Optimism (Lessons from a Button)

A couple days after Christmas, I was in the car with my friend Andrew, driving across the state of North Carolina. We had about three hours in the car, and we were debating the key difference between the two of us: what we do with life’s lemons, how we describe the level of liquid in the proverbial glass, whether or not we think the sun will come out tomorrow.

Two facts about me: I’m terribly optimistic, and I have a lot of energy. When I was a toddler, I couldn’t crawl and I couldn’t walk, but I wouldn’t just sit there, so I chased after my older brother by pushing myself around by my arms (I imagine I strongly resembled a worm). In first grade, my class sat on the floor during story time. Within a month of school starting, I was stripped of that privilege because I would randomly yet regularly stand up. My teacher set up a small camp chair in a  creative and valiant effort to contain me. Fast forward to now: I’m a sophomore in college, and I haven’t settled down any. I wake up before 8:00 most days ready to roll. I don’t drink coffee, and the last time I had regular soda I couldn’t stop moving for the next twelve hours. I have a theory that over my almost-twenty years of life, my physical refusal to stay down has somehow leaked over into my mental state. I experience negative emotions, just like everyone else, but they are strongly and swiftly run out of my brain by a voice telling me “Wait but look! Look at this bright spot! Look at this fun thing!”

I have been told this is a contrast to most  college students, and I can say with certainty that it is a contrast to the one that was currently occupying the passenger seat of my car. Andrew Mckinney is a lover of coffee and a needer of caffeine. He is six feet and six inches of musical cleverness, creative handiness, brave adventure-ness, and strong kindness. His view of the world is (self-described as) cynical, often bordering on pessimistic. I appreciate and celebrate this difference between us, though I have before felt the need to insert in him an IV of straight sunshine.

We go down the highway debating back and forth and I’m trying to think of a way to explain my optimism to Andrew. See, to me, finding the good in the world is as obvious as a fish swimming through the ocean in search of water. The fish may have to focus for a second, but then he realizes, oh wait, oh my goodness, I am surrounded by this. But I know seeing the happy in the world is easier said than done, and  I wanted to find a way to better illustrate my mind.

Two days ago, I was at one of my favorite stores Anthropologie. Anthropologie sells clothes and home decors. Everything is whimsical, colorful and straight out of my dreams. I was flipping through the sale rack (bad thing about this store: it’s generally out of my price range) when  I came across a pair of pants with this tag: 

That little button is already of great use: it struck me with a truth I couldn’t believe I had forgotten.  I think we can all agree: that button is completely ordinary. It’s of average size, brown, four holes, no fun pattern or anything. Without that tag, I may have seen it, but I wouldn’t have thought about it. But with that tag, that button made me smile and take a picture and sent my mind spinning. That’s what optimism is all about: finding the extra in the ordinary. Taking those things that no one thinks about, like the button, and making them count.

Thank you, Anthropologie, for making things count.

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