On Saturday night, Theresa and I hunkered down for the two hours and 40 minutes of theatrical goodness that is Hamilton. Like many people, I’ve had my kick of listening to the soundtrack on a loop and yet though every bit of dialogue in the production is captured in the soundtrack, there is, of course, so much more depth when the staging and acting and full craftsmanship is in the mix.
And so I watched it with a new appreciation for what I had been singing along with for the last few years. And I also heard the words through the lens of 2020, this challenging, rich year.
“Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now,” the Schuyler Sisters sing at the beginning of the musical, describing being in a challenging and rich time of coming revolution – literal, armed revolution – and all of the coming challenge and richness of building the foundation of a new country where only white, landowning men are considered full citizens. “And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel,” sings Angelica.
Eyes forward, possibility potent, achievable.
What if I said to you, “Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now – history is happening!”
Now, as with then, we’re in the midst of a mighty test of mettle, much of which can be distilled down to the questions, “What kind of country do we want to be? What does that choice mean for citizens of both the country and the world?”
Now, as with then, we’re packaging issues of humanity into the wrapping of politics and while policies are where many of the changes must be made, we have become all too adept at dismissing politics as mostly irrelevant and so, along with it, the humanity encapsulated within.
Now, as with then, we have the option to choose cynicism and despondency or optimism and action.
I don’t know about then, but I’m pretty clear that now, we as a society prefer optimism in retrospect. Give us a tech mogul now swimming through his bank vault like Scrooge McDuck and we laud his optimistic early days of $200 and a garage. Rewind to that garage, and we think he should face reality and get a job.
I don’t know about then, but right now, I believe we have solid answers to most of what ails us. Meaningful green tech exists and has been implemented in small scale. Same with powerful ideas for how to rectify systemic inequalities. No, we don’t have a cure or vaccine for Covid-19 yet but we know for certain that simple, achievable actions like keeping distance and wearing masks stems the spread in massive ways.
Tom Rivett-Carnac, co-founder of Global Optimism, a group focused on social and environmental action to combat climate change, described the option for hope, the option to move forward on the tools and ideas we have available, as “gritty, determined, stubborn optimism.”
Not sunshiny, warm-fuzzy optimism. Not I-was-just-born-positive optimism. But gritty, determined, stubborn, chosen, dirt-under-our-fingernails, returning-to-it-on-days-when-everything-feels-impossibly-dire optimism.
I’ll be honest, I’m not awesome at it. While I’m well-practiced at optimism in the immediate – for example, my clients’ abilities to shape their lives, grow through challenge, adopt healthier habits – I’m equally well-practiced at cynicism in the global, the big, the humankind-wide.
I practice taking the actions anyway. On the cynical days, which is most of the days, I practice actions like turning off lights and being thoughtful about water; making sure I’m using a person’s preferred pronouns even when the person can’t hear me; reading the histories and current events that expand my awareness of race-based injustice; turning around and driving back home when I forget to grab a mask on the way out – not because I think they will be the actions around which humanity’s well-being will pivot, but because I believe that enough people choosing the same actions does make a difference.
And because my well-being increases when I practice choosing gritty, determined stubborn optimism.
Look around at how lucky we are to be a live right now. We get to be the ones to see all of this through, and to create a better day, a better world, a better precedent for the generations to come.
Let’s make ‘em proud.
The Bigger Badder Crew will celebrate 2 years of Chomping & Chatting this Wednesday, October 21st; join in to get a boost of optimism-supporting energy. Or schedule some one-on-one time with me to discover how coaching can help you implement the actions of gritty, determined, stubborn optimism in your life.