Friday, May 31, 2013

In Which I Talk About Optimism

Confession: I am a pessimist. I have been my whole life--or more accurately, for as long as I can remember. As far back as my memory goes, I have been convinced that the proverbial glass is half empty. In fact, I have a pretty distinct memory of telling a professor that not only was that glass half empty, but it was evaporating at such a rate that I'd forever be thirsty. I have very little faith in humanity and very little faith in myself. When something bad happens, automatically it is compared to every other bad thing that has happened to me, added to it, to the point where all the negativity is compounded into one giant "bad thing." 

This weeks vlogbrothers video talks about how optimism is not insane. In it, Hank tries to stress that it's easy to look at the current state of affairs that is our world and seem doom, gloom, and an impending apocalypse. But he warns that all the bad we see is being used for good: that working together for the betterment is what prevents the apocalypse from happening. It's an inspirational video, to be sure, but I wonder if Hank is over simplifying.

I would assert that most humans are pessimistic, and if they tell you otherwise, they are in denial. This isn't because the world is in that bad of shape, but rather because human beings have an individualistic outlook on life. We're selfish creatures, and it's all about "me me me." Those few who are saintly in their devotion to others are the exception that proves the rule. Maybe the outlook on the world isn't as negative as we might imagine but that doesn't mean our own individual perspectives change.

I am currently job hunting. In the middle of March, I made the decision to not pursue my PhD in religion because of financial reasons. Too much in debt already to put myself further into the hole with the job market the way it is. It was not a happy time in my life. Correction: it is still not a happy time in my life. I job search every day and thus far I've put out 50 job applications. I've heard back from four, all bad news. I have a good education, I'm a decent writer, I have ideas, I love to research and learn and yet I find it very difficult to get a job because I have very little in the way of marketable skills (or so I think, people keep telling me otherwise). I'd like to think that I am talented enough to not have to just take a job because someone wants me. This is the problem with having your resume out on the internet job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder: people emails you just because you're there as opposed to actually having a job that lines up with your interests/skills. I know nothing about banking or insurance or sales, yet I get a few emails a week with offers of "hey let's talk!" from positions such as these. I look into them, but ultimately delete them because companies aren't looking at me as a unique individual who fits their business model but as a one of many cogs in the machine who may or may not match any set of criteria, but is an able body.

Is that what my life is supposed to be?

I guess I'm really struggling with this. I want to believe--optimistically--that I am worth more. That I don't have to settle for just any old job. That I allowed (yes, allowed) to try for something that I would--gasp--enjoy. I am trying to--as Hank points out--not see the negativity that I had to drop all my dreams and go in another direction but rather focus on the positive. A task for which I am ill suited.

I had a very honest conversation with myself a few weeks ago and decided that if I can't become a PhD professor, the only thing I could do that would be some what comparable is to write. Like I said in my introduction, I like words. I like ideas and I like puzzling out meaning and I like language and I like stories. I don't care if this means copywriting for a few years or editing or whatever. I do not want to stop writing and talking and discussing ideas--whatever they may be.

I don't know if this is the proper approach to take because I've never been an adult before--not really. I tell myself that I do not have experience, but I do have a Masters (or at least I will in a few months) and surely my resume is good enough to interest someone. But how long do I wait before I take up one of those offers in banking--sell my soul and any optimism left in me?

I have no answers. Maybe no one does. So while I appreciate Hank's video about the sanity of optimism, he forgets that our individual outlooks are always skewed toward pessimism.

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