Living in the 21st Century can be scary. Everyone has access to weapons, but they only tend to use the ones that hurt people. Mass shootings, disease outbreaks, and other humanitarian problems haunt us daily. But what’s even scarier are the negative effects false realities have on people’s everyday lives.
No one is perfect, instead everyone is perfectly unique. But with the rise of social media, the standard for what is socially accepted puts unimaginable pressures on the individual. Social media and reality TV shows give the average person access to view how celebrities live their seemingly magical lives 24/7. For many viewers what they see others do or experience they believe will also happen to them but this is not always the case. The pressure to live up to these standards can in turn lead to dark realities for many youth today.
For example, let’s take the average African American male. The majority of these teenage males aspire to be professional athletes or successful rappers, but these careers are not what end up being the majority’s realties. Our young men get trapped into thinking that the use of slang, drugs, and violence leads them riches, but in reality it leads them to jail cells. 1 out of 3 black men are suspected to end up jail (https://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/) . This can be a direct result of how they believed these negative actions were the path to their desired realities.
Young women also deal with similar struggles. The woman’s body in 2019 is the most judged and objectified object ever. With increased advertisements for models and smaller figures, adolescent girls feel the need to look a certain way to be accepted. But then when they do get this look or feel confident enough to show their bodies, they are subjected to being verbally or physically violated. Because of these societal pressures the statistics for suicide rates in teens has skyrocketed. There are on average 3,401 attempts each day in America (http://prp.jasonfoundation.com/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/).
With all this being said, my answer is yes. There is indeed a fine line between optimism and reality. But the unanswered question is what is this line? This divide? To answer this question I would like to recite a quote from the late Indian leader Sai Baba, “Life is a song - sing it. Life is a game - play it. Life is a challenge - meet it. Life is a dream - realize it. Life is a sacrifice - offer it. Life is love - enjoy it.” This description of this challenge is the divide between optimism and reality. Life is the divide between optimism and reality. According to Harvey Mckay, “An optimist understands that life can be a bumpy road, but at least it is leading somewhere. They learn from mistakes and failures, and are not afraid to fail again”. We must learn how to not dwell on life’s challenges but instead we should learn how to respond to our