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Gilfilen Gripes: The Downside of Optimism

Jimmy Gilfilan, Guest Writter

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I have often thought that having a parent who was a doctor would be the worst. You could never get away with playing sick, and you would always have to eat your vegetables. However, I have discovered an even worse job for a parent, more embarrassing than CEO of a multinational corporation, more annoying than a paralegal. This terrible career is an inspirational poster writer.

Imagine this: your dad texts you, he saw your math grade. He wants to talk with you once you get home from school. You convince some of your friends to go to the JV football game, just to delay the inevitable. But this can only go on for so long. As you get in your car after what was the shortest football game you have ever seen, you mentally prepare yourself, and your excuses, for what he will say to you. You pull in the driveway and slowly open the door, hoping that somehow he forgot. You quietly turn on the TV, watching the news in the hope that it makes your father think you are interested in world events, and therefore shouldn’t be punished too harshly. Time passes and before you know it he has called you to dinner. You can’t believe it! You’ve gotten away! You eat your food, trying to seem as interested in his day as possible. You’re such a good child. As the last of the beans sits on your plate, your dad looks up from his chicken and says, “Listen. We both know you did poorly on your test. A thirty-five is very disappointing, but I’m not mad with you. I’m proud that you tried. In order to succeed, you must be first ready to experience failure. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Never, never, never give up.’ I’m proud of you for your efforts. Remember, failure isn’t final. Now go try again and make me proud, not to say I already am not, just… more proud… Ok?”

This would be annoying, but maybe you are thinking, “It’s like having a built in support system. That’s great!” But think about this.

You come home from a date depressed. He broke up with you. You walk through the door, trying to make it to your room before anyone notices how sad you are, but your mom, with the skills that only mothers have, can sense your sadness and calls you over. She wants to talk. Releasing your most angst-filled sigh, you sit down on the couch. Can’t she tell you just want to be alone? She asks what happens and you have no choice but to tell her. She looks at you and then looks to the ceiling while you just stare piercingly into her eyes, trying to convey your angst. She reaches out and grabs your clenched fist. She looks lovingly into your eyes and says, “Darling, the first step to getting somewhere is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are. Breakups hurt, but losing someone who doesn’t respect you is actually a gain, not a loss.” You roll your eyes in a way that would cause every teenager to be envious. Doesn’t she realize that you still want this relationship to work, that maybe he is just confused and needs some space? Your mother puts her hand around your shoulder and gently shakes you in attempt to be comforting. It is mostly just nauseating. She says, tears forming in the corners of her eyes, “Sometimes people have to fall apart to realize how much they need to be together. Now go upstairs and cry, for crying is the way your eyes speak when your mouth can’t explain how much you’re heartbroken.”

Optimism is a great trait to have. It can get you through the rougher parts of life and help you through the most hopeless situations, but we often try to smother the world with it. We often think that those who are sad or depressed just need one word, or one quote, and suddenly they will be cured of whatever anxiety or depression plagues them, but this is not the case. There is a desire in society to fix everything, to know all the answers, but often, there isn’t a poignant thing to say, or a profound question to ask. The best way to comfort someone is not by words, but by action. Just sit with them. Be quiet. Listen. Know that nothing you can say will ever speak more than the fact that you were simply present. Willing to talk, but also willing to listen, willing to act, but also willing to sit in silence. Words are powerful tools, but somehow, silence is stronger. Sometimes, it’s best to set aside the inspirational quotes and deep song lyrics, and just sit in the silence that speaks far louder than words.

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