Optimism versus pessimism at life’s checkout…

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We are at the supermarket checkout and my wife looks at everything coming out of the trolley. “That’ll be £65,” she says. This is a game she likes to play for some reason. My part in this is one of dumb optimism – “Oh, it’ll only be fifty quid,” I say.

The bill comes to something like £64.84, so clearly she was miles out and foolish optimism wins the day again.

There is no alchemy in her calculation. She merely tots up how many items we have bought and reckons on everything costing a pound and a bit (it used to be a round pound years ago).

I have mentioned before this difference between us. One of us is a foolish optimist, the other a realistic pessimist. My optimism has taken a pummelling lately, and keeping hold of that half-full glass has been tricky at times, but I’ve just checked and it’s still half-full if you close one eye and squint.

Perhaps it isn’t even fair to call my wife a pessimist, but she is more likely to peer nervously over the precipice while I have my eyes on the distant twinkling horizon, too busy dreaming to concentrate on where I am placing my feet.

Harry S Truman, the 33rd US President, had something to say about the differences between us. Not about counting out the shopping as I don’t think he knew about that. Here is what he said: “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

As someone who has spent many months now trying to make opportunities out of my difficulties, I rather like that. I’d say the old Democrat nailed that one.

I don’t know if it is better to be an optimist than a pessimist, and maybe you have no choice and it’s just how you fell out of the mould, either carefree or anxious, foolish or realistic.

Optimism is the better trait from my point of view, but maybe if I was more pessimistic I would have been more realistically equipped for my present situation.

After a reasonably busy spell, everything has fallen quiet again. I have a couple of good features written and waiting to appear, but nothing new on the go, apart from my own writing.

Three job applications fell on stony ground at the end of last week, two at universities in York and one for a museum in Leeds. One of the university applications was for a very good job in the press office, so my hopes weren’t high (even an optimist steps under a cloud sometimes). The other one seemed a better bet, but after spending 90 minutes or so on filling out the form online, and essentially answering the same question 12 times, the rejection arrived two days later. Harsh, but there you go.

The museum job was a wild-card thing in that it sounded interesting and crossed over with my experience to an extent. Another university in Leeds still hasn’t responded to an application, which is what happens sometimes.

Perhaps I should pay heed to that friend who wondered if I’d ever thought of driving a taxi. But instead I shall keep taking Harry’s advice and continue to make opportunities of my difficulties.

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