You can still be an optimist in 2020

This is my third take in my attempt to live more deliberately, in the first part I talked about freedom while the second was about fluidity.

The third angle I’ve identified is curiosity, yet I felt I can’t talk about that yet before mentioning optimism. A trait that has always been an integral part of my character and to which I may owe part of my resilience.

Unfortunately, though, there is a lot of shame surrounding optimism. And in 2020, it takes a lot of guts to even try to write about it. So where to go from there?

I thought I do a quick google search to find the type of optimism that most fits with what I want to associate myself with. I tried “Critical Optimism”, “Radical Optimism” then I discovered a website for an Australian organization that calls itself “The Center for Optimism”! In there I found so many other types as well, I ultimately abandoned that quest and thought the hell with all that shame.

So here I am, coming out as an Optimist (with a capital O) in 2020 without trying to pick any adjectives to lessen its impact nor trying to categorize it into something seemingly more intellectual!

Before I make my case on optimism and how it links to curiosity, I want to share key conclusions and personal philosophies I’ve made so far in my journey…

We hope and we despair

Hope is a big part of the human condition and thus experience. No matter the disappointments and those moments of real despair. We rise and hope over and over again as long as we are alive. As individuals, as well as in tribes.

Lack of intentionality of life

This is truly a hard one to grasp, yet once done, everything starts taking a different outlook. Nothing that happens to you or others around you or far from you is intentional. Yes, humans do intent and act upon those intentions, yet life itself is not intentional. This year, this pandemic is the clearest and loudest of all proofs you will ever need. The luck that strikes you, the bad ones too, neither are the opportunities that you get or pass you, none were intentional.

Nobody is really that special

Yet to you, you and the people you care about and what you believe in are very special and that should be enough to make you, your dreams, and your goals a worthwhile pursuit, today and every day.

Life is really unfair and is not supposed to be one.

This seemingly overused sentence will never be overused enough. Because somewhere deep inside us we still expect some “fair” game. Let’s agree on this: If you are lucky enough to be reading these words, most probably you are in a better place overall than many many other people on the plant. This sentence too, cannot be overused enough. Sad as it is, it might give you a higher calling, or it might not. Yet within its realm comes a humbling down effect that may be enough to push away the “I’ve got it real bad” attitude.

Now, this might seem like some dark outlook that renders the word optimism futile, yet to me, this view grounds my optimism on some real standing contrary to  the shiny-happy kind.

Could optimism be all about finding something to be curious about?

That project you can’t wait for the weekend to come so you work on or that trip you are planning. That new skill you want to start learning, or that point in history you want to understand more of after watching some movie.

Doesn’t curiosity in its turn drive an optimistic attitude? Isn’t it capable of forcing excitement and hopefulness of a future state where the “object of curiosity” propels into the next? Imagine living in a never-ending spiral of objects to be curious about!

It can be anything and everything.

Getting curious about people, tribes and nations help to better grasp how things manifest in our own culture as they relate to others. How about that person you just met and had a great conversation with? Will they be your new exciting friend or new lover? Maybe you got curious about why a certain plant found its way into your garden. Or what makes your parent with Alzheimer’s still manage to critique your hair. Even getting curious as to where does this swarm of ants you found suddenly in your kitchen originate?

Curiosity gets a lot of attention in education and even in human resources and corporate ladder talk. I think it doesn’t get enough attention to how much magic it can bring into the psyche of an adult going about their life filling it with work, social leisure, and binge-watching Netflix. In our effort to get out of the routine, we grow hobbies yet we must not miss the key ingredient being an outlet to a wild side that wants to push the limits of the acceptable yet very boring day-to-day.

Not all curiosity is equal and not all curiosity is harmless, yet who said you can’t grow a fondness of your vast interests and start a deliberate attitude towards nourishing them no matter how tiny of a timespan they persist?

How about experiencing curiosity for curiosity's sake?

Could it be that being in a constant state of curiosity despite the ups and downs we will experience in our lives, be in its merit a catalyst to compel content?

Think of effort extended at drawing continuous pathways of discovery coupled with the pursuit of novel personal experiences, all made to ignite a level of excitement that engages the cheerful side of our anxious anticipation of the unknown future.

That’s where my optimism generates, its not rooted in hopefulness, neither positivity nor seeking a fair deal. By being curious.

Razan Khatib

Razan Khatib

Playing at the intersection of culture, technology, and values. Trying to structure my thoughts and share experiences, learnings, and insights. Co-founder of @spring_apps
Amman, Jordan