High Hopes

by Jesse Romo

We are living a dichotomy. Youthful wonder, distant dreams and high hopes are locked in an eternal battle with the forces of self-imposed torture, society’s expectations, the ever-pounding hand of time and the looming reality of death.

Our dreams are forged in the fires of our childhood, stoked by the vibrant and vivid world we experience with fresh eyes. We carve paths out of the ether – molding collective futures in our idealistic minds. Dreams crystallize, and we gaze inside to marvel at what we will become, crushingly unaware of the enemy stalking us, cajoling us to take a different path and enticing us into a world of slow decay.

In youth, our ambitions and desires illuminate the world. The Earth appears ripe for the taking; a fresh apple begging to be bitten. We skip stones across the water, watch in awe as the Sun slowly descends below the horizon and lay out our plans for the future. Wreathed in smiles and cushioned by high hopes, we gaze into the sky and witness stars spring out of the blackness – beacons of hope peppering the darkened, empty canvas of space.

We find ourselves running. The serene path we imagined becomes littered with traps, the road forks off into myriad dead-end paths, and we notice ragged-edged reality tracing our footsteps and nipping at our heels. The hand of time beats relentlessly onwards, hammering down like judgments from the gavel of some cosmic judge.

Each strike of the clock and passing year is a pre-designated milestone, a job we should have gotten, a mortgage closing its hands around our necks, a ceremony we’re due to hold, a person it’s time to create. Every step we take and every milestone we miss, the ragged band behind us whispers in our ear that our dreams don’t illuminate our paths, they hold us back. We’re encumbered by our desires and our ambitions.

The pressure builds – the taunting voices beckoning us to take a detour – and we give in. Along the way, the bridges connecting us sever, burning up and releasing a cloud of ash, blotting out the stars. Soon, we can see further down the path. There is no pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow; the Promised Land is razed and ruined.

The world we find is empty, shells of people we once knew decomposing as they shuffle through their routine lives. We turn back; taking in the bridges we’ve burned and the greener pastures lurking beyond. We need to get back to our path, but we’re pushed on towards desolation and hopeless by an unknown, unspoken tide. So many lost dreams are here, propelled pointlessly onwards into nothingness.

Then we awaken. The further we step down the expected path, the more our nausea grows – a dissatisfaction so profound it’s expelled like a foreign invader. We realize that it’s time to get back to our path, but the beast – the torturing band of expectations hounding our every move – rears up and releases a final, howling call. The hand of time completes a revolution and tolls with the unmistakable tone of mortality – warning us of our finitude.

Here, we face our biggest challenge – the defining decision and dividing bell which determines what the world holds for us. A slow decay or a journey towards something bigger. Facing down the forces of the outside world and withstanding the tides of expectation, we search ourselves for the will to continue along the path we carved all those years ago.

Across the fluttering flames of the bridges we’ve burned, we’re mentally transported to those days we spent by the water, surrounded by friends and living out our dreams on the canvas of our imaginations. Some – only some – notice something. A hunger, an unfulfilled chasm opening up in the pit of our stomachs. There is only one path to walk, the one we know so well and the one we foolishly turned our back on.

With the sword of our will and the fuel of determination, we slice through society’s expectations, slay the beasts in our path and venture endlessly onwards…

To a better place.