Lessons in Manhood
Lesson 10: Optimism
Squatch, you’re starting to learn that the world isn’t always amazing. The world seems to be coming to an end about five times a day, it seems—when your teething pains start up, when you’re not being fed rightthisminute, when your diaper’s just a little too wet. I don’t have to explain to you that life is hard.
The past few weeks have been full of reminders for your mom and me, too. A few weeks ago, not too many miles from where we live right now, a football player shot his girlfriend and then himself, leaving their (younger-than-you) baby without a mom and dad. Last week, some lunatic shot up a mall in Oregon. Just a few days ago, another one shot up a school in Connecticut, killing children and teachers and causing your mom and I to shed more tears over people we don’t even know than we probably ever have before. Last night, as the president was talking about how we should be saddened and outraged by what happened at that school, two police officers were shot outside a grocery store in Topeka, where your mom and I went to college and spent good chunks of our lives. A mom and her two young kids saw it happen from their own car.
I know that you’re aware of none of this stuff today, and none of it is nearly as terrifyingly horrific as bones literally forcing their way out of your skin right this minute. And I wish like hell I could keep it that way for you.
Wish in one hand, shit in the other—right?
You can’t tell, but these things—particularly the school shooting in Connecticut—are weighing pretty heavily on your mom and me, as well as seemingly half the internet. You’ll find that these things have a tendency to beat you down*. There have been moments over the last few days where we’ve questioned things. Schools are supposed to be a safe place. We’ve asked (like probably half the parents in America did) if we should screw it all and homeschool you. I’ve considered scouting out jobs in another country where shit like this doesn’t happen nearly as often. We’ve asked if we should board up the windows, order all our groceries off Amazon and live the hermit’s existence.
*Or you won’t. If we’re lucky, you won’t.
Of course we won’t, though. It’s not how we live. It’s not how you’re going to be raised. As much as bad stuff happens, I still hold firm to my belief that people are good. That the world is good. That good is the predominant, fundamental, controlling thing that holds everything together.
I have to believe that. I wouldn’t get out of bed without that.
There are so many wonderful things in the world that it would be a terrible thing to overlook them. People help each other out through national disasters. Our baseball team won the World Series this year. Paul McCartney sang with Nirvana. Cheez-Its. Kansas City barbecue. The first three Indiana Jones movies. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. (Imaginary) Secret Santa gifts from strangers. Chocolate. Shoddy traveling carnival rides. Ooh, and funnel cakes. This:
In fact, right now you’re just a pudgy little ball of goodness yourself. This only scratches the surface of all the goodness in the world, and you’ll get to spend the rest of your life discovering everything that is good.
The opposite of good isn’t evil, Squatch. I don’t think evil exists. Evil is only a concept for Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Yankees. The opposite of good is pessimism, greed, fear. It’s when these things are predominant that bad things happen.
We’re not going to live that way. You’re going to go to school and have friends. You’re going to meet new people and try new things. You’re going to travel to different places. We’re not going to shutter the doors or buy a gun or look sideways at every person we pass on the street.
I choose to see the good. I hope you choose to see the good.
When bad things happen, we can’t ignore them. That would be silly and immature. We have to remember them. We have to grieve. And we have to work to ensure they won’t happen again. We have to make them good.