Before this year, I’d never have described myself as a pessimist. That doesn’t mean I suddenly became one this year—though if any year is going to turn you into a pessimist, 2020 will do the trick—but rather that I became aware of it. I look and look and look for the bright side because I don’t really believe it’s there, and if I do happen to find one, I keep looking until I can no longer really believe it’s a bright side at all.
This is not a good outlook. I don’t advise it. Nor do I advise being a pure optimist either—that comes with its own set of downsides.
Intentionally trying to dig up the truth of myself has exposed me to all kinds of things I didn’t expect to find, most of them uncomfortable; when you spend your whole life thinking you’re an optimist only to find that you’re in fact the opposite of that, it’s a shock! How can I not understand my own worldview? If anybody knows the way I feel about things, shouldn’t it be me?
Turns out, no. I don’t know much about myself at all, and the things I keep finding are weird and unexpected. But finding things out about myself isn’t the end of the work—more important is the idea that I can change those things. It’s hard, slow work. I feel like I’m making very little progress. But I keep coming back to a question my therapist asked me months ago: “What if that wasn’t a bad thing?”
But… it is a bad thing, I thought back then. (I still think this, more often than I don’t.) Well… what if it wasn’t? What if all the things I’ve always thought were true… aren’t? Something like that can turn your entire world on its head.
I’m still a pessimist. Maybe someday I won’t be. I don’t know! That’s the thing about challenging my static worldview—it’s comforting to think you know something, and now I’m not sure. There’s some freedom in that uncertainty.
Anyway, here’s a drabble.
(v.) from Latin dēbellō, for “I conquer,” or “I subdue”
To conquer in war.
It ends neither with a bang nor a whimper. It doesn’t end. The world transitions from one state to another—freedom to tyranny, chaos to control—as day transitions to night. Life looks much the same. There are still balls, still parties, still kisses stolen in secret.
Voices grow quieter, though. The schoolbooks change. Sometimes it’s hard to find oranges or honey or news from elsewhere.
But life never stops. Voices once hushed grow in volume. People remember the schoolbooks from before. They seek honey in the wild, oranges from a neighbor’s tree, and eventually this, too, ends. The cycle begins again.