Monday, January 26, 2015

The Trouble with Optimism

I have always considered myself to be a pessimist, a cynic.  I actually work kind of hard at it.  People suck, the world sucks, and shit happens.  I've known that since I was about five, probably a little earlier than most kids figure it out, but oh well.  I did most things way before I should have, truth be known, so that's no surprise.

But I'm rethinking things.  I was told recently by someone who knows me well that he loves that I'm always able to find the bright side of things, that I expect the best outcomes, no matter what.  I do? But, but...that's not possible!  I had the nickname "Neggy" in 8th grade, teased to the point of tears by a cute boy in my science class on whom I had a major crush--the point being that he thought I was negative about everything.  In 8th grade?  The only thing I should have had to be negative about was the cafeteria food and that I hadn't seen Rick Springfield in concert yet.  But apparently 8th grade Me was jaded and weary.  Sounds familiar.

But here's the thing.  Disappointments simply wreck me.  I get upset when things don't go right, when people around me aren't happy, when there's injustice and shittiness in my little world and the bigger world that I have no control over.  And when it's me?  Watch out, devastation alert!  Oh, I cover all of that up with smartass comments and a well-practiced Resting Bitch Face (look that up if you're not sure), so you'll never know, unless I want you to.  Aren't you the privileged one?

I want to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when things pan out.  I think there are people out there who just glide through life like they're coated with Teflon, and it pisses me off that I'm not one of them.  I could sort them out randomly in an anonymous restaurant setting.  Teflon people glance at the menu and just PICK something!  What on earth?  People like me, though...we sit and scour the options to make sure we've seen every page, every insert, every little thing so that we aren't surprised in any way, and then order the exact same thing we always order, just to be safe.  No disappointments.

The trouble with optimism, then, is that it leads to continual disappointment when things, people, don't meet expectations.  A pessimist would just settle, accept that things are suckish, no matter what, because that's how things are supposed to be.  A cheery little optimist like me, though?  She thinks she shouldn't settle for just tolerable, and she's not content with mediocre or ordinary, no matter how much she wants to be.  She thinks, maybe unrealistically, that she is capable of more, worth more, has more to give and contribute.   And maybe, just maybe, that a little bit of joy is better than a whole lot of "ehhhhhhh."  Maybe a better title would be "The Trouble with Perfectionism," as it's taken me longer to write these last two sentences than it did the entire rest of the post, and it's still not good, disappointing, even.

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