The Journey from Pessimism to Overwhelming Optimism
Throughout high school I liked to think I had a very positive way of looking at being pessimistic. I believed that by always thinking of the worst possible outcomes of any given situation, I became either unable to be disappointed or pleasantly surprised. Now what I didn’t know was that this logic only got me so far – I shielded myself from letting hope cause me to be vulnerable, but I also lost a great deal of happiness. I was hardened to the world and for no good reason. I was lucky enough to be born into a loving family that – although separated – never made me feel like my life was lacking. I have always had a roof over my head and food in my belly and although like everyone, I have experienced tough times, I have not led a rough life. The issue resided in my cynicism. The issue resided in my perspective.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde
I remember coming across this quote well into my fourteenth year. It resonated with me, but I did not truly understand why for a few more years. I was able to identify the key components of the message: suffering is as prevalent as breathing and your happiness depends on your perspective. But what I didn’t understand was how I could cultivate this message in my life.
On a side note, I have found that I tend to be a philosophical drunk. At many post-night-out breakfasts, dressed half in pyjamas and half in the outfit from the night before, I have been informed that I would point at the sky and cry about our utter insignificance. I have always been conflicted by my understanding of the concept and it clearly troubles me in any state I find myself in. On one hand I find insignificance comforting – the mistakes you make will never really leave a substantial impact on the world. In fact I learnt in the second week of my psychology degree that our parent’s actions only have a 30% impact on how we turn out (*parents everywhere let out a sigh of relief*). My understanding of our insignificance basically gave me a pass to mess up and that was reassuring. However, although it eliminated the worst emotions, it only reinforced the mediocre dullness of a pessimistic life. I didn’t feel sad so to speak, but I certainly was not actively feeling happy. I was in the gutter, and I was looking further down the gutter; I was stagnant and hopeless. And if there is one thing I have learnt in the last two months of my life, it is that stagnancy is the enemy of growth, and without growth we cannot be happy. Pearl S. Buck, American writer and novelist, commented on this when she stated, “Growth itself contains the germ of happiness.” This concept of happiness through self-improvement is not new. People have been speaking about it for centuries, yet the feeling of stagnation and lack of generativity throughout life is still the most common regret amongst members of our global community.
In many ways I believe I wasted many years not looking for beauty in the little things. Towards the end of my senior year of high school, we were asked to describe ourselves in one word and honest to God, the word I used was grumpy. And that was essentially it. I spent an abundance of my time at school being irritable and not enjoying the NOW. Too often we forget to live in the moment and just sit around waiting for the happiness coming in the future. This is all well and good, until you look back on this wonderful life you’ve led, and your only wish is that you had realised it sooner.
So, it was time to change. My life was slipping through my fingers. Everyday felt like work – merely getting out of bed felt tiring. I either slept too much or too little. I either ate too much or too little. I needed balance, I needed growth. I began to realise that YOU are your everything. I felt very selfish when I first came to this realisation, my entire worldview was changing to revolve around me. But this is life. The world you see is the world you CHOOSE to see, the life you live is the life you choose to live. You cannot control your circumstances but you can control the way you perceive them and the way they shape you. Bad things happen, yes. But good things happen to, when you are looking for them. They are hidden in the quiet moments of life. They are easy to miss but worth looking for.
The day before I tore my ACL in 2016, taking me away from what I believed to be the most fundamental part of myself and my life, I witnessed one of these quiet moments. One of the in-betweens of somebody’s day and like I mentioned earlier, I lost it in my Notes for over a year.
“To the guy on the train with that cute smile. I have no idea who you are, but I was just taking a train to touch football after a seriously shitty week at school and I saw you. Some random, late-teen twenty-something-year-old guy. You were standing, listening to music, and smiling. This seriously cute, little smile and two little dimples marked your cheeks. You were texting someone. It would have been your boyfriend, girlfriend or crush or something. It was that kind of smile. And at this point, ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz comes on my playlist and it was just so extraordinarily cute. And you made my day so much better. I looked around the carriage and no one else had noticed. Everyone was so absorbed in their tiredness – they missed this moment. Also, at this point I started feeling a bit stalker-ish, just staring at you. But anyway, for the rest of the afternoon and night I could not stop smiling. So, whoever you are – the guy on the train with the cute smile – I ship you and whoever you were talking to so hard. I hope whoever it is keeps making you that happy.”