Sometimes I get to thinking about my funeral, and I wonder if blaring Tony Bennett’s “Sing You Sinners” during the service would be inappropriate. I also wonder if a vegetarian luncheon in honor of my diet would be pushing it a little far. In any case, I hope there will be a fiesta in my remembrance, not a funeral; peonies on my grave, not roses, and that no one will insult my memory by calling me an optimist.
I am not, nor have I ever been an optimist. As a kid a scraped knee would result in personal pandemonium and outrageous demands for an amputation. In high school, I was voted “Most Sarcastic” as my peers mistook what I thought was wit and charm for cynicism. Throughout my life my glass has remained for the most part, half empty. Life may try to fill or drop my glass from time to time, but I like to leave it half-drained with room at the top of my glass for the possibility of change.
Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” My pessimism allows me to see the world in the cold, hard, light of my reality. However, that same pessimism drives my fight for change, so someday I can hope to see the world in a different light. Every night I go to sleep with a feeling of dread, knowing I’ll wake up to another Katrina, 9/11, or troop surge in Iraq. However, that feeling of dread pushes me. It pushes me out of bed every morning to be an advocate for peace because so many don’t believe in its power. It pushes me to be part of the solution to global warming, because so many people still refuse to accept its presence. And it pushes me to speak out on the war, because someday enough will be enough and the many wounded and displaced voices will finally be heard. The reality is change will not come tomorrow, but the space at the top of my half-empty glass continues to remind me of my part in changing the world.
I know my general pessimism, questioning of the system and refusal to accept the status quo will continue to drive my work towards change. No, I don’t have to fear anyone ever defining me as an optimist, but I believe someday, my pessimism will help fill the world’s glass; no room for optimism, no room for pessimism, and someday, maybe no need for change.
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