What gives you hope for the future, in 2022?
January 16, 2022 8:55 AM   Subscribe

These are difficult times, everywhere. The bad news feels all-consuming and inevitable. What gives you hope for the future? How are you staying hopeful?

These are challenging times. Speaking for myself, as a parent of two children under five, I find that I’m stuck in a cycle of worry. I stay away from the news, but even my short bursts of reading during the day are fraught with heartbreaking news for the planet, for democracy, for the poor. I recognize my own place of privilege here, as an employed, housed American, but all the same it’s just so hard to change my mindset. I want a bright future for our kids, but I’m scared for them, and I fear that it is affecting my day to day interactions with them. And even reading the news for five minutes fills me with dread, but not staying informed feels wrong.

What should I know, to change my perspective? How can I feel hopeful about the world they’ll inhabit? How can I feel less helpless? How do you remain positive when everything feels so bad?
posted by summerteeth to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is one of the hardest times in recent years to have two little kids, so strength to you.

I'll just tell you about my summer 2021. At my work we decided to run summer camps, at a loss because of Covid (we ended up with a grant) to provide training and employment for youth in our martial arts program, and to provide childcare and fun for kids in our community. These are kids 15-22, most of whom were in their first job ever. They had to wear masks all day, make sure the kids wore masks, spend a lot of time outdoors with the kids for ventilation, clean everything all the time, and deal with parents who were frankly freaked out.

And oh yes, here in my area (Ontario) the kids had been in virtual school most of the term, and so they weren't used to socializing. And the 5 year olds maybe hadn't been in school or daycare for a year and a half.

They did fantastically, every one. My team was kind to the kids, would call me with requests like "so and so loves unicorns, can you bring us unicorn stickers?" I got questions about how best to support non-gender-conforming 8 year olds. They helped kids with autism, ADHD, and other challenges have a safe and happy summer.

I've been running camps for a few years now and this summer, I didn't have the usual "came back late from lunch," "I checked in on the soccer game and everyone was checked out and one staff was at Tim Hortons while the kids were running around a public playground like banchees" issues. The youth were there to help.

They are looking at careers in environmental science (this has been true the past few years) and public health.

If they aren't of voting age yet, they soon will be.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:06 AM on January 16, 2022 [24 favorites]

My daughter is three.

I cried when the Pfizer vaccine trial for tots was a dud. I feel immobilized and threatened by news and the sense that it's all coming apart at the seams.

No one is in charge.

But I look to my daughter, and I see strength, and will, and growth. I see her overcome her speech delay. Try new foods. Outgrow shoes.

I see small kindnesses in my town.

The librarians braving a pandemic to give us all somewhere to go. The volunteer firefighters, the town Santa, the random college kids who dote on my daughter. These 20-year-olds have been through hell, and they want to chat with a toddler. Spectacular.

I try to be kind, too, in my own tiny ways.

Gifting a flashlight to a friend who walks dark roads at night, leaving homemade jam for neighbors, Googling what to do about seizures because my neighbor is epileptic. Storing a little extra food, water and medicine, because my fellow human beings might want help in an emergency and the systems might not be there.

It feels like no one is in charge, but that's false.

We are each in charge of contributing to the common good, in whatever little ways we can.

Systems fail. But our humanity must survive.
posted by champers at 9:18 AM on January 16, 2022 [31 favorites]

The last of my grandparents' generation passed away in the couple of years before COVID (thank God; some of them required significant medical and assisted living interventions which would have been a nightmare under pandemic conditions). They left a ton of stuff and so our family spent the pandemic sorting through masses of photos, heirlooms, and documents about our ancestors.

Reading the accounts of these people, in some cases younger than I am now, surviving famine, war, disease, and heartbreak was oddly comforting. We had individuals who left their families to emigrate to a new land with nothing but literal pennies in their pockets. Individuals who experienced the very worst of the Irish potato famine. Families whose young children died from accidents or diseases which are easily preventable now. People gassed in the trenches of WWI who suffered the rest of their lives from it, and people whose planes were shot down over the North Sea. Suicide, alcoholism, abuse, divorce - yet those individuals carried on the best they could and in many cases found much joy in their lives. It out my own life in perspective that whatever the world situation might be, we will find a way to carry on, somehow,and that nobody in the past, however charmed or privileged, escaped heartbreak and struggle.

I know this may sound gloomy but it gave me a lot of peace to go through that process.
posted by fortitude25 at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2022 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: I’ll keep refreshing this all day, probably, but I just wanted to say thank you to those who have replied. You’re all sharing such important perspectives. And so beautifully written to boot!

