Life Is Not ShortI’m the keeper of a lot of unpopular opinions. Usually when people are uber-excited about a celebrity, I’m pretty ho-hum or unaffected by their thrall. Usually when everyone is certain the sky is falling, I’m the one considering how something really awesome can come from this. Usually when others are convinced that everything will be 100% a-OK, I’m the person creating contingency plans for if and when it all goes pear-shaped.

My most unpopular opinion of all? There’s nothing wrong with being a worrier. I’m a worrier. This is who I am. And I’m proud to wear the title.

This declaration and general attitude seems to anger some people because they pride themselves on being the exact opposite. And that’s fine by me. Yet, the issue becomes a problem when the optimists of the world insist that I should change and be more like them. It’s even worse when every time you go online, watch a TV show, read a book or have a casual conversation with someone, the idea of “Optimism above all else!” seems to dominate over all the voices.

Here’s the rub: We can’t claim to want to live in a world of tolerance, respect and understanding, if we insist that everyone adopt our worldview. And sadly, it seems as if more people are obsessed with everyone remaining hopeful and positive at all times instead of truly listening to each other’s perspectives. And those perspectives often hold different worldviews that lead to enlightening interpretations of events, a resilience beyond anything “hope” could build, and an innovative problem solving technique that holds up a mirror to future obstacles many would never dare to consider.

I’m happy to call myself a realist. I’m happy to call myself a worrier. I think it’s dehumanizing to tell others that they have to look on the bright side of life, and always find the silver lining to that gray cloud. Why dehumanizing? Because human beings are not meant to only be happy and content for every minute of every day.

Recognizing the world for what it is has kept me grounded more than any other technique suggested in the past. For me, worrying leads to brainstorming. Brainstorming leads to problem solving. Problem solving leads to preparation and resilience. And after almost four decades on this blue marble, I have yet to be convinced that this is a bad thing.

But I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I’ve been told that worrying solves nothing, it is wasted energy, or it’s an affront to a higher power. Without daring to address the last one, I have never found worrying to be a detriment. Instead, what ends up causing the most harm is the absurd attempt to try to force my acceptance of reality from my mind and “make my brain” think what others tell me to think.

Rebel Graffiti by PatheticusAs we head into 2017, there are a lot of people who are either on edge about the future or convinced it’ll all work out in the end. Some are making grand plans for the year to come. Some are just trying to live for today as they fear nothing good lies on the road up ahead. My suggestion: How about we accept that both types of individuals are needed and have a place in our society. Optimists can be wonderful cheerleaders when the days are dark, and put a smile on our faces when we are certain nothing can. And Realists can be the ones who conjure up “Hail Mary” plays that keep us from drowning in the circumstances that limit our opportunities.

And let’s remember, one mindset is not necessarily excluded from the other. A person need not be either an optimist or a realist. Finding the silver lining (or the yang in a period of yin) can help give you perspective, but it won’t solve your dilemmas. To do that you have to genuinely see the situations for what they are, do a little worrying, and devise a solution. Simply assuming that something will come along and change the situation in your favor is foolhardy to say the least. But a realistic approach to life’s problems is not a death sentence to optimism. I believe that’s where the phrase “Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst” comes into play.

So as 2017 and all its precariousness looms near, I’ll hold true to my unpopular opinions. 2016 has been rough on a lot of us. And for some, it still is. But we can embrace that uncertainty, accept that many things in life are simply out of our hands, and devise plan Q should plan A through plan P fail. More importantly, we can put an end to the idea that opportunities or good fortune only happens when you’re optimistic. Realists succeed just as often as optimists. And if they’re honest, they’ll admit that worrying helped them overcome every challenge along the way.