Not so long ago, I put some puzzle pieces together in my brain.
The story starts when I was a teenager. My friends and classmates started remarking on how nice/smiley/optimistic I was. Somewhere around 9th grade, there were a handful who began to say it in an accusatory way—like my being friendly and positive all the time was annoying them, and it wasn’t a good thing*. Ugh. You’re so nice all the time. It’s exhausting, and it makes everybody else look bad. Why do you do that?
I remember the exact moment I decided to believe them.
It was art class, and one kid delivered a not-so-subtle jab about me being “too nice”. Again.
It was no worse than any of the others, but this time, I was tired of this thing making me different. This time, I felt like I didn’t belong because of it. And I was sick of feeling like an outsider.
So I decided to toughen up. I wouldn’t completely stop being nice, but I’d work on not being such a Pollyanna, and be more like everybody else.
In hindsight, those kids were wrong. Obviously. Obviously. But life has a way of filling up with messages that water down the things your soul really knows, deep down. You see and hear so many things that aren’t the point, that it clouds your vision of the things that are the point.
It took me several more years to learn I am at my best when I’m being my optimistic self—not when I’m “toning it down” and trying to be somebody else, so as not to get on anyone’s nerves.
To this day, I still preface statements with “I know I’m being a Pollyanna, but…” Because those words from my classmates are still in my head, 16 years later.
But my optimism is a gift. Not everyone can see this life in a positive way as easily as I can. Don’t get me wrong—I get scared by the dark stuff too. Sometimes it feels so heavy—the things I will never be able to fix or change. That scares the shit out of me, just like everybody else.
But I was born with this gift of knowing where to look for the bright side. And it’s comforting to live in a place where you’re not swallowed by darkness all the time, even when (especially when) things get rough.
As a (somewhat) wiser adult, I now know that I’m not for everyone. Some people will be annoyed by my Pollyanna attitude, or the fact that I swear sometimes, or for something else that I do. But my job is to keep seeing the silver lining, even when it rains.
*People really do pick the silliest reasons to alienate each other, don’t we?