Going to print these out for when things feel particularly dire, like long form mantras. Keep them coming, I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs to hear your thoughts!
posted by summerteeth at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2022 [5 favorites]

Living with teenagers gives me hope for the future. My kids and all their friends are concerned about climate change and social justice. If someone is queer or nonbinary or trans it's a total non issue to them. They despised Trump and everything he stood for and would never in a million years vote for anyone with similar beliefs. Some of them are old enough to vote now. Over the next decade, millions of kids like these are going to start voting and becoming active adult members of society, while millions of older, more conservative people are dying off or getting too old to have much influence.

When I was born, segregation was still legal in part of the U.S. Newspapers still had separate help wanted ads for men and women. DDT was still in use. Air and water pollution was becoming a big problem but there were no laws in place yet to address it. People were afraid to admit they were gay and being transgender was something that was never even talked about. You can't look at how things have changed since then and not feel that we're headed in the right direction on many fronts. There are obviously plenty of things to worry about too, but whatever you're worried about, there are plenty of young people who are also worried about it and are probably more likely to do something helpful to address it than the people who are now aging out of public service ever were.
posted by Redstart at 9:40 AM on January 16, 2022 [24 favorites]

If you were born in 1900, in one lifetime you lived through WWI, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, WWII, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the Korean War, and Vietnam. It's always pretty challenging out there in humanity, it's just that for those of us raised by the golden Boomer generation, we don't expect it to be.

Nevertheless, everyone looks back and sees the joy in their lives, and I trust that will continue to be true.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:48 AM on January 16, 2022 [14 favorites]

+1 to "Current teenagers seem to rule." I have a 5-year-old, and the young adults in her life are just marvelous. I think they are coming of age in a time when it is becoming obvious that the center just will not hold, and they are going to remake the world with justice in mind. Their approaches to work, to equality, to everything - they are just amazing and I think they will save us all.
posted by catesbie at 9:57 AM on January 16, 2022 [14 favorites]

This is difficult for me as well, but I am taking comfort in a few things.

On the scientific level, pandemics do eventually end (link to 2020 Time article, limited free articles). It took about three years for the world to get back to normal after the 1918 flu pandemic, and that was without vaccines. That virus cost a huge number of lives and took a terrible toll, but it did eventually end and this will, too.

Although the media focusses on poor behaviour and stressful events, there is a lot of kindness out there. For example, a few weeks ago, I got my car stuck at the exit of a busy drive-thru, blocking a whole bunch of people behind me who obviously wanted to get out. Even though I had made a mistake by taking the turn too sharply (which was then compounded by a broken curb; long story) nobody got angry or even honked. Instead, two workers from the restaurant and a couple of other customers came. out and helped me dislodge my car in a matter of minutes. Those kinds of stories generally don't make it onto social media or the news, but they are out there. (I did give the restaurant workers some cash as a thank-you, and wrote e-mails to the owners, thanked my fellow customers profusely and posted about everyone's kindness.)

It also helps me to recognize the very well-documented tendency of the human mind to focus on the negative and give it greater weight than the positive. The media capitalizes on this because they get more of your attention, and therefore more money, when you are angry and/or scared. In order to fight this, we need to consciously seek out and focus on good things. We are completely normal if we need to do this, even--or maybe especially--when our efforts get overwhelmed from time to time. And doing it does not mean that you are falling victim to "toxic positiivity" or any of the other things your anxious brain might be bringing up. Good things are just as true as bad, and it's okay to make sure you remember that.
posted by rpfields at 10:00 AM on January 16, 2022 [10 favorites]

The comments about older generations got me thinking of my father's papers, which I'm going through a decade after his death.

He was born on a reservation in 1935.

His childhood is pretty blank. Few photos, no paperwork. He didn't even have a birth certificate until he was 17.

He ran away to avoid Indian boarding school. His Navy enlistment forms say he was white, he could pass as such.

But moving into the 1970s you see his heritage reclaimed. He's listed as American Indian on various forms. Then as he ages he's a tribal elder, IDs and paperwork telling the world who he is. There's a whole apparatus of a history reclaimed and a status honored.

And so many of us reclaim history, tell the truth, honor ancestors and stop trying to fit a mythology that diminishes us.

Yes, there's backlash and there always will be.

But eventually, we always reclaim ourselves. We remember who we are, and we resist erasure.
posted by champers at 10:04 AM on January 16, 2022 [32 favorites]

If you want to consume some news but in a hopeful manner, a fellow Mefite pointed me to Reasons to Be Cheerful which documents positive changes individuals, communities, organizations, and beyond are striving to make the world a better place. Every time one of their newsletters comes to my inbox my mood is instantly lifted.
posted by carabiner at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

I share your anxiety about the state of affairs, however I have a gift (or perhaps it's more of an affliction) in that I don't think about the future too often. I can be very stressed about the political climate, and the pandemic, and can get on my soapboxes. I still mostly focus what is happening in my very immediate world. It can cause me either anxiety or contentment, depending on my mindset.

