Maybe I'm an optimist after all

Sep 24, 2008 at 6:49 a.m. ET

People who know me in real life know I can have quite the cynical outlook. I can be sarcastic and cranky and more than a little pessimistic. It appears, though, that in spite of all these years of cultivating a sometimes curmudgeonly demeanor, I'm actually an optimist. Let me explain.

Cynical Woman
You see, I expect people to do the right thing. Always. And I am shocked - no, really! - shocked when they don't. In spite of my facade, I believe in and expect the best from people - and I get so disappointed when it doesn't come to fruition. I think that makes me an optimist at heart - maybe a closet optimist with a cynical shell, but an optimist nonetheless.

Terminal disappointment?

I know, I know, that kind of deep optimism is just setting myself up for disappointment. I tell myself that all the time when I catch myself believing, in spite of history and evidence, that good will prevail. It's a hard line to walk.

I've finally realized that my cynicism is my armor. The optimist in me is soft and fragile and the cynical shell protects it, not letting the world see how much the "not right" of the world hurts that inner optimist.

As a parent, I don't want me kids to be as cynical as I am, to hide behind that armor so much. It's not a particularly fun way to be. I want them to radiate optimism as much as they feel it inside - with a healthy dose of reality, of course. As such, I've tried to be careful about the cynicism I show to the kids. I let in a bit of (hopefully) good-humored sarcasm in, but try to keep it at that. As with so many parts of parenting, some days I am more successful than others.

Ultimate optimism

Choosing to have children is, I think, the ultimate act of optimism. It's saying that the world is worth the risk to bring more life into it; that the world should go on. It needs to be more that just that initial optimism, however. I needs to be optimism exuding through all their lives, flowing from the place of believing that the world is a good and worthy place to actually making it so. So your children can continue to act optimistically and the world will go on - that it's worth going on.

So in spite of my cynicism, I do believe the world should go on, there is good in most (if not all) people, and we should expect the best from ourselves and each other.With true optimism and not a little hard work, we can change the world for the better. I really believe that. Also in spite of all that, I'm bound to keep my cynical armor close by. Just in case.

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