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A Downside to Optimism?

I was talking to a friend today about how much harder starting a new life has been than I expected. My new job has misled me about a lot of things that will result in working longer hours for less pay. I thought that when they pre-approved you for a loan, they couldn’t revoke it on the day you were supposed to close. I’ve never spent 6 weeks unpacking before. I still haven’t touched a racket yet. I still don’t have any friends.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought all of these changes would be easy. I was so focused on how great everything was going to be that I had completely forgotten I had a mental breakdown during my last move just 3 years ago. Such is the nature of my optimism.

My friend, who is full of words of wisdom, many of which I have included in previous posts (e.g., sometimes you can try too hard; surgery is not a competitive sport), told me that there’s a downside to optimism. We both pride ourselves on never giving up. 0-6, 0-5 in a tennis match? Then channel your inner warrior! Don’t turn off the TV, even when there’s .9 left on the clock, because it is still possible to win (e.g., see UVA basketball vs. Louisville in 2018). Knit that complicated dress! Solve everyone’s problems! Get 2 surgeries, quit your job, sell your house, buy a house, start a new job, and move to a new state!

Perhaps it wasn’t just that I was being optimistic. Perhaps I was being ever so slightly delusional.

Almost every day after some new disappointment I do the “move math.” What if I had stayed in my job? What if I had stayed in my townhouse? What if I had stayed in Virginia? Could I have made it work? And every time the answer is no. These are the changes I had to make to have a chance at freedom.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten a lot of steps from unpacking my house. I’m saving a lot of money on food by eating at my brother’s house and taking all the leftovers. My house feels more peaceful than my 2 previous townhouses did. I save a lot of money on gas because I work from home. And I don’t have to get one of those “Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!” buttons because I’ve told my family to check on me if they haven’t heard from me in 24 hours. And I have an Apple Watch.

Sometimes my inner critic uses a lot of gratitude shaming to try to make me “feel better.” What are you complaining about? Your house could have burned down. Someone you love could have died. You could have a broken leg and not be able to walk up and down your stairs. All true, but definitely not compassionate.

But I’ve been practicing genuine gratitude to put things in perspective. My friends check on me and tell me that they miss me. My family here has supported me financially, emotionally, and socially. God cares.

So it’s going to take longer to have a life here. That’s OK. My relentless optimism is what has helped me survived all this time. Yes, there’s a downside to it. But even when I’m down, I can still get a blog post out of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

2 responses »

  1. I’m rooting for you! Change is often difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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