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January 17, 2006

Life of Lower Expectations

As I am sure is painfully obvious to anyone who has wasted precious minutes of his or her ostensibly futile life on this site, I don't pride myself on my sunny disposition or rosy outlook on life. Yet, the tag line for this web site remains Optimistic Cynicism, which indubitably causes no small amount of confusion for readers unable to see the optimism for the cynicism. Allow me to present my day yesterday to perhaps clarify:

  • 0545: Alarm rings, wresting me from an uneasy and tired pseudo-conscious state of rest less than six hours after going to bed. At least I still have fifteen minutes before I have to wake up.
  • 0600: BlackBerry begins playing cheerful, tropical music, adding anger to pain. At least I didn't have to hear that wretched alarm clock again.
  • 0701: Getting in the car, I feel something wet in my jacket pocket and realize the half-open Starbucks Frappuccino bottle is leaking. At least it didn't totally spill.
  • 0704: Driving along Oak St. towards Octavia, I stare at the eerily empty streets and wonder what's wrong; as I get on the 80-W it dawns on me that it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I'm the only one who probably has work. At least the commute won't be so bad.
  • 0716: The first hints of light begin to emerge in the sky. At least the sunrise is pretty.
  • 0727: Driving along the Bay Bridge, my CD player starts skipping, on my favorite song of the album. At least I ripped the CD to my iPod.
  • 0746: Arrive in Walnut Creek, and realize I don't have access to the building I'm supposed to be in and will have to wait until 0830 before someone can let me in. At least I can read the paper today.
  • 1727: Getting on the 24-W, traffic is barely moving, despite it being a federal holiday. At least it's not totally stopped like usual.
  • 1806: Exiting 9th St./Civic Center, I get every light red until the timed lights on Fell. At least I'm still going faster than Octavia.
  • 1822: Arrive home to darkness, numerous bills, and little food. Tomorrow will probably be worse.

Optimistic cynicism, at its crux, is neither a catchy aphorism nor a cleverly crafted paradox intended to attest to my obvious intellectual prowess, although it hopefully accomplishes both those things. Instead, it is, fundamentally, a philosophy of life; a methodology on living, borne of a life wrought with unmet expectations and hope-crushing disappointments; a brief respite from the perilous idealism society would have us embrace. With low expectations and no hope of anything better, there is no limit to what you can accomplish—optimism naturally abounds!

Traditional optimists will necessarily contradict my last assertion. They will claim it is simply thinly-veiled pessimism and will attempt to discount me as a cold-hearted cynic. Be that as it may, the fact remains that after each miserable event in my typical day described above, I managed to remain positive and optimistic. When you expect little and hope for nothing, it is easy to see the glass as half full—hell, some asshole will probably spill your drink in a second, so why be depressed about it being half empty now?

As for all you deluded idiots out there who still cling mindlessly to the notion of traditional optimism, I have only one thing to say to you: just give up. Give up that job that you really enjoy which, incidentally pays you $20K less than what you could be earning. Give up that useless major that will let you pursue your true passions in self-righteous poverty. Give up your futile quest for Mr./Ms. Right—no such person exists for you. And for the love of God, stop trying to help people—no one even wants your help!

Just give up. Accept the job you don't really like and the commute you cannot stand. Succumb to baseless materialism and banal pursuits. Recognize that you will probably marry someone you can barely tolerate, bowing to incessant parental, societal, and biological pressures. Concede that the world is a mess, your existence is pointless, and your life meaningless. Just give up, and enjoy today—tomorrow will inevitably be worse.


As an unabashed deluded optimist, I can't bring myself to believe that the next day is worse than before. Of course, the cliche'd reaction would be: "what would be the point of living if your life is spiraling downward?" but if you don't mind living a life in such a case, a self-affirming point isn't necessary. However, there is optimism to be found in another equally important truth of life: "there are people living worse off than you are." obviously, one shouldn't be happy about the misfortune of others, but one should acknowledge that you were spared that misfortune, and that you are lucky to be able to live your life, despite its ups and downs.

It is also important imo, to balance both delusion and cynicism, which will in turnallow you to make "intelligent experiments" in life.

One random thought: I do think that optimism really flourishes in people who have bad memory retention. Since my memory is so terrible, and I have an even worse time learning from previous mistakes, there is almost nothing to prevent me from thinking that the next time I do something, I'll expect it to work marvelously, not realizing that I did something similar in my previous lifetime, and that it was a monstrous failure. Sigh, but I'll still keep on trucking =)

hahahahaha i know exactly how you feel

friend: "are you workin on MLK day?"
me: "technically no"
friend: "oh nice"
me: "but technically i don't work weekends either and i've worked 30+ hrs every weekend except for xmas and new years"

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