I want to make something clear about myself, because I'm very good at getting people to misunderstand me.
I am not a pessimist. Nor am I a cynic. I have not given up.
It might seem that way because in recent months — just as I did when I was in a similar situation six years ago — I frequently feel depressed. Sometimes I vocalize that depression in a hyperbolic way that gets people worried about my state of mind. It scares them. Hell, it scares me. I need to do that less, I'll admit.
But here's what I want people to understand: I don't do it because I feel like I have no future. I don't do it because I am a fatalist about the world around me.
It's because I feel the exact opposite is true.
I feel like things can and should be better. I have faith in humanity. I believe in karma. And while no one is perfect — and a lot of us are far from it — I like to think that people who strive to be the best they can be can and should succeed in life.
I say all the time that I hate when people say the system is fucked or whatever. Because then what? There's nothing you can do. It's giving up. I'm guilty of coming off that way at times. I've thrown my hands up and appeared to quit. But that's all it ever is — an appearance. A dramatic, perhaps overly emo appearance, yes, but one always accompanied by my mind telling me, "OK, through with that crybaby bullshit? Good, now let's go!"
I can't tell you how many times in my life I've been told my dreams are unrealistic. And yes, I have had unrealistic dreams. Let's talk about those — over the years, I've wanted to be a pro baseball player; a pro football player; an Olympic sprinter; a rock star; even a boxer. My more realistic pipe dreams included being an astrophysicist; an actor/TV host; a stand-up comedian; an author; or a respected journalist. These were pretty much the only things I ever considered doing. They were all I knew to aspire to. I never thought of a job as something you did simply to make money. Even when I amassed a long résumé of floor-sweeping, I never lost sight of my initial dreams/delusions.
What surprises me now is how much of those fields in which I've dabbled. I have years of reporting to my credit. I've edited daily newspapers. I've appeared in several movies and a TV show. I'm in the home stretch of writing a novel. I've worked extensively with college and semipro sports teams. I even played football for a year. The ride's had its ups and downs, but it's still trucking along, because I have these memories to fuel me when the present isn't offering me a whole lot.
I recognize my value and potential, even if it seems like sometimes I don't. All of my passions, happy and sad, come from the intense internal desire to be better. When I'm depressed, it's not because I don't have hope; it's because I do have hope, and I want so badly to crank it into action. I have hope for my future. I have hope for the world, which despite its problems is a beautiful place. I have hope for humanity, because I think it's collectively good.
If you ever find yourself in a dark place, I hope you find the strength to recall what makes you special and what role you play in the happiness of others' lives. Don't let the fire inside burn you — spark your optimism instead. I know it's hard; I hate when people think it's something you can flip with a switch. But if you believe in yourself, it's there. I believe in myself.
I'll always try. It's all I know how to do.