I never know what to say when I’m hit with the cliché application prompt or overdone ice breaker that asks me to describe myself in a certain number of words. I hate finding that awkward balance between words that sound like a humble brag, teetering on the edge of conceit, and words that every other person has probably included or is thinking of including as well. There is one single descriptor, though, that I can always comfortably fall back on — optimistic.
Optimism is honestly something that my family revolves around. So naturally, much of this has been instilled into me as well. It’s an extremely rare occasion that someone in my family is at a loss for words, unable to put some sort of a positive spin on whatever situation may arise. And by extremely rare occasion, I mean extremely rare, as in I can’t actually remember a time in which there wasn’t at least some tiny sliver of hopefulness for a favorable outcome to be found.
Regardless of how overstated some of them may be, our mantras have not failed me yet, getting me through every hard time in my life thus far. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes good things fall apart for better things to fall together. You have to go through the storm to get to the rainbow. And the list goes on.
I’m not going to lie; I love having so much cheerful wisdom under my belt to pass on to my friends in their own times of need, though I may be lacking some of the oomph that my grandma and mom manage to put on them. Still, as a teen (though at 19 I’m sort of pushing it by throwing around that term), I tend to run into quite a lot of people clinging onto their last few bits of teenage angst, and there has certainly been a good deal of pessimism that has come my way, in one way or another.
Granted, a good deal of the pessimism that I’ve encountered here comes in small doses. Overheard conversations about potentially dreary and unstable futures. Passing remarks about the seemingly low likelihood of anyone finding love. Proclamations of one’s own inevitable failure. All things which, in my opinion, seem useless to worry about, as worrying does absolutely nothing for us. As the saying (roughly) goes, if you can solve the problem yourself, then there’s no need to worry. And if you can’t, there’s no help in worrying. Therefore, I tend to try to close my ears, block these negative thoughts from my mind, and internally scream “la la la” as loudly as my inner voice possibly can.
Some may say that optimism is simply unrealistic. Believe me, I am well aware of the multitude of problems that the world has yet to properly face. But at the same time, writhing internally and beating yourself up over the destruction of your future because of one unfortunate but, in the grand scheme of things, pretty minor incident doesn’t exactly equate to the larger problems that much of the rest of the world is dealing with. If anything, optimism in these cases is more realistic because what are the odds of any of our lives actually falling apart because of that one thing that happened. After all, once you’re out of the heat of the moment, things do tend to get better down the line.
I’m generally pretty unfazed by some of the bleak outlooks on life that I stumble upon, but I can’t lie, it’s tiring to swim against the current, or rather, perhaps more relevant to our lives, it’s tiring to bike against the wind. I advise everyone to try to have a more positive outlook on life. In my opinion, optimism only adds to your happiness. It doesn’t have to take away from your hold on the real world.
Next time you get the question, you’ll know what to say. Describe yourself in one word. That’s easy. Optimistic.
Contact Kassidy Kelley at kckelley ‘at’ stanford.edu.