I think I’m supposed to say something inspiring here, something that causes thought and provokes discussion, in essence, a virtual “pat on the back” for not only the Institution that birthed my educational awakening, but also the students that will follow after me.
This opinion piece will do neither of those things. Just so you’re prepared.
I avoid writing opinion pieces when I can help it, although over the last semester it’s happened more than I would like. The act of concretely laying out my arguments on paper, then publishing them for public critique and mockery, makes a small part of me wish to run and hide. As the editor of the opinion page, this is not usually an option.
While at Indiana Wesleyan University, I have whole heartedly realized that I’m not an expert in anything. While I may have opinions, they are neither educated enough nor well formed enough to merit true pride, let alone publication, save one thing. In a generation of social-media obsessed narcissists, I do have monopoly on being an expert on myself. Some of what I’ve learned in that status while at this university, however, I would prefer not to know.
I’m thankful for the way my time here has changed me, the lessons I’ve learned and the issues I’ve struggled over. The challenges and victories have made me a better thinker, a well-rounded person, and hopefully, an interesting conversationalist and writer. As a side effect of study, however, I picked up a nasty personal habit: cynicism.
My mother tells me I’m too young to be a cynic. She’s always frustratingly optimistic, a characteristic I once shared. I’m not sure where I deviated from a much brighter, “sunny side” way of thinking, but it happened. For the past few years (as I grew aware of my shift in viewpoint) I may have denied it, then simply blamed the shift on my subjects of study. Journalism and political science are not exactly optimistic fields. My conversations have increasingly become focused on what I’m frustrated about in the world, and of late, what frustrates me about this university, my university.
As I pursue life after IWU I have a choice. I can choose, based on the evidence I’ll surely find around me, that life is best handled through realism, exemplified in cynicism. Or, I can choose to take what I discover and continue to look for the positive aspect of any circumstance … because there always is one.
I realize that I’m not the first to suggest that an optimistic, positive viewpoint may be helpful. (I refer to my previous statement highlighting my inadequacies in writing opinion pieces.) It sounds terribly cheesy, after all, to think that “looking on the bright side” will make a difference, even change your life.
That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that I need to stop pretending that cynicism is an inevitable and healthy part of life. For me, it hasn’t been healthy. It’s caused me to rant about things that don’t ultimately matter to the people who tirelessly love me, it’s resulted in my judgment of others (both those in authority in my life as well as my peers), and it’s caused me to view aspects of my university, my faith and my fellow human beings with skepticism, if not disdain.
While that type of cynicism may indeed represent how the world functions, I can’t see that ultimately, it’s going to do me any good.
Currently, I’d classify myself as a “redeemed cynic.” It’s something God and I have talked about and he’s turned into a beautiful part of my personality, instead of a black hole of negativity. But note the fact that it’s still part of my identity. In the end, I’m still very critical of the things that go on around me. I still struggle with judgment. And, I have an even harder time curbing my comments, witty or not, when I should probably find other things to occupy my mind.
Somewhere, there’s a happy medium, a balance between obnoxious idealism and hardened cynicism. To all of you who follow after all of us: Find that balance before you leave. The world is cynical enough already.