2020 ended with losing one of our teammates at work by a self-inflicted act two days after Christmas. This has been devastating to so many at our command, especially his unit, and our leadership. My heart breaks for them, and especially his roommate and those who had daily interactions with him.
On a personal level, this affected me not only because I knew him more than just by name, he served as a member of my PAO team as a collateral duty. More importantly, it stirred up grief and emotions that I thought was long buried.
When I was 12, I lost a close friend in a similar manner. It had a significant impact on my life and it wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s did I realize just how much of an impact it had on me. The guilt. The shame. The anger. The self-loathing and self-blame. How we each grieve and/or heal varies for all of us. For me, it took decades.
When death occurs too soon, especially under these circumstances, we try to understand the why. Why did these two very young men (both under aged 25) ended their own lives? We will never truly know. But in my experience, it boils down to one thing: Hope. They had none.
They were suffering with no hope of escaping. Except one.
As the new year began, I wanted to start 2021 with a message of hope, but I struggled for days on how to write about it.
I started the “New Year, New You Challenge” by Daily Stoic (https://dailystoic.com) on Jan. 1st. On day 2, the message reminds us that we are not perfect, and to expect that we will make plenty of mistakes as we strive to reach our new goals. On this day, we are to choose an old goal we gave up on long ago or perhaps use one from last year that we didn’t accomplish due to our 2020 unusual circumstances. Simply try again, get back on track. Then celebrate each day we acted upon it whether we succeed or fail. As Marcus Aurelius put it:
“Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.”
Upon reflection on this, hope is not necessarily found in the success or failure of reaching the actual goal. It is not the end state, the outcome or result.
Hope is embracing the pursuit, the journey. It is showing up. Putting one foot in front of the other. And celebrating no matter how big or small the step. These small repeatable actions done day in and day out turns hope into habits. Habits become ingrained into our everyday actions, our behaviors, and it becomes a part of who we are.
A new and better version of us.
I share this challenge with you. Find hope in your journey, your pursuits. Turn hope into habits in 2021.