The positive and the good is what I focus on when I'm in a healthy mindset. You and your children are likely healthy and able to learn and play and soak up all that is wonderful about life. We still live in a democracy, and it's always been fragile, so perhaps practice adopting an acceptance of that. Also realizing that there are probably more "sane" people who wish to keep it intact than the fringe mindsets that are reported in the media.

While I prefer not to stick my head in the sand, I also don't want to catastrophize or think about what-ifs that are mostly out of my control. I find that when I'm in worry or anxiety it's almost always a byproduct of lifestyle choices. If I'm not taking care of myself, stress and worry come more easily. I am hopeful in that my choices can make life more pleasant and joyful. There is joy in movement of the body, nature, creative pursuits, people, friends, etc.

Research has shown that exercise can actually give you hope.

More here.

I have two young-adult children -- ages 18 and 21. I have a lot of hope and optimism for them. They seem to be optimistic and hopeful too. They are relaxed, informed, and tolerant. If they aren't worried, why should I? I have faith that their generation and future generations will create a better world. A better world is subjective -- one aspect could be better, and another worse, and that's always been the case. I derive hope from the progress that has been made so far. All of this is an older person telling a younger person to be less fearful and not to worry. You will have to find your own way (perhaps an acceptance that you might always have a bit of fear but you know how to to have joy and hope too) and come to your own realizations. My father-in-law died very recently, and I'm getting older, and it crystallizes what is truly important -- stop fretting and enjoy it right now.
posted by loveandhappiness at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

a couple media recommendations:

I pretty recently audiobooked the Maisie Dobbs series through my library, which is kind of a series of cozy mysteries, set in england in the years directly after WW1. Most of the characters you meet have been affected in big or small ways by the war, as well as just life in those years. It sounds a bit depressing but somehow it isn't. It's a nice little look at the resiliancy and kindness of humans and community following horrific circumstances and losses.

I really like the podcast "This podcast will kill you" which is about disease ecology. It's hosted by two smart, kind, young doctors both named Erin, and it is nice to hear about the ways medicine has historically (and currently) improved, and just know a bit more about how researchers and epidemiologists are looking at things. I find it comforting to know that there are smart, kind, passionate people who get RILED UP talking about neglected tropical diseases. They're out there trying to make things better for us!

I also was filled with hope after finishing "the once and future witches" so I'll recommend that, though I have trouble defining exactly what about it made me feel hopeful. Reclaiming your own power? the collective power and bravery of community? feminism? anyways it was great.
posted by euphoria066 at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

The vaccines work! The US is getting to work on lead pipes, FTC chair Lina Khan is getting after right to repair, the French are building nuclear power plants again! Risk profiles for children and the vaccinated are pretty damn great! The traffic light coalition is getting to work in Germany! People are realizing the threat of climate change, the idiocy of weed prohibition, the need to build our cities for people! We're making amazing discoveries in paleoanthropology at a breakneck pace! We're leveraging mRNA to fight back against a bevy of other gnarly diseases!

Zooming out: after two million years of brutal hardship, starvation and sky-high child mortality and epidemic violent oppression, humanity has finally arrived these past couple centuries at an age of science beyond belief. We live in a time of relative peace. All we have to do is figure out how to live with the incredible, unwieldy tools that save us from our ancestors' grim fate.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:22 AM on January 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

What helps me? Focusing on the fact that --

* Pandemics end (rpfields point)

* Things are better than we may think (carabiner's point)

* People regularly persist through terrible times (fortitude25's point)


* Taking care of my body, in the way one would take care of a plant or pet (oh, yes, I should be sure to give the cupcakeninja a glass of water in the morning and at night, that sort of thing)

* Reading books as much as I can. Clickbait is a downer and so hard to escape online. So, reading The Water Will Come wasn't a fun experience, exactly, but it gave me better context for climate change in my area.

* Knowing about history. There are always tyrants. There are always feelings that "the end is near," and sometimes the end is near! But "the end" is usually a fits-and-starts sort of thing, or a long transition.

posted by cupcakeninja at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

You should be optimistic because the Merida English Library found a way to continue free English lessons, Saturday morning story time, and book lending while all of Yucatán was locked down.

And we’re nobody. A tiny speck on a peninsula no one can find. There are millions of organizations like us around the world who work hard to continue our charitable missions. The world is chock full of good people helping out their neighbors. That’s not news.

