Realism is King
Realism, I have recently discovered, is the only path to true happiness. Now before all you optimists and pessimists get all up in arms ready to tear down that statement, hear me out. I know realism can be a cruel mistress and a hard pill to swallow but any kind of happy not based in reality is not true happiness. That’s all I’m saying.
I’ve recently had some overwhelming life experiences wherein I completely lost all hope. My entire life I’d been an optimist, always believing in dreams and looking at the positive in any situation, no matter how bad. Not really a bad way to live and maybe even necessary at times, but my life was completely inter-weaved with it so when I lost all hope, my life foundation was left with so many holes that it almost all came crashing down. Not to get too personal but I’d never had such vivid suicidal thoughts and plans to exit this shitty roller coaster we call life. 2014 has, hands down, been the hardest year of my life and it’s only fucking April. Then again, maybe I should be grateful. That kind of pain and belief system shattering has lead me to a deeper understanding of what happiness really is. It seems only through the trials of life can we find the strength to experience happiness in its purest form.
My best friend, now of almost 20 years, was always a pessimist growing up and me, the most naïve of all optimists. At times we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking he and I were a pessimistic realist and an optimistic realist, respectively, but really that wasn’t more than times where we had healthy run ins with reality and tried to assess our reactions. After a while, it became nothing more than a punch line. Here’s one of our favorite memes:
A few months back I read this quote by William Ward that has become more or less my new mantra.
I still had lingering remnants of hope clouding my perspective though. Not that hope is a bad thing but when you use it to shade truths about your life, it can be disastrous. Like if you really believe that other races are inferior, just hoping you don’t come off that way to people is not going to make you not a racist. Only in facing and excepting harsh truths, especially about ourselves, can we start to change them.
Embracing the concept that truth can evolve is both super hard to accept as well as tremendously beautiful. For example, the fact that I am 100 pounds overweight is an undeniable truth but whether or not that stays a truth my whole life or not though is up to me. Is changing truth easy or quick? Hell no. It would take me almost a full year of very hard work and self discipline to change this truth but how is awesome is it that we as humans have this power.
Realism truly is the only way to feel real happiness. A dear friend of mine’s marriage is on the verge of collapse and he is frantically trying to save it because he truly loves her with his whole mind and soul but sadly the marriage was built on lies, manipulations, and mistrust. For years. This is one of the harshest truths I’ve ever seen and yes, I’m definitely a bit of an asshole to tell him that but what’s the alternative? Does is really show my loyalty and support to help him believe in the fantasy that she’ll stay and everything will work out? Nope. That’s just setting him up for a bigger fall when it’s officially called off. The only way their relationship could survive is for both of them to embrace the reality that it’s broken. It would take years of intense hard work and therapy to mend what’s left. Do I want them to stay together? Of course. I love each of them deeply and hate to see them go through such hard times but my hope won’t change their reality. Only they can do that and it won’t be easy and maybe not even worth it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand fully the value of optimistic and pessimistic perspectives. I just know that in the end pessimists miss out on most of life’s wonderful experiences and optimists are constantly disappointed. That being said, these perspectives can be helpful and maybe even necessary depending on the stage of your life. I am a musician and I’m desperately trying to make a career in one of the hardest industries to make a career in. But when I first started and the many years before I could sing and play at a professional level, my optimism is what made me believe I could make it and to keep going. If I was a true realist at any point before the last couple years, I’d have likely giving up and pursued an easier or more “realistic” life path. Now, however, I have reached a point that it’s not my optimism that tells me I have talent as a singer songwriter, it’s my realism. My realism also tells me that I’m far from the most talented in this industry and that even some of the best never get a foothold and die trying. Because I’m no longer an optimist I don’t blindly believe I will for sure make it nor do I pessimistically believe I won’t. The reality is that I could make it and though I most likely won’t, music is too important to me to stop trying and my realism forces me to work even harder and find more opportunities that I would have without it because I know that the odds are stacked against me. Also, pessimism can protect you from being hurt too often or too deeply as is the case of this simple but honest and hopeful comic strip:
In all cases though, it’s important to at least eventually embrace reality and truth because without it all joy and happiness will be fleeting.
In my trek to embrace truth I’ve found that my tastes in life’s amenities is centered around realism as well. My favorite comedians are Louis CK, Christopher Titus, and George Carlin. The only type of music I can really respect is quite raw like with my latest obsession, Lake Street Dive. Even the movies and TV shows I gravitate toward these days are chuck for a realistic characters, like Silver Linings Playbook, Garden State, Good Will Hunting or ones with anti-heroes as the protagonist like Dexter, Breaking Bad, or Sons of Anarchy and I know I’m not alone is this because those shows all extremely popular.
I wouldn’t say I’m happy though, if you are wondering. My truths are mostly in the harsh category. I’m just glad to know that when I do feel happiness in the not too distant future, it will be real and lasting. I encourage you all to self assess your reality as I have done and come out all the better for it. Good luck everyone. Here’s one last fun poke of fun: