Monday, January 20, 2014

The Problem with Optimism

I am an optimist. I would even go so far as to say that I’m optimistic to a fault. As far as I understand it, “to a fault” colloquially means “a whole lot,” but more directly it means “so much it changes from a virtue to a vice.” How is that possible?

Optimism, at least the way I understand and practice it, is very forward-looking; it focuses on the future, happily anticipating all of the great things to come. Optimism says that tomorrow is going to be a great day, that things will always get better, that you should move forward in life with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step, eager to discover the future and all it will bring.

An unfortunate side-effect of optimism (at least in my case) is a lack of appreciation for the past. I tend to think that the past is something to move out of as I go towards the future, a time that I am striving to get away from. The past is a time when I had greater sins and greater flaws than I have now (and certainly than I will have in the future, since optimism also means constant improvement).

A few days ago I read through the first few blog posts that I ever published, from my freshman year of college. As I read I was startled to find that not everything I wrote was uninteresting, sad, or regretful; in fact, I would even go so far as to say I enjoyed reading what I had written. I even found some of it to be witty, funny, or wise. I had the feeling that if present-day Jason were to meet freshman-year Jason, we’d get along well, because he was decently cool, after all.

Sure, I’m happy to be who I am now and not who I was then. I wouldn’t give up all of the positive changes I’ve made over the last three years for anything in the world. However, it was good for me to recognize that the past still has value, to realize that some things that have already been done are as great and wonderful as the things I am doing now, or will do in the future.

I plan to continue being an optimist. I like optimism; I think it’s a very happy way to live. However, I also hope to temper my excitement for the future with a healthy remembrance and appreciation for the past. That way, the wonderful past and the brilliant future will keep me centered in the fantastic present. 


Cindy said...

I like this!

cindy baldwin said...

Great post! I feel like as I read over old journals and blog posts I learn so much about myself- the bad things that teach me from negative experience, obviously, but also many good things. More than once I've come across a wise insight or idea that I'd completely forgotten, and that has helped my present life in some way. I definitely think there's a reason that the prophets always tell us to write things down!