The Year of Optimism


I’ll admit it.

I’m old.

Actually, I just turned 26. But at heart, I’ve always been an old lady.

I prefer a nice long nap to clubbing. I’ll take a a nice house party with close friends over a kegger any day.

And I read Reader’s Digest. 

I just re-discovered it and have to admit, I love it. It’s nice, short pieces with lots of variety.

With my job, I spend sooooo much time with news that it’s easy to get bogged down. Reader’s Digest provides stories I don’t find elsewhere–and they tend to be uplifting.

Last night I finally got around to reading the January 2013 issue (which came in December), and I really liked the idea of The Year of Optimism:

“We’re calling it: 2013 is the year of hope, heart, and happiness. For this, the first in our special monthly series about optimism, we selected three of the best pieces on the subject: Journalist Fareed Zakaria highlights our progress, Michael J. Fox embraces the everyday, and Anna Quindlen urges us to cherish the moment. They remind use why it’s never been a better time–for us, our nation, and world.”

–Reader’s Digest

All three stories were great.

To be honest, I winced a bit when I saw Fareed Zakaria was writing–he’s come under fire this year. 

But regardless, I found the text of his commencement address at Harvard (the full text is available here) inspiring.

I especially loved (and need to remember):

“When I tell you we live in an age of progress, I am not urging complacency–far from it. We have had daunting challenges over the past 100 years: a depression, two world wars, the Cold War, 9/11, and a global economic crisis. But we have overcome them by our response. This county has its problems, but I would rather have America’s problems than those of most any other place in the world.”

I especially appreciated the part about overcoming obstacles with how you respond. You can’t anticipate, or change, what comes your way, but it’s YOUR choice how you respond.

And no one exemplifies that more than Michael J. Fox.

His piece (sorry, I’d post a link, but I can’t seem to find one anywhere), was about how he struggles every morning just to do basics like get out of bed. He describes in great–and painful–detail how something as simple as brushing his teeth is an ordeal.

But, rather than letting it defeat him, he describes the moment, after he’s managed to dress himself and get moving, when he catches his reflection in a hallway mirror.

“I can’t help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflect version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming were it not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question: ‘What are you smiling about?’ But I already know the answer: ‘It just gets better from here.'”

Isn’t that amazing. I read through that last night as he described struggling to just get is hands to work, and I kept thinking, This made the “optimism” story? 

But it ended so great. I truly don’t know how I would react in a similar situation. I could only hope half as admirably.

Closing the collection was a personal perspective piece from Anna Quindlen. Yeah, the Pulitzer Prize-wining one.

Admittedly, I went in with high expectations of this one. And she nailed it. Pretty sure she wrote this one just for me:

“It’s ironic that we forget so often how wonderful life really is. We have more time than ever to remember it. The men and women of generations past had to work long, long hours to support lots and lots of children in tiny, tiny houses. The women worked in factories and sweatshops and then at home too, with two bosses, the one who paid them, and the one they were married to, who didn’t.”

Who can argue with that?

This fits just perfectly into what I’m working for this year–a brighter, better me. And now I’m all the more optimistic it’s possible!

❤ CopyKat

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