Nowadays people say the word “optimist” like it leaves a sour taste on their tongues. But a few days ago, I never thought I would have succumbed to the sadness that had gripped me so strongly when I was younger – and I had never thought that I would rely on optimism to save me from it.
It all started on Monday morning. As a typical
procrastinating buffoon high school junior I had received little sleep the night prior and had spent most of my time on Sunday studying for my Physics test. I was in my own little academic world, and yes, I was sufficiently stressed out.
After eating breakfast, I got into the car. My mom always drives me to school in the mornings, which is a strange habit we have because I wake up early enough to take the bus and she doesn’t particularly enjoy waking up early at all – yet, she insists that she drive me regardless. Perhaps she’s suspicious that I’ll skip school and go sell drugs. Perhaps she’s worried I’ll trip and fall and break my valuable brain on the way to the school bus. I’m not really sure.
As 99% of you have read some of my more personal posts know, my relationship with my mom is rather rocky – which is a severe understatement. Usually, in our ever-so-cheery drives to school, she lampoons other drivers and criticizes them for being too slow, or too fast, or too ugly. I want to say that it’s just her way of releasing stress, but I’m not so sure about that either, and even if it was, stress shouldn’t be expunged through excessive meanness.
I always let her say what she wants to say, though, because I figure it’s best to let it go. That day, however, I didn’t. I spoke up, and told her that she should “please, calm down.” I tried to tame the beast with my barely audible voice, even though it quivered, as it pleaded for kindness.
And, of course, she yelled at me. I’ll save you guys the nitty gritty details because what she said was nothing special in comparison to what I’ve shared in my other posts, but let’s just say instead of screaming at me for wearing black pants she screamed at me for wearing white shorts. And for being a worthless failure and a sad excuse of a son, who was rude and talked back and never met her expectations.
Looking back, I could have let it go. I could have listened to what she had to say about me, and ignored it. I could have taken her words with a grain of salt and thrown them onto the sidewalk as soon as I stepped out of her car.
But I didn’t. I took it all in and managed not to break down until after my Physics test was over – until my AP US History class had begun. Then, I went to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall, and sunk down to the floor.* I immersed myself in my misery, playing over and over again in my mind the things my mom had said to me. As the manly man that I am, I shouldn’t admit this, but I will – I cried.
Going back to the first sentence of this post, people view optimism as something silly and shallow. I understand that. People who are overconfident are blind to the possibility of bad things happening, and people who believe that they will always get the best just for doing their best need to reexamine their thoughts realistically. But what would the world be like without optimism? How would dreams be achieved and goals reached if not for those who are able to view life through a positive lens?
Throughout that day, I remember wondering if I would have to live like this forever. One of my worst fears is that no matter how hard I try, and no matter how hard I work, I will always be stuck in my present situation. And that day, I let those fears – those anti-optimistic thoughts – take me under and drown me in depression.
Later on, however – and I’m not sure exactly when or how – I pulled myself out of my problems. I forced myself to stop wasting time thinking about all of these negative things, because I knew that thinking about them would get me nowhere. I reevaluated my life and realized (not for the first time) how lucky I was. How lucky I am.
And I let myself hope. I let myself hope for a better future, for a freedom that I yearn to experience everyday. I let myself think that, in the end, my efforts would be rewarded.
Think about it this way: if you only think negatively, where will that get you? It would have gotten me nowhere. I would have lain down, given up, and cried myself to sleep. But if you allow yourself to think positively, you open up paths that were previously not in plain sight. By thinking positively, you can work to accomplish your aspirations and try to pursue your passions. You give yourself a chance.
I don’t know what will become of me and my mom. I don’t know if our toxic relationship will eventually disintegrate, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be truly free.
But I do know that I’m lucky enough to have been blessed with many opportunities. I do know that I have hope.
And really, that’s all I need to know.
As my English teacher said in class the other day, I’m going to step off of the soapbox now… what do you guys think of optimism and negativity? I suppose realistic thinking is the most practical, but I believe that when times get tough, optimism becomes extremely valuable. Are you an optimist? If so, share with me your methods of positive thinking – perhaps I could use them in the future.
Also, sorry for not responding to comments/messages/hate mail, my inbox has been bloated lately and even taking the time to write this post has severely shortened my AP exam studying time. Not that I regret it, but, school has been siphoning time from the other things that I love to do, so I apologize once again. I hope (woo, love that word) that I’ll be able to write another post soon!
*I feel like I end up in my school’s bathroom stall a lot… and I feel like I’ve even pointed out that I end up in my school’s bathroom stall a lot before. Deja vu? Here’s an attractive tweet: that awkward moment when someone assumes you’re doing something strange in your school’s bathroom stall because you’re sitting on the ground, but in reality you’re just crying your eyes out. I think I’m going to go hunt some tigers now…