After two separate moody, youthful, exploratory, collegiate, we’re-up-on-a-roof-we’re-lying-in-your-bed type conversations this past weekend, I was told that my responses and ideas were pessimistic, “the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard” and incredibly bleak.
Surprise! Apparently I’ve been a cynic masquerading as a realist for some time now. (Please tell me you didn’t know that). It’s like looking in the mirror and instead of seeing your own face, you find yourself eye to eye with Gilbert Gottfried. Talk about disconcerting.
So I did what I always do — cuddled up with a bottle of whiskey, danced naked in the rain and mournfully sang Tom Waits into the abyss that was my soul. Because if anyone could figure me out, it’d be Tom echoed back to me from my apparently voided heart.
What I mean by this is that I took some time to think about it. Because after a series of conversations that ended with my friends’ faces looking like they’d just finished reading The Road, I was left with only a couple of options.
Option 1: I am surrounded by deluded optimists and I am a realist like I like to think. Not a glass half empty kind of gal or a glass half full kind of gal but a person who sees the glass just the way it is. Not above the line, not below; it’s just a hard middle.
Option 2: Everyone else is not delusional. It’s me. The shoe is on the other foot and I’m wearing it. And it’s a sad bitter boot with the laces all chewed up by a dog that ran away.
Am I really a cynic?
There should probably be some sort of testing room for this, some sort of brochure from health services to go along with “100 ways of Doin’ It Without Doin’ It” that tells us something more useful than “go walk arm in arm through the woods” because first of all, what woods? And second of all, I find it hard to believe that is as good as the real thing.
We need something like, “100 Ways of Really Seeing the World and People Without Projecting Our Distrust and Hopelessness.” Instead of the woods, it’d suggest, “look in your palm — if it is sliced from the brittle shards of your friends’ broken hearts, as if you’ve crushed them in your furious fist, you may suffer from cynicism.”
But what is cynicism?
Hannah Vaugh, after a helping of the ever-optimistic dessert apple pie, said quite eloquently, “Cynicism is for afraid people.”
I’m going to take it a step further. This means if you’re a proud cynic, you might just be a proud chicken shit. Because if you’re cynical, you’re probably afraid to admit that good things can happen because you’re afraid they might not happen to you. You’re afraid to hope. And if we’re anything alike (just looked at my palm and found the remnants of a few shattered dreams from Saturday night) then we’ve got a lot of fear dictating the way we see what is and isn’t possible.
Cynicism is just fear going through its moody intellectual phase. Eventually, your fear is going to part it’s hair a different way, fall in love, maybe be surprised by a friend who let it down before — and we’ll learn that hope doesn’t always disappoint us.
That’s what I’m hoping and, since I’m hoping, I guess I’m not too cynical after all.
Margaret Browne is a senior majoring in English.