I went to the de Young museum today to check out the Keith Haring exhibit. Haring was an artist in the 1980s best known for his pictures of human forms, in primary colors, kneeling and dancing. He was Andy Warhol’s friend and protege. He died of AIDS at the age of 32.
While watching a documentary on Haring at the exhibit, I heard a phrase that I thought was particularly wonderful: “stubbornly optimistic.” I forget the actual context from within the documentary; however, it was a descriptor assigned to Haring.
The year is coming to a close and I had a couple of conversations in the recent past that I am now reflecting on in the context of this new phrase. I went to a grad school holiday party on Thursday where I met with a career coach who had been helping me when I was unemployed after my first b-school job. In total, I was unemployed for about 9 months and when I engaged with her, I was near about desperate. She recalled that I had told her that I wondered sometimes how and if this long spell of unemployment would end. I told her what I had been up to since we last saw one another– that I started working at my last employer and was so excited but that I was then laid off about a year and a half later and felt fairly negative about some of the circumstances of that job. She said regardless that I seemed to be in a better place and that that hopefully was the lowest of my life’s lows. I was really in the doldrums.
Then yesterday, admittedly a little bit feeling not great after a night of carousing, I was chatting with a college friend. I told her that I was a little bit in the dumps in a few areas of my life– namely that I felt like I needed to grow my network in SF and that I needed to date more. She chastised me and said that since she’s known me, I’ve never really seemed happy with life, that there is always something that I am seeing beyond the present that I want and that prevents me from right now being totally satisfied. She said that I hadn’t been happy at my last job and that I wasn’t happy when I was unemployed (both true) and that this year was a hallmark year for me– that I got a new job, got to move to SF and can now embark on a whole host of new adventures!
And you know what: she’s right. Actually both of them were right. I have had moments where I really hit some majors lows (both points of unemployment come immediately to mind) and it’s easy to forget that compared to those low points, I’m in such a better place right now. It’s not the best place ever and things can definitely get better, but all in all, it’s a solid high point and I should celebrate that.
I’m not going to say that I’m a total Debbie Downer, but I do think that my friend is right in saying that I’m a glass is half empty kind of person. I think I accept it in the sense of being a maximizer (versus a satisficers)– the type of person who wants more, better, the best and not the type of person who aims low and is happy with what they have. In truth, I would much rather be a satisficer. That would actually be awesome. It’s exhausting always feeling like there should be a new, bigger and better thing. The constant striving is endless and exhausting. But I think she’s right that I’m constantly eyeing something else on the horizon rather than being content and that this is something I need to be aware of and actively monitor.
I do think that there are some things that are tough-ish and that I want to make better in my life. And while I do think I need to embrace the moments where I can share frustrations with others (if even for momentary succor), I also need to be stubbornly optimistic and work to make those unshiny parts of life more shiny. So here’s to hoping the holiday break will be rejuvenating and that 2015 will bring with it opportunities to continue on my upward trajectory.