I am not an optimist because I am stupid. I am an optimist because I know how ugly life can be.
There are these annoyingly happy people out there who give you the rosy version of everything. You know the type. Something bad happens in your life and they send you those cheery notes with empty words about how everything happens for a reason. They fill the air with baseless claims about everything being for the best. It’s like nothing bad has ever happened to these people and the only way that they know how to engage in other people’s tragedy is by quoting greeting cards. It seems impossible that they live in candy houses in enchanted forests. But then again, maybe they do.
Then there are the ones that live from crisis to crisis. You know these people too. Everything is always wrong. If they got a new job that pays more- their boss is crazy. If they are about to finish their dissertation-they are in complete dread about what they will do after school. If they won the lottery- they are worried about the taxes. Always a struggle. They are acutely aware that the witch lives inside that candy house and, no matter what, her goal is to bake you in the oven.
I choose optimism. Not because I don’t know better but because I wish to be better. Let me explain.
There was a point a few years ago where I realized that we truly are the sum of our beliefs and the stories we tell about our lives. This discovery wasn’t just some theoretical mumbo jumbo or psychobabble; I was watching it happen to myself and my friends. The people who believed that they were strong ultimately acted that way in the midst of heartbreaking circumstance. The ones who believed that money wasn’t going to be a problem always seemed to have it. The people who believed that they were made to create stuff were doing just that. Everyone was working on the ideas they had in their minds and somehow, ultimately becoming what they believed about themselves.
The brain is a powerful thing. You can come to this conclusion from all angles. From psychology to neuroscience to LSD trips – there is evidence everywhere that we are very much the sum of our thoughts. Perhaps the first step is accepting this as a reality. The reality of reality is: we are making it up every day as we go along. That’s why everyone is experiencing this action adventure film we call life a little differently. We all chose to believe different things about what is going on around us and what it all means. So, it stands to reason that if we want something more, first we must believe it’s possible.
I am not much for science fiction, but sometimes its themes really seem to suit. And in the case of the mind and choosing reality, I can’t help but think of Neo.
Which one will you take- the red pill or the blue pill?
A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about “having it all”. Despite many painful experiences in the relationship department, my premise was that as long as I became the best of me, it would all work out. Clearly, he found my optimism upsetting.
“Dream on dreamer,” was his reply.
My immediate thought was, “Pess on pessimist.”
I choose the red pill today.
Daring to live greatly means choosing not to be full of shit. It means experiencing life to the fullest with all its exhilaration and pain and being honest about the process. There is no BS-ing your way through it. And yet, if we learn to steer our mind to see the positive, the part that works in our favor, we can start to relax. The minute you stop thinking that the universe is conspiring against you, you are free to start enjoying the roller coaster of life. C’mon, who doesn’t love a good theme park ride?!
“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” — Hunter S Thompson