Indifference: The line between optimism and pessimism

Courtesy of Riddhi Jani

Imagine you find yourself leaning against the inside of a car window, wishing you would’ve brought an umbrella. But it’s too late for that now, isn’t it? Soon, the car will stop and you’ll have no choice but to walk out into the rain. You hope the hood of your jacket will shield you long enough until you find shelter. 

The car slows to a stop and you take a deep breath, letting yourself imagine the world around you as an extension of yourself, not an obstacle to overcome. 

You step out and the rain doesn’t bother you as much as you thought it would mere minutes ago. The air smells of earth as a gentle breeze enters your nose. Tiny droplets fall onto your jacket sleeves with a staccato rhythm. The sound of ongoing traffic feels distant and fading. 

Why doesn’t it bother me anymore? You wonder.

Can indifference be the key to happiness? 

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face and walked away without saying a word. But now that I’m older and wiser (albeit not so much the latter), my response differs greatly. 

Every now and then, I find myself in a battle between optimism and pessimism. I often ask myself if my being upset over something as fleeting and trivial as the weather is worth my time and energy. The question is usually rhetorical. And while it is not always possible to have the most positive outlook on every single life experience, I believe that having control over how I react to a situation can greatly impact how I view myself within my surroundings. 

During my first year at York, I took a philosophy class called The Meaning of Life. While I have yet to discover the meaning of life — which is disappointingly not 42 as Douglas Adams states in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — I recall one point that still lingers in my mind all these years later. It is this:

We cannot control the outcome of a situation, but we can control how we react to it. 

Keeping that in mind, I walk the line between pessimism and optimism with an awareness of what lies on either side, indifferent to my surroundings unless needed otherwise. 

No, this isn’t a plea to put on a pair of rose-coloured glasses, because that would be employing an unrealistic standard for positivity. Nor is this a message to observe the worst in everything under the pretense of being realistic. Like many things, there needs to be a balance. 

Every time I submit a test, an essay, or even send out an important email, I am biting my nails in anticipation of everything that could go wrong. In the past, I’ve dismissed this feeling as a defense mechanism. If I think the worst of something, how much worse can it get? Only after reflecting on these habits have I realized that being afraid of an outcome is a natural experience. 

So, next time when the negative thoughts begin to creep in, I’ll remind myself that it isn’t the dark Gen Z humour at fault. And even if it is, I can control whether to walk the fine line as a pessimist or an optimist. 

If there’s one thing I can be sure of, it is that as long as I stay on the line, I have a choice.

About the Author

By Riddhi Jani

Creative Director

production@excal.on.ca

Riddhi is a biomedical science student with an ever-growing enthusiasm for art. Still in search of her own art style, Riddhi takes inspiration from a variety of art forms and media to build her portfolio. She hopes to implement her creative energy into her art as well as her writing as she journeys to improve her outlook on real-world events. When she is not designing, writing, or studying, she can be found adding to her never-ending list of to-be-reads, working on her novel, trying out new skateboard tricks, and hiking through the nearest forest (looking for the entrance to a magical land, of course).

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