Realism vs. Optimism

“I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” ~ ‘That Guy’

I used to be ‘that guy’. Not in every way all the time, but enough ways enough of the time to look back and cringe. I was raised to focus forward, plan ahead and expect the worst; not because it would happen, but because that’s part of good planning. Now, whether I was told to expect the worst or simply plan for it; I don’t know. That knowledge is lost to morass of my childhood memory, where more is supplemented by photo albums and stories than not. But I digress.

I was having a discussion with That Guy the other day (sidenote: this particular Guy also happens to be a self-declared antagonist; to quote him, “…being antagonistic is who I am…”). We were disagreeing on a topic when That Guy dropped his classic defensive line, “I’m just being realistic.”

“I’m just being realistic.”

I’d heard the line, or its brethren, hundreds of times; including from me. Why did it stick out this time? It stuck with me the rest of the day, and then it hit me.

I was being realistic too.

I wasn’t being delusional. We were considering the same facts. All that was different was our choice of interpretation. I was focusing on the better points, and he on the worse.  The opposite of optimism is pessimism, not realism; and the opposite of realism is delusion (or idealism but that’s not the tack we’re taking today).  My mistake during my time as That Guy was thinking optimists were delusional, living in some fairy world where everything was magical and wonderful all the time. Some probably are, but some doesn’t define all.

I think that’s all I have to say about this.

Basically remember that how things are doesn’t dictate how you have to feel about it, or interpret it; and that there is always hope for a better situation.

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