Infallible idealism in troubled times

Anna MitchellRight now is my absolute least favorite period in the school year.

If your year goes anything like mine, the time right before spring break leaves you overwhelmed with midterms. You are facing rejection left and right for potential summer jobs and internships. You feel overloaded with bigger projects and papers for classes.

You feel panicked because you can no longer avoid the question about how to afford classes and living next year. You’re losing sleep because of Daylight Saving Time.

All in all, you are exhausted down to your core.

Then add in regular daily troubles. Did you cut your finger? Are you having roommate drama? Have a spider bite in an uncomfortable place? It changes, but something always seems to be going wrong. Some days you are reduced to feeling like little more than a walking target that attracts only bad experiences.

Needless to say, I started this past weekend on a note of feeling hopelessly destitute. A great friend recommended that I read G. K. Chesterton’s essay, “On Running After One’s Hat.” I’d like to share a little bit about it with you.

In the essay, Chesterton describes the wonderful illustration of someone chasing after their hat as it has been blown by the wind. For some reason, society dictates that this task as an unpleasant one. But men have ran faster and further distances for the sake of sport and recreation, so Chesterton concludes it must not be considered trying because of the mere running aspect.

Perhaps it is viewed as unpleasant because it is seen as comical and embarrassing, but Chesterton wisely notes how “the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing.”

What, then, makes the task of chasing a hat unpleasant?

Only the fact that we believe it to be just that.

Instead we need to view undertaking a task like chasing a hat as a grand pursuit. Put a positive spin on things: chasing a hat provides great exercise; it brings a smile to the faces of those passing by; it forces you to step outside of your routine and head down an unexpected path. Take a look around: maybe the hat has led you to an ice cream parlor you didn’t previously know existed. Maybe it lands next to a $20 bill.

If nothing else, chasing one’s hat will become the opportunity to tell a great story later on.

There is always a positive, optimistic spin on even the direst of circumstances. If the darkest clouds have silver linings, then certainly the little nuances — the stubbed toes, the jammed drawers, the slow traffic — are not as drastically bad as we like to make them out to be.

Chesterton’s essay is short and I highly recommend reading it. But, at the very minimum, I invite you to join me in adopting this Chesterton quote that shall serve as my mantra from here on out:

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

Life is what we make of it. So why don’t we spend our energy on making it into something worthy of enjoyment? Life would be so boring without adventures to spice it up.

I used to be one of the most negative people I knew. Part of that comes with the territory of being a teenager, of course. My life has not gotten any easier since coming to college, but I assure you I am infinitely happier now than I ever was before.

The only thing that has changed is my attitude.

Call me an infallible idealist. Call me a cock-eyed optimist. I would be delighted to have my character described as such.

So, next time it feels as though the world is conspiring against you by piling one bad thing on top of another, try looking at things through a new light. Maybe the situation is not as difficult as it seems, and is instead a moment to be enjoyed.

Really, it all lies in perspective; for the partially cloudy days are also the partially sunny ones.