Birthdays are often a time for reflection, contemplation, and reviving small hopes. For me, that is particularly true. But this year, my birthday passed through silently. There’s just too much uncertainty to settle into a start of looking back or looking forward.

Looking back, I have a year of recovering from mold illness. Plus $18,000 in medical costs. My health has greatly improved, but we’ve lost almost everything. The used Copenhagen bedroom set we got for $100, the Tempurpedic mattress we saved years for, hundreds of beloved books, high-quality hand-me-down clothes, and the home we made our own are saturated in mold. Reflection means acceptance, and I’m not ready to let go.

Looking forward, we need to find a new home by April, the deadline my in-laws have set for us to get lost. After our insurance denied our claim and dropped us, the HOA’s insurance also denied the claim. A second attorney has accepted and now dropped our case. So, it’s looking we’ll need to sell our mold home as-is at a huge loss. As much as we want to wipe our hands of it, the HOA has admitted fault so it would be optimal if they would bring our home back to a salable state to minimize our losses. Alas, the in-laws want us out and my boyfriend will be attending school in the city, so our hands are tied. Contemplation means an oversized mortgage, unsafe neighborhood, or homelessness, all of which are uncomfortable to think about.

A decade ago, I saw the world through rose-colored glasses and called myself an analytical optimist. Life was brimming over with small hopes, vivid dreams, and anticipation for things yet to come. Now, I often find my most common emotion is dread, and everything that can go wrong seems to go astray. So, as a birthday gift to myself, I’m challenging myself to come up with three small hopes for the year to come.

  1. I hope my niece continues to run up to me with books, requested to sit on my lap and read. I want that little girl to always feel loved.
  2. I hope that my boyfriend and I continue to find small moments of joy in the mundane: a funny joke, changing leaves, an evening walk, or a sweet TV show. I hope that our love only grow deeper.
  3. I hope that we find a home. And I hope that the home is in a safe area near a park. And I hope that the home is miraculously affordable.
  4. Bonus: I hope that my 34th year is kind enough to me that I can rekindle my propensity towards hoping, dreaming, and feeling optimistic about the future.

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