Originally published on thedickinsonian.com February of 2013.
I was having a philosophical discussion with a friend who identifies himself as a realist, but I see him as a pessimist in contrast with my identity as an optimistic realist. We started by discussing job searching and our prospects. He was obviously distraught about his near future, and expressed all of his main concerns—particularly about money and finding a job within the realm of his studies. His concerns were absolutely legitimate and I also carry them. However, I challenged him to alter his perspective and move his focus away from “My sector is very competitive and there are very few jobs available.”
My life has taught me that it is all about perspective. If you believe that there is a very slim chance of you getting a job remotely close to what you want, then you see that the odds are not in your favor. If you believe that things will barely work out for you, if at all, then that is likely to be exactly what you experience. It will feel like driving with the breaks on. On the flip side, if you have faith that everything does or does not happen for a reason, if you trust that there is a job out there with something important for you to learn or experience, then you are likely to pay more attention to the possibilities that you do see and your ambition will not feel counteracted. I am not suggesting that anyone should feel a sense of entitlement or expect to be able to sit on their butt and wait for the right thing to come along if they wish hard enough. But I am suggesting trust. Trust that your skills and your efforts will pay off in some way, maybe in a way that you cannot even predict. Trust, faith, possibility—all those mysterious yet helpful things that keep a fire lit under our proactive stamina. There is a very big difference between fear based thought and action, and faith or trust based thought and action.
My discussion with my friend then got more intense when we began debating the status of reality. I do believe that it is important to “be realistic,” but I believe that reality is relative. So what does Reality on an individual level even mean? Our own personal experience of how the world around us works is relative because our filters and lenses are not generic. Therefore, how we see the world impacts our experience of it. This relativity is evident in the different philosophical views between those who are “pessimistic realists” and “optimistic realists.” There are two sides to every story and there are two sides to every coin. The same circumstances can be approached from two different perspectives and create two perceived outcomes. So of course we would find it difficult to relate to those who have a different filter through which they see the world than our own.
To some of you, this may all sound like gobbledygook because I’m a Political Science major and I love discussing philosophical issues. By your potential categorization, this may be a bunch of New Age hippie mumbo jumbo. Call it what you will, but promise me this: That as a reader, a Dickinsonian, or an engaged citizen of the world, you will reflect on these thoughts and see if any of them potentially hold any truth for you. If they do, awesome-sauce. If not, that’s cool, just respect that they might ring true for someone else in your community. That is all—I bid you adieu.