I have all the qualities of an optimist and none of the follow-through.
I love being optimistic about the present. I’m habitually and absurdly content with whatever my present circumstances are. I can find microscopic amounts of good and potential good in almost anything that is actually happening.
But my optimism about the future leaves something to be desired, namely optimism. To me, the future is a foggy abyss I want nothing to do with. The future is an uncertain time steeped in high amounts of potential catastrophe and the certain demise of everyone and everything I love. So, basically, my vision of the future looks something like Armageddon meets The Day After Tomorrow.
You can imagine what a cheery place it is.
I didn’t realize this was even a thing until, like, a week ago. I was thinking about the future and what may or may not happen and noticed that none of the options floating around in my mind were particularly positive. I paused to consider why I cling, white-knuckled, to the present with such little regard for the future. It could be because I’m a hard-wired realist with a penchant for low expectations because the return on emotional investment is usually much higher when expectations are easily exceeded. It could be because I was influenced by a Left Behind culture in which I learned to fear the future of our country, the world, and my soul. It could be because I’m uniquely, obsessively grateful for the present and am never quite ready for any of it to change.
It could be all of those things or none of them. But at some point along the way of thinking through all of this, I had a thought I’ve never really had before.
What if the future isn’t terrible?
I know this is an earth-shattering revelation for all of you normal people who process time rationally and see the future through a forward-thinking, ripe-for-the-taking lens.
But when I surveyed the past—the real, This Actually Happened past—I saw that I was very happy no matter what transpired. (See: habitually and absurdly content.) (See also: His.) And it’s not like the past was free from conflict. I’ve had an average American-sized dose of conflict, which, globally speaking, is a negligible amount. But still, it’s not like I haven’t encountered adversity. Which means it’s probably safe to say my realistic view of the world is fairly unrealistic when it comes to my fatalistic view of the future.
I just started reading Maria Goff’s book, Love Lives Here, and in one of the opening chapters, she says,
“When we find ourselves clinging to our own cliffs, it’s hard to imagine there is something better than what we’ve been attached to.”
A few days ago, I decided to do something to ward off the cliff clinging and remind myself of the mantra I’ve adopted.
It’s very encouraging, I know.
But for me, and maybe for any of you whose forecast of the future looks a bit bleak, this is a helpful reminder.
The future might not be terrible!
It might even be pretty great.