The Space for Both Pessimism and Optimism By Fellow Ashley Forrest

Throughout our third unit on “Politics, Patriotism, and The Press,” we were asked to think about how we can find a balance as young activists between skepticism and trust. How can we be skeptical about easy answers and superficial explanations without devolving into a life of cynicism and pessimism? Also, how can we create space to trust others without succumbing to a life of naivete and ignorance, where we can easily be misled and taken advantage of.  During that unit, Danny shared the following quotation from Antonio Gramsci, which really resonates with me:

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

Many times I become overwhelmed when I think of all the information I hear everyday. From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I fall asleep at night, I hear the tragedies that people have faced and the despairing future that we might have to live in. But then I hear the stories that make me smile, too...those sincere stories that remind us the world isn’t as hopeless as we so often think it is. Then I realize that those stories tend to emerge after a certain amount of depressing ones, almost as if to balance the scale...to make us all feel “happy” again and more likely to go back to our distracted lives.  And it makes me wonder if any of this is genuine at all.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking: Nothing matters. Every effort is futile, and making one is a vapid mistake. My chest doesn’t tense up when I hear anything anymore; my eyes are half-open regardless of what I’m listening to.

But that’s also when I ask myself: If I thought this now, wouldn’t people hundreds of years ago have believed this too? Wouldn’t the greatest minds of those times come across this question as well? Why did they continue to make an effort? How could they have coped and managed? Why did humans survive after all this time?

Around that point of introspection, my curiosity kicks in and I’m moving forward, no longer sitting on a rock waiting for an answer to come by. I decide not to let my questions weigh me down, and realizing that I’m thinking, reflecting and questioning...that I’m simply moving...means that all of this does matter.

Then I pass by another rock and decide to sit on it.

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Ashley Forrest (Second from the left) is a senior at Somerset Academy High School and a proud member of the House of Friedan