You can’t buy hope from a store

But you can embroider it on a pillow


On my bed, I have a pillow that has the word “hope” on it. When I first saw it, I wanted it immediately, but I didn’t buy it. I continued to shop for the other things I needed for college, but at each one of the 50 T.J.Maxx stores I went to, it was there. It was calling to me. My grandmother refused to buy it for me because it wasn’t something I needed. So, after a month, I finally gave in and bought it for myself.

I told myself that I could use it as a conversation starter. If someone were to point it out, I would tell them, “I had to buy hope from a store because I have none of my own,” and then laugh and say I was only kidding. I would use it as a prop in my favorite type of tragic humor. Despite how much I laughed at my own joke, there was some truth behind it. Perhaps I’d wanted the pillow because it was so soft and cute, but maybe I was really looking for a bit of hope.

Hope can be a dangerous feeling. It often includes an unattainable desire for a certain thing. I believe that there is a difference between hoping for something and expecting something. I refer to the common saying, “hope for the best, but expect the worst,” when explaining the difference between the two. 

Expectation is the realistic version of hope. I expect something because it is the most reasonable outcome of a situation. If I absent-mindedly write a lab report, no matter how much I hope to get an A, I would expect to get a lower grade. I hope for something because it is what I personally desire to get from a situation, whether or not I have done something to earn it. 

However many times I say that I don’t have hope, I do. I have just come to a point where I value my expectations above my hopes. Hope has become more of a precursor to a pleasant surprise. Though there are times when I am naïve enough to hope for something better, I am wise enough to know what I deserve.

In my life, I have faced disappointment. At the University, disappointment and rejection can be all too common. Everyone is striving to do their best trying to find their place among a crowd full of equally determined individuals. It can be easy to lose hope.

First semester, I didn’t know what to get involved in. Meanwhile, it seemed like everyone else knew exactly what they wanted, and they were all involved in things that they really loved.  I felt left behind, so this semester I attempted to find something that I loved.

I applied to at least five different jobs, a volunteer position at the University Hospital, an executive position in a new club and a writing position for The Cavalier Daily. I also rushed a sorority, and auditioned for University Salsa Club showcase. I was trying everything I could think of just to find something I felt good about.

As the rejection letters — well, emails — started rolling in, it was hard to keep hoping.  I dropped out of formal recruitment after I wasn’t invited back to my top sorority. I didn’t hear back from the jobs I applied to. I already knew I wasn’t going to make showcase. It seemed to never end.

Just as I was considering shoving that pillow in a box under my bed, I got an email — I was accepted to be an executive for Humans for Justice! I then received another email from The Cavalier Daily — take a guess at what it said. Of course, I didn’t expect to hear good news from everything I applied for. It was a slap in the face everytime I read the word “unfortunately,” but the good news I did get — however little news that was — was enough to have me hoping again.

Personally, separating hope from expectation makes disappointment a less intense experience. If I could fully eliminate hope from my life, then I might be able to fully eliminate disappointment; always getting what I expect because it is what I deserved. I might be able to exist in a constant state of content, but I wouldn’t really consider that living. 

What makes life exciting, is the uncertainty of our hopes and dreams. If I continue to hide behind the fear of disappointment, I may never truly find my way in life. Hope has the power to take me to a point just a little farther than I am right now, if I let it. I never expected to find it, but I searched, and there it was — stitched onto a pillow in a T.J.Maxx in northern Illinois.

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