I usually try to keep the tone of this blog light, playful, positive, and occasionally sarcastic, but a victimless type of sarcasm, ideally the type that sheds light rather than obscures. But I digress. That is a topic for another conversation.
If I had met myself around 2005 and attempted to start a conversation, something along the lines of – Hey me, how’s it going? Vintage 2005 me would have found something to complain about, and the conversation would have proceeded from there. The old me was still a creature of habit, I didn’t particularly consider underlying thought processes. Why did I say what I did? Was I being negative? What was the tone and effect of my words? There was a singular lack of self awareness of habits I had taken in without thinking, one of which was that complaining was a means of conversation.
I look back fondly on 2005 because that was when I met my first bona fide optimist. It was jarring. Every day was a good day, every moment of every day was super fantastic. He wasn’t being sarcastic either, and he could be sarcastic. He had that in his arsenal, but when you asked him how things were going, they were going great. It made me feel jaded, no in the sense that I had been around, but in the sense that I couldn’t look around me and see anything good, I was immune to that. It slowly dawned on me – not in 2005, mind you, maturity was still a long ways away – but years later, gradually and imperceptibly over time, that that was not how I wanted to live.
What happened? To be honest, I’m still in the process of evolving. But I think that over time, my particular optimism developed because I started living the life I wanted to live. I didn’t start hiking until maybe 3 years ago. I had thought about it, sure, but I just didn’t do it. I had wanted to go vacation by myself – in Nepal – but I didn’t get around to that until 2014. Every step was scary, and still is. I have an endless capacity for fear. But gradually, I developed some small set of skills, a hint of stubbornness, and realized that I had an inherent capability. I’m gradually (and this is still an ongoing process) becoming a person that I find interesting. Along with this development, this willingness to start from the bottom, start over, fail, suck in front of an audience, came an accompanying sense of optimism. Because if I just assumed I would fail, I would probably fail. People rarely succeed in spite of themselves.
To put things another way, it is as if the act of putting myself through small challenges required that I change my way of seeing the world, and I had to put away the armor of my dark thoughts, and leave myself vulnerable – because that is what optimism is for me, a kind of vulnerability* – in the hope of achieving something greater.
* Vulnerability, yes. I think exposing your cheeriness to the world sometimes makes other people want to knock you down, disagree with you, whatever. And if you fail, you test your optimism. How strong is it really? Can it survive this disaster? How about this one? How about now?