Is Optimism Really The Way?

I grew up being the typical optimistic kid with that belief that I would grow up and life would be great, adhering to that cliché of ‘everything will be okay’. Everyone goes through tough times in life and I knew that, but after several of those bad occurrences I felt as though life was just a series of tough times. And my strong optimism is perhaps what let to each of those bad occurrences hurting with the same overwhelming force as after each event I thought it would be ‘okay’, I didn’t expect so much more to follow and so my extreme optimism led to serious let downs, which thus caused me to question my whole view of being optimistic and hopeful as the right means to live life.

The things I experienced opened my eyes to the fact that catastrophes and bad situations are always at such a close proximity, yet we expect a world of ideals where the terrible events are simply for the movies and so when it happens to you, it’s the end of the world. And it was this realisation that caused me to embrace an attitude of acceptance of all the bad in the world, what I had gone through, what I will go through, as that seems the smartest way to be close to that abstract concept of happiness.

In this world where all things are undoubtedly impermanent and we constantly preach the inevitability of ‘change’, we are ironically programmed to cling to things, to form strong attachments and desires which ultimately leave us unhappy when their time is up. I was always told to be positive and aware of all the good in life, but isn’t it also important to be aware of the bad? To be able to look at something and think “okay this is so great, but well, it won’t be here forever” and truly understand that, instead of just employing that false hope that it will be great forever.

It was probably a time in literature class, studying “Waiting for Godot”, and looking at the lives of the two main characters as they spend their days in repetitions of suffering, unable to break the cycle, when I thought “wow, how familiar”. This summarised version of all human lives is what really opened my eyes. Like Vladimir and Estragon who justify their pointless and agonising wait by that possibility that ‘Godot’ will come, we too spend so much of our time suffering but we justify that suffering with the certainty that it will get better, but what if something unfavourable always comes up? Then what point will there be of simply living towards a time where all there will be is good? Shouldn’t we adapt a mindset where the bad is not necessarily bad but just the waves of life taking its natural toll?

Whenever something went wrong in my life I used to react so strongly, I used to feel so much hurt and so much pain, but having realised that things won’t always last and that there will be more bad things coming into my life changed the entire way I went about life; instead of having the motto of ‘everything will be okay’ it’s now ‘everything won’t be okay, but that’s okay too’. Having recognised the impermanence of the good I’ve also recognised the impermanence of the bad. Life is a rollercoaster, they all say, with its ups and its downs, and the only way to go about life is with an awareness of both those ups and downs, so you are unshaken by both and prepared for the good, as well as the bad.


Who Controls Our Future?

From the emergence of every middle/upper class human being into this world our lives, our paths are already set out for us; we are expected to go to school, to get those good grades so we can get into a great college, and then we are expected to work our butts off for more good grades so we can graduate college well and get a great job, we will then have to work even more to make it big and earn that good money, and voila! That is success! But is it really?

Personally, I have been that “nerd” student, slaving away and getting the good grades so I can get into a good college and get a good job as that was what society made me believe success was, that was until I questioned the entire constitution of ‘success’. Doing well in school, getting great grades and topping the class and all that, well, its nice, it’s nice seeing your work pay off and its nice the possibility of really making it big in the world, but at the same time I look back at my school life and realise I’ve spent so much of it under immense stress and pressure due to the belief that I absolutely had to do that for success, and truthfully, being a ‘nerd’ has compromised the quality of my life, it hasn’t truly made me happy and this realisation made me question the basis of success itself. Is it really success if you’re simply doing it because this educational brilliance is what society uses to deem you worthy, to deem you successful? Isn’t an emotional, psychological happiness where you are simply living in your own terms and happy about what you are, the true form of success?

I realised that at the end of the day in regards to my life, it is only my opinions that matter; these people: the teachers, the friends, the relatives who all expect so much are so irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If you are unhappy, if you have lived a life solely based on impressing other people and fulfilling their expectations, have you even lived?

I realised I had defined my worth based on how I was viewed by others, based on reaching that form of success that society imposes, that I had become this machine focusing simply on that, casting aside what truly mattered, which was enjoying my youth and the unique quality of this period of life, with no real restrictions, no adult worries, no taxes(I hear they’re horrid), I had compromised my emotional wellbeing and happiness as I strived to meet the goals set for me by society, by simply following that predetermined path set out for me.

All the hard work I’d put in, has been for the goals of some great college, I’d always thought I’d work hard and get into some great Ivy League and then damn would people be impressed, damn I would have really proved myself and my worthiness, but here I am now having achieved those grades, gotten college interviews yet finding myself just not wanting to go anymore as isn’t that just conformity at its greatest? I am not living my life but following the expectations of others. I feel people never really think of the true reason of why they do something but simply follow suit and this is why in today’s world it is almost as if humans are these mass produced products of society lacking individuality, lacking vitality but just following the norms.

And so here I am now, questioning it all, questioning the purpose of my life, questioning my future. I mean, I do understand that to simply survive in this world you have to adhere to certain things, one cannot ignore education as in this monetary world, a job, money is integral to survival, but the problem is that in the process of achieving all that, so often people just lose themselves, and this is what terrifies me- the possibility of just becoming this conformist who has done everything society has told me I must do, achieving that “success” but then at the end of the day just going home and questioning whether I’m really living the life I want to be living.

So here I am, that ‘good student’ who was expected to just leave to college and start that successful career, but I will not give in so easily. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” said Dylan Thomas, and that I will. For me, the elimination of identity and blind following of expectations and becoming a product of this world is the metaphorical dying of the light, but I will not just give in, I will rage, rage against that conformity that strips away from me who I am, break away from this identity nullifying system to really figure out who I am without the expectations of the world, who I am in regards to myself, what I want to be, what I want to do with my life. I want to create my own path, one that isn’t predetermined but determined by my own will; a path that, despite wherever it takes me, I will be glad I took it, a path that will lead to somewhere of real happiness and contentment- this is what I believe success to be.

I am not saying that education and college is unnecessary; it is so vital for survival, and knowledge itself is great and something that in fact does make me happy and I’ll probably end up wanting to pursue a higher education, but what I’m saying is that us youth should not jump into to anything due to pressures put on us, we must never go along with anything to simply conform, we must think hard about our lives and be certain that it is also what we want before we jump into it. Depression and suicide rates are highest in developing countries with the most educated, the most “successful”, so we cannot simply accept the proposition that that path is the only way to life, but we must find it within ourselves what we really want and never, never lose sight of that, never lose sight of ourselves.

So this is for the confused ones out there- don’t give in to expectation, don’t simply go along with everything people impose on you but question things, think extensively, explore yourself and create your own reality and really truly live. Do not compromise on want you want by letting the opinions of others govern your life and do not ever let your light die out.



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