I’m an incurable optimist.
I try the front row in the parking lot at the mall during Christmas season. I call in during radio sweepstakes. I believe that people are inherently good, tomorrow is another day, and everything will ultimately turn out well.
People sometimes think this means I’m not realistic, that I live in a magical Pollyanna fairy tale world. This is not true. I recognize that life isn’t fair. When bad things do happen, though, I look for the silver lining of the proverbial dark cloud, and I believe that the situation will get better. I always get my hopes up.
Of course, I face disappointment.
Disappointment sucks. It’s a terrible feeling to want something, to actually hope for it and wish for it and work for it, and then have it all come to naught. It doesn’t get easier, either: disappointment isn’t something you get used to.
But what’s far worse than disappointment, at least in my experience, is the bland mediocrity that comes from not hoping. When I don’t get my hopes up, sure, I might avoid disappointment. But in doing so, I also avoid the joy of anticipation, the gleeful what if? that lingers in the space of possibility. I’d rather live with a thousand disappointments than give up that sense of wonder.
So what’s inspiring this philosophical rant? This past summer, I did Gishwhes, the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. I had an amazing time in what turned out to be one of the best weeks of my life, having crazy adventures and daring to press the boundaries of my comfort zone. Intellectually, I knew my team wouldn’t win: only 6 of our 15 team members actually did anything, and we barely got half the items. But over the last few months, I’ve lived with the hope that maybe – maybe – our items were good enough to win. We’d rack up enough bonus points somehow and come from behind, the dark horse team of first-year participants rising above it all.
But we didn’t win. We weren’t even runners-up. The team that won deserved it, of course, and did tons of items and worked together and rose to the challenge. And even though I knew we probably weren’t contenders, I still had hope, and I was… disappointed. My disappointment came as a bit of a surprise: did I really have that much hope, despite the odds against us? Yes I did. I’ve imagined all sorts of scenarios wherein we might win and what it would be like to claim that grand prize trip. It was anyone’s game, and if anyone’s, why not ours?
The disappointment is poignant because of the hope, but the disappointment does not mean the hope was wasted. I loved imagining winning.
And it’s not just Gishwhes, either, although that’s what inspired this topic. It’s my life. I love having that kind of hope and thinking maybe me, maybe this time.
Because sometimes? Sometimes it is me. Sometimes I get the front row parking spot; sometimes I’m the ninth caller; sometimes I get back to my expired parking meter ahead of the parking attendant. Sometimes I land a wonderful agent, sign a contract with Harlequin, and live my dream of being a published author.
My life is extraordinarily blessed. I know I’ll face disappointments in the future, both small and large, but I will always keep my hopes up, even when the odds are against me. I would rather live in the possibility of joy than hide in the quiet mediocrity that never dares to dream.