This I Believe

Cynthia - North Potomac, Maryland
Entered on September 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

What do I believe? That’s a hard question for me to answer these days. Not because I am hard pressed for a reply. No sooner is the query parsed then my brain begins spitting out responses, each one frantically pushing and shoving its way to the front. A million and one angry little retorts, desperate to scream themselves out into the world. But these thoughts are not for public consumption. Too much rage. Not enough hope.

I miss hope. I miss optimism.

A friend once suggested that in order to be a true cynic you must once have been a true believer. I couldn’t help but take the observation personally. Mine was a childhood in which the line between fact and fiction was lightly sketched in #2 pencil. But it has long since been retraced in thick black permanent marker, and I stand firmly to one side. While I still enjoy escaping into a world of literary fantasy on occasion, I am now acutely aware of where that world ends and my own begins. It is not the same world I inhabited as a child, nor even the same one I knew just a few years ago. And my stomach clenches when I try to imagine what it will be like for my children when they’ve grown.

What do I believe? What do I want to believe? What beliefs am I willing to fight to hold on to? I force myself to swallow the doubts and disappointments, and look inward at what is left. Funny. It’s not what I would have expected to find. But there it is. One word. One belief. Responsibility.

To whom? My family? My country? Those who share my values, what’s left of my hopes and dreams? Or maybe it’s not a responsibility to anyone, but rather a responsibility for something. My own actions. And the consequences of those actions. No blaming. No scapegoating. No making excuses.

What does that mean on a day-to-day basis? I guess it’s as simple as paying the late fee on my overdue library books without argument. Or leaving my contact information on the windshield of the car I bump in the parking lot. Little things that can make a world of difference when they become the rule rather than the exception. Imagine calling technical support and hearing “I’m sorry. We ran into problems during development and didn’t have time to test the software properly before shipping it.”

True, you’d rather have a product that does what it’s supposed to right out of the box. So, accepting responsibility is also about the big things. Things that are sometimes hard to do. Like stretching as far as you can, reaching out for that last thin strand of hope, that very last fiber of faith, and holding tight. Knowing you have a responsibility to those you care about and who care about you to push back that shroud of cynicism, and uncover the believer that must still be there inside you somewhere.