On Encouragement, Optimism, and Other Alien Things

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am not an optimist.

I figured this out pretty quickly in my childhood. Immediately after learning what optimists and pessimists were, I decided that optimists were a bunch of dummies. I found the very idea repulsive; at times it even made me angry. Positive thinking? WTFever. And while my understanding of a great many things has expanded dramatically in my adult years, my concept of optimism and pessimism had largely been settled.

Were this some Christian testimony, this is the point where I would say that becoming one opened up my eyes and let me see the beauty and possibility of reality. This is of course not one of those. While I could occasionally coax up enough faith to believe that something great would happen in my life, most of the time I felt the most I had to look forward to was the resurrection of the dead. This life had no real promise for me. My highest aspiration was to suffer through it as stoically as I could.

That hasn’t gone so well either.

All the while trying to keep my head barely above the surface of Absolute Despair Ocean, I found myself constantly bombarded by the most annoying things.



Good ideas on how to make my life a little better.

I hated it all so much. At times I thought my friends were mocking me (and thus weren’t my friends at all). Then I decided they simply didn’t know what an awful hopeless person I was (and thus were too ignorant to be considered more than acquaintances). Sometimes I just sort of accepted it because I felt telling them off for daring to say such things about me, but not wanting to sound like some whiny guy fishing for yet more compliments.

In more recent years I got a little better at dealing with these foreign intrusions. I told myself “well, maybe they see something I don’t” or “well I guess I’m occasionally a pretty okay guy”. I was still resistant to it all, though.

Because if you are a hopeless loser and failure, then everything that happens in your life was just going to happen that way regardless; you can glide through life without ever trying, because trying won’t work. It’s very easy.

But if you aren’t hopeless, if you can succeed, then it is on you. You don’t have the excuse of “well it wouldn’t have worked anyways”, because it could have. You could strive harder, study the problem more thoroughly, and improve things.

That was not something I really wanted to deal with. Not in any big way. Sure, I could give a little extra at some smaller tasks and goals, but really applying myself? Acknowledging what I really wanted to do with my life and then going for it? That was just too scary. Drifting through life is sort of a dull ache, but failure hurts.

I think it is only in the last couple days that I’ve finally noticed what has been going on in my brain all this time. Well, maybe I’ve noticed it before, but now it is at the forefront, and impossible to ignore.

I saw this on Twitter earlier today.

The goofy little inspiring image wouldn’t have done much to me. I’ve seen thousands of those. They roll off my back like water or dodge balls. It’s what she said after. Because I am one of those cup half-empty goobers who likes to come up with an exception to every stupid little piece of encouragement and inspiration I come across.

And I couldn’t help but think about why this was. Why do little inspiring messages bother me so much? Why to compliments make me want to yell at my friends? How is it that I can be so unafraid of death yet so fearful of life?

I’m not quite sure I have an answer yet. Maybe it’s as simple as a weak faith, or my natural melancholy temperament and countless depressive episodes have just conditioned me against hoping for the best. This question and the answer to it aren’t really all that important, however, because there is a much better question that has a much more important answer.

What am I going to do about it?

And the answer is something. Lots of somethings. I’m going to write this blog post about it now instead of putting it off just because it’s late and I have to be up early in the morning. Whatever. I don’t sleep much anyways so what’s one more night? I’m going to sign up for a poetry class because for some reason I got it in my head that I want to be a poet and write good poetry because bad poetry is just the worst thing ever. I’m going to accept it as true when my friends say things like I’m witty and funny and personable and have grown a lot. I’m going to believe them so hard that I’m going to actually act like they are true. And I think in a sense that is the best way to react to a compliment: live up to it.

One of my friends said this to me today. “Don’t waste another day, Anthony. Your life and legacy are too precious and short.”

That’s a pretty hardcore thing to live up to. It actually left me for a loss of words for a minute or two (which is a problem when you’re supposed to be a writer).

So thanks, you weird people who said nice things about me and posted a bunch of dumb motivational messages. I will go live a better life! And if by some chance were lying, well, then I get to prove your smug jerk self wrong. So that’s fun too.