Ripples #1135: Persistent Optimism
Feb 22, 2021
Your optimism will never be as powerful as it is in that exact moment when you want to give it up.
-Amanda Gorman, shared by Joy in Madison WI (original source: Time Magazine)
Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something and don’t tell yourself that you can’t do something. The dreams that scare you the most are the ones that are worth taking.
-Sydney Barber, shared by Holly in Phoenix, AZ (who admired these words from the Naval Academy’s 1st Black Female Brigade Commander Midshipman)
It is no easy feat to maintain an optimistic attitude during life’s really tough chapters, and yet that is precisely when optimism is needed most. And continuing to recognize and focus on bright possibilities day after day, week after week, year after year, even in the midst of considerable darkness…it is draining for sure.
Some people see optimism as unrealistic or even impractical. I get that, and I recognize that there are many good reasons that both hopelessness and helplessness creep into the mindsets and outlooks of so many people.
I’ve spent the last few months mindfully reading and discussing Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist with two trusted colleagues. It included some troubling statistics and distressing anecdotes that I was expecting; it also had a powerful narrative that made it much more accessible and engaging than I anticipated. His closing lines were particularly powerful for me: “There is nothing I see in our world today, in our history, giving me hope…. What gives me hope is a simple truism. Once we lose hope, we are guaranteed to lose.”
Most days, I am able to choose optimism because it fuels my hope. By lighting the path ahead of me, optimism helps me identify constructive actions that help me move forward. Some days, when hope is in short supply and obstacles abound, what keeps me going is the reality that moving forward with optimism, even if it has dimmed, is better than sitting alone in the dark.
And on the really, really tough days, when things seem bleak and hope is nowhere to be found…well, that’s when I’m able to turn to those around me and whisper, “Help.” And it is their optimism, their hope, that reliably helps me rediscover my own.
If you’re struggling to maintain optimism right now, I hope you have the courage to reach out and borrow someone else’s. If you have some optimism to spare, keep an eye out for those who need a hand.
P.S. This quirky, sweet tune called The Keep Going Song came to me via Josh Radner’s latest missive. It is charming and definitely on point for this week’s Ripples. It has lifted my spirit, and I hope it lifts yours.