“What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World”: The Role of Cynicism, Optimism, and Vulnerability

I really like the Decemberists. In case you missed it.

I’ve realized that my recent blog posts, in addition to being few and far between tend to be on the ranting side. I’d like to attempt to rectify this without sinking into naivete, which is always the strange and probably self-inflicted balance I walk.

Growing up I was what I’d like to call a morbid optimist. I have a sort of fascination with death that maybe spawns from the time our “pet” skunk, Pepe got shot by the neighbor. Or maybe from reading too much fantasy as a child, see here my adoration with The Lord of the Rings. There’s nothing that so perfectly marries death and hope for an eleven-year-old madly searching for something more interesting than corn in her life.

I wanted to believe in “the best of all possible worlds”. I wanted to believe that people were inherently good and that bad things came from the outside. Death when it happened, thought eleven-year-old Laura, was a sort of shining symbol and not much more.

And then I got to high school. It turns out that people do bitchy things for no reason. And further that some people tell lies. And further that some people hurt other people. Badly. During my time in high school, friends came to me to confide, some with more serious problems than others, on a fairly regular basis. Hearing my friends confess their pain over and over both heightened and lessened my own. I wanted more than anything to take the pain from them and put it on myself.

The world got darker in high school. I saw the effects of parental death, divorce, domestic abuse, and mental illness played out across the bodies and souls of the people I cared about. I lost sight of that shiny fantasy world that had been a hallmark of my childhood years. Swinging the way only hormonal teenagers can I went from a raging optimist to a moping cynic.

And maybe I still should be. But I’m not.

People still tell me things. Their secrets, their hopes, their fears, their loves. It is something of a job for me being an RA and more importantly a part of being a human and a friend. The people I love keep getting hurt. And getting hurt. And getting hurt. And it kills me more than I can say. But I’ve also realized something: in these confessions, these deep meetings of the soul during which I see more than I want to of human depravity, I also see more than I ever imagined of human greatness.

My friends are great. I mean it not just in the sense of “OMG they’re awesome xoxo”. I mean my friends are what is meant by the best of humanity. They are caring, strong, admirable, hopeful, growing, beautiful, and most of all willing to be vulnerable. And for that I cannot thank them enough. In sharing their stories, the painful and the powerful, they bare their souls to me. And I can only stand in awe of what I see.

Can I talk about my friend who despite their difficulties still has the energy and willingness to make the best jokes?

Can I tell you about the friend who inspires me daily with the way they have grown and created through their pain?

Can I tell about the friend whose grief has been turned into unfaltering love for everyone else around them?

Can I make you meet these people? Because they will change your life. Just as they changed mine.

I could be a cynic still. I know that there’s enough bad stuff to fill the world twenty times over. But these amazing fucking people I know, these people have shown me that love is strong enough to make it all worthwhile. And that there is more beauty in the world than any single person has a right to deny.

So thank you to all you people who know who you are. For being yourselves and reminding me of the importance of vulnerability.


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