Life has lead me to expect a version of the worst. It’s not that I consider myself pessimistic, but I can wholeheartedly say there is very little that is worse than being super excited and ending up disappointed. Or than doing all the “right” things and coming up short. Or finally getting what you want, just to have it all taken away from you. This goes hand in hand with the fact that I’m annoyingly empathetic. Sometimes I may come across as not genuine. But the more you get to know me, the more you know that I mean every single heartwarming and encouraging thing I say, even if we aren’t best friends, even if I barely know you. This empathy makes me feel the need to try and fix everything, including things and people that don’t deserve the help or aren’t ready for it. My empathy and excitability leave me heartbroken when I think I finally made it on the right track just to realize I was wrong. Unfortunately, some things can’t be fixed. Unfortunately, you don’t always get what you hope or expect.
To cope with this, my new mantra is to be optimistically realistic. Positivity does wonders for your mindset and your mental health. I’m all here for supporting, promoting, and spreading positivity. But if you’re excitable and empathetic like me, if you’ve become adjusted to things not working out no matter how hard you try, being positive all the time can lead to let down after let down. I’ve broken my own heart one too many times by being super positive without considering the possibility that things don’t work out the way we hope all the time. Eventually I learned that sometimes things don’t work out and sometimes that has nothing to do with you.
Living life is essentially a series of your responses to the shit it constantly throws your way. Sometimes it feels like one of those games where the levels get harder and harder the farther along you get. Positivity sure does make it easier to push through each level, but it also has the potential to knock you down because you weren’t being realistic, leaving you unprepared to deal with the fallout and the possibility of another hardship. This might sound cynical as hell but let me give you a hypothetical example.
Let’s assume you like long walks on beach. So, you’re walking on a beach, the sun is shining, the sound of the waves is soothing. You’re humming to your favorite song, and are now wondering how life could get any better than this. And then out of nowhere it starts raining. That’s no big deal though because you like the rain and you were feeling a little dry as it is. So, you’re singing in the rain and the further along the beach you walk, the more the wind starts to pick up. It was tolerable at first, but soon becomes a problem because now you’re freezing your ass off and the sand’s sticking to your feet. You keep pushing through, and eventually the storm passes. The waves have calmed, and the sun is shining once again. Now you’re back on cloud 9. Once again nothing can phase you. Not much time passes until it starts to storm all over again, but this time the winds are a little stronger and the rain is a little heavier. You stay positive, telling yourself it’ll be over soon, knowing your strong enough to get through it all. You were right. You get yourself through it and once again return back on cloud 9, feeling justifiably untouchable and indestructible. And then it pours for the third time! The wind is so strong you can barely move forward. Each drop dampens your clothing so it’s clinging to your skin. You’re trekking your way along this damned beach, completely soaked from head to toe, shivering from the cold winds, wondering why in the hell you didn’t invest in some rain boots and a coat after the first storm.
Let me break this down. In the metaphor, the rain boots and the raincoat serve as the realistic portion of an optimistically realistic mindset. Yes, it was your positivity that got you through the pouring rain, but by being realistic and preparing for the possibility of a storm, you’re better prepared for when the next storm hits. You are being realistic by acknowledging that rain might or will happen again. But then you ask, “what if a storm never comes? Then I’m stuck carrying around those boots and jacket, bracing myself for the worst.” I feel what you’re saying. In a way, depending on how you use it, realism can hold you back. But let’s be honest. This is life we’re talking about. A hardship, similar to the storm, will come in some way, shape, or form into your life again. Life throws little challenges your way on daily basis whether you notice it or not. If you don’t notice it, you’re lucky.
By being realistic, I’m allowing myself room for the idea that not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Shit happens whether you brought it about or not. It happens even when you are a kind and innocent person who doesn’t deserve the pain life can bring. By being optimistic, I’m encouraging myself. I’m giving myself room to breathe and room to believe. Because sometimes things do work out. Sometimes you get the results you’re looking for. The problem with being overwhelmingly positive to me, is that it has the potential to take me higher and higher so that the day I get let down, I end up falling from a farther distance than I would’ve if I had thought realistically. That’s what tends to happen when you’re ridiculously excitable, reactive and empathetic. Don’t get me wrong; it is possible to reach the same levels of height by being realistic. Whether you do or don’t depends on how you use realism. See, by being optimistically realistic, I look at the whole scope of the situation instead of just what I want or hope to see. Being overwhelmingly optimistic can be blinding. Realism is my version of sunglasses.