choosing optimism


Quick Megan Life Update: I’m coming off of a glorious night ringin’ in the new year. I’ve got a water and a vanilla iced coffee from Starbucks because today I am that human and it’s time to write the first post of 2015!!! WAHOO!!! What a glorious day!!! (Also, I’ve got some Hozier playing in the background and I strongly recommend…jam out to From Eden because it is perfection.) I’ve said before that New Year’s is my favorite holiday and it did not disappoint once again this year! I’d like to give a special shout out to things that made this one possible…Giordano’s pizza, Fat Tire, raspberries, Pandora…and some of my dear dear friends. You guys are as cool as beverages and pizza I guess.

So I wanted to write about choosing optimism today, because it’s a very relevant outlook as we enter into the new year. The philosophy of choosing optimism is something I think I’ve tried to embrace for some time now I think, but it was actually just recently put into words for me by my incredible friend/advisor/mentor/lighthouse-person Natalie over a table of some delicious sweet potato fries. This new understanding made it easier for me to live it out in the past few weeks…I firmly believe once something becomes a part of your everyday language it is easier to embody. It’s not a new idea or philosophy, but it was new to me so I thought I’d share out!

We all just have days that feel really shitty…just rough days/months/years all around. I bet when you hear the phrase “really shit days,” specific days pop in your head…we’ve all had them and I feel you because believe me I have been there (my colloquialism/code word for these days to my friends is that I am “goin’ through it”). I firmly believe everybody has their stuff and it comes in waves. The idea of choosing optimism is understanding that these days/months/years are never completely bad. That there is a reason to laugh, a reason to be happy, there is good in the world. It is taking specific moments of joy and using them to power through the toughness and unbelievable messiness of it all.

This is not necessarily a vision for a world with people who are 100% sunshine and smiles, though I am super pro-sunshine, pro-smiles. I am just also pro-authenticity. If you’re having a terrible time, own it. Vulnerability is powerful. You don’t always have to say “it will all be fine” because in that moment, it might feel like it won’t be. There are some really really awful things in the world. Humanity is hurting in so many ways and we are going to need a lot of band-aids, especially in the coming year. My understanding of choosing optimism is that we don’t live in willful ignorance of these things. My idea of an optimist is someone who does get affected. Who reads the news. Who cares about some things bigger than themselves that aren’t all that pretty. They embrace the messy parts of their own lives. These people are aware and realistic and they seek to understand. But they move forward in all of it, trusting a spirit of positivity to get them through.

Choosing optimism sure isn’t easy. We all put up walls. Walls that our body puts up without us knowing that make it harder to see good in the world. Walls of negativity. Walls to protect ourselves from feeling the full weight of our own misfortune or the misfortune of others. It’s not always fun to think about all the walls we’ve put up. I think we should do it though. I believe that it’s worth it when the reward is to feel deeply.

You can live a life where you understand and feel the darkness of it all but constantly move towards the light.

I’m going to give you a tiny call to action for the new year by way of a quote Natalie sent me a couple weeks ago. It’s a quote by Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of TWLOHA. His quote finishes with this:
…You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things. (You can also check out this very related and beautiful post by him.)

So all I ask is that you believe better things. I will try my very very bestest to do this alongside you.

OK. I’ll include two more quotes that say it better than I ever could and then I’m done.

I am a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.
Antonio Gramsci, political theorist and sociologist

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.
– The great Nelson Mandela, in his book Long Walk to Freedom

There is beauty in a life full of unpredictable things. Dark moments. Soaring moments of pure joy. Everything in between. Just remember to keep moving forward through it without giving in to the inevitable, heavy discouragement that sometimes comes hand in hand with the wonderful uncertainty of life. In all of this, I hope you choose optimism.

Also, I hope 2015 is really good for you. I hope you have fun and laugh and cry and do all the things you want to do and you enjoy the beauty of the mess.

Thoughts? Comments? Comment below or e-mail!

Also, I admit that this one was a long post. My hope is that there will be a good mix of posts on The Wondergraduate…some longer ones, some little thought tidbits, some fun pictures and videos. The goal is a variety…I’ll try to stick to it.

sending you all some serious x’s and o’s.

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