What’s reassuring about the news right now is that trouble and strife actually *is* news. When peaceful coexistence becomes a notable event is when one really starts to worry.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:39 AM on January 16, 2022 [7 favorites]

I have been struggling with this myself lately. Mostly I try to narrow my scope.

Sort of like the saying that goes something like:

"When I was young I wanted to change the world, but couldn't. When I was a bit older, I tried to change my country, but couldn't. When I was older still I tried to change my city, but couldn't. Finally I realized I could only change myself - and maybe that would change my city, and maybe that would change my country, and maybe that would change the world".

But basically I try to do two things:
1. Be grateful for and notice the good things happening around me (so that I maintain faith in humanity instead of just going bleak and cynical)
2. Try to be more gracious, more generous, more kind. Starting with my most immediate circle (kindness to one's children is very powerful), and in small ways spreading outwards - trying to smile at others, visit vulnerable people to just chat and share food or whatever, sending thank you notes to people who helped me... And of course giving money to causes I believe in, that's a dedicated item in my budget and I strongly encourage you to do the same if you aren't already (I remember hearing about some movement encouraging 10% of income?).

I find this helps shift my lens from despair to hope.

I also find hopepunk helpful. To quote from Tumblr:

grimdark says “we are all going to die. the universe is cold and empty.”
hopepunk says “yes, and the greatest act of defiance against the dark is kindness.”

grimdark says “nothing can save us forever.”
hopepunk says “something can always save us today.”

grimdark says “there is no hope. there is no mercy. there is no justice.”
hopepunk says “but there is us.”
posted by Cozybee at 11:50 AM on January 16, 2022 [14 favorites]

I have been thinking a lot about this picture I came across on Tumblr, link here. What are you planting now that with bear fruit for the future? I've made strengthening my friendships and family relationship the focus of this year.

Every time something scary and hard is happening in the news, I see a lot of people posting Mr. Rogers' quote about looking for helpers. This is a lovely way to sooth the fear that children have, but as adults, we're the helpers. What can you do to help your community? Can you volunteer? Are you in the financial position to help with mutual aid? I find doing, planning, helping are all ways that make me feel more in control.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 1:08 PM on January 16, 2022 [5 favorites]

I have no doubt that this is not what you're looking for but I'm going to say it anyway. I have never listened to the Beastie boys last album because I wanted something to look forward to when I was 60 and that's 10 years from now so I fully intend I'm being here 10 years from now so I can listen to the last Beastie boys album very loudly over and over and over again.
posted by markbrendanawitzmissesus at 1:08 PM on January 16, 2022 [11 favorites]

well, the Youtube algorithm just hooked me up with this particularly bonkers selection which I'd pretty much forgotten about completely (1985 was a long time ago).

Nurse With Wound - You Walrus Hurt the One You Love (1/2)

maybe our robot masters have a benevolent plan after all.
posted by philip-random at 3:11 PM on January 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Appropriate for Monday (and going forward into 2022 and beyond):

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
posted by forthright at 4:46 PM on January 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Since you asked: that I have been neutered and therefore my bloodline ends with me, so I will not be subjecting arbitrary progeny to the current and future horrors that the rest of humanity has created for itself.

My partner feels the same way. We care for cats instead, and what gives me hope for the future is that with the income we have freed up by not creating more unnecessary life out of nothing, we can in some small way help life that already exists and that is routinely far more pleasant.

Speaking with others who feel the same way gives me hope that there are more people like us that we have yet to speak to, probably never will, but who still exist.

And just to get around it: we are antinatalists for us. Just because we disapprove of breeding doesn't mean we are going to do anything to stop others.

Pulling plastic trash out of waterways and their surrounds, as I do on weekends, gives me hope that others are doing the same around the world, which gives me hope that at least one less sea creature will choke to death today.

And I suppose I "hope" to see a socialist future, mainly because it's socialism's turn and because capitalism just as actively killing people as the "failed communism/socialism" examples that people constantly trot out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:18 PM on January 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids, but you ask what gives me hope for the future and my answer is kids. I have nieces and nephews, and relationships with my friends' children, and one thing that always strikes me is how amazing it is to see them grow and think and change, how many things that bothered me or held me back from becoming my best self are total non-issues to them, how smart and funny and awesome they are. I feel good because a world that is left in the hands of a generation like them cannot be completely screwed up, despite our generation's best efforts to screw it up. The instagram account Recess Therapy cheers me up when little else can: the guy basically goes around interviewing children, and their takes on the world are always so funny, brimming with personality and life; each kid is totally unique. It's just the purest thing and I could not recommend it more strongly if you're ever in need of a pick me up.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:04 AM on January 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

It's actually better than it was for most of the world.
posted by tarvuz at 5:10 PM on January 21, 2022

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