my stick in my hand twice and make sure my fingers were gripped precisely over the tape that had a Wayne Gretzky quote on it, and I stayed in that position until the whistle blew to start a game. There are more pieces to my routine that I used to do, like drink 8 ounces of chocolate milk after every full-time game, and how I would tape my stick, but those I left with the smelly hockey gear in my closet.   

Now that I’m not playing hockey or entering into competitions, my routines have just switched into class related structures. I still wake up two hours before I have to leave the house for class or work or whatever. I don’t eat the same breakfast but I eat something, get dressed in a specific order, do my make-up in the same order in the same place, set up my backpack and planner in the same way and on and on. It’s gotten so bad that my mom calls me at the same time most nights because she knows after 10:30pm all bets are off for me picking up the phone. 

These routines maybe don’t feel lucky in the way that they bring me outstanding feats of academic prowess or crazy catch-every-green-light coincidences, but they make me feel settled and prepared which I think is the best luck. I don’t claim to be like Sidney Crosby levels with my routines and superstitions, but if you see me in the TAD office working, there is a 95% chance I’ll be sitting in the same chair on the backside of the front table. Luck to me is something that comes after you’ve done everything you can to make yourself lucky. I think the ancient Greeks would disagree and yell at me for believing I have a future I can affect myself, but I’d like to think that while we may have a destiny, we each make our own luck. And that’s pretty lucky I guess.  

 

A Plastic-Wrapped Momento

I somehow began friendships with most of my closest friends in the confusing world of high school. I may usually look back at those four years very negatively, but they were still a time when life seemed simpler and happiness came easier. , it’s no surprise that some of my fondest memories with my friends are

Something that has stuck with me for several years is a short and random memory with one of my most loving friends. We met in sophomore year, and I’m not actually sure when this took place, so it could’ve been three to five years ago. My friend and I were goofing around in the cafeteria, when she jokingly gave me a plastic-wrapped fork as a very special gift. I took it, returning the joke, and acted like I was deeply touched and would keep it forever. That, however, was not what either of us intended. It’s not like she would never give me anything again; she celebrates my birthday with me every year, which should hold some more significance than giving me an extra fork in a prison school cafeteria.

After this over-dramatic brief interaction, I decided that it would be funny to see how long I kept it. So, I kept the joke going and treated the plastic-wrapped fork as if it was actually very special to me. I ended up keeping the fork for much longer than I had intended, and at some point, it became important to me. (But maybe that’s just the hoarder in me talking.)

The fork reminds me of not having to think about the serious things going on in our lives and just focusing on being friends and happy nonetheless. This reminder helps especially now that I find it difficult to fully trust and unconditionally love people I’ve met after high school.

I don’t take the fork everywhere with me, but it always stays in whichever room I usually live in. First it was at home, then in my dorm taped on the wall, in my first apartment on my desk hutch, and now in my apartment on a shelf.

To this day, it’s still in its plastic-wrapping and still making me smile when I look at it. I think of how silly it is that I’ve kept it for so long, and how this ordinary object reminds me that even if this friend isn’t at the same school anymore, I know that she and my other high school friends are always looking out for me.

Lucky Socks

Everyone has their vices. For me, it’s coffee. It’s not so much of a habit as it is a full-blown addiction. Every morning, I pop a k-cup into my Keurig and let that sweet machine do its magic; the coffee isn’t in the mug long enough to cool before I’ve gulped that otherworldly elixir the heck down. If I don’t drink any before my day starts, I make sure to invest in a hefty cup, hot or iced, anywhere I can get it. (I could stop anytime I want, I swear.)

Last year when I stumbled upon a pair of ankle-high socks with cappuccinos patterned onto the bean-colored background, I knew those suckers were destined to be mine. From the moment they left the sock factory, those babies were headed straight for my size 6.5 feet.

On the way home from the gift shop, I resolved that my coffee socks weren’t going to be just another pair of socks, but my lucky socks. I had never owned anything “lucky” before, aside from pennies I had picked up on rainy days or that cereal with the Styrofoam “marshmallows” inside. But those bad boys, my adrenaline-infused foot warmers, were my new lucky thing.

I wore those puppies during every presentation, every performance, every busy day, and even every tough conversation. The brown color made them palatable enough for a casual outfit while the coffee cup pattern made them quirky enough to be unique– the pair as a whole gave me just enough of a confidence boost to power through rough days. As long as I was wearing those socks, there was nothing I couldn’t conquer. Perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but who even cares? When I was wearing my cappuccino socks, I was killing it and no one could tell me otherwise.

The socks had a good run until I misplaced them on the morning of a big interview. I rummaged through drawers, shook out my hamper, and turned over every leaf and stone but to no avail. There was no trace of them– but I had to run. I settled on some pink pineapple socks and sped away in my Oldsmobile, unsure of what the day might bring.

When walking into my interview, I felt naked. No lucky socks? And I expect to be seen as employable? I had to make a decision. Either swerve back around and and turn my apartment upside down until I find those socks, or just put my best lucky-sockless foot forward and face the day by myself.

The latter would save me gas, so I pressed on.

And you know what? I walked in, and crushed it. After nailing the interview (and landing the job!) I realized that I didn’t need the socks to make my life better. I just needed the confidence that they incited in me—which I knew deep down. But sometimes, we all lack the will to trust ourselves, and instead put our trust in lucky charms like socks or even coffee.

My cappuccino socks now lie at rest (wherever the heck I misplaced them) because I don’t need them anymore. I am the master of my own destiny now. I create my own luck.

I wonder what else I could give up. Coffee? Who am I kidding.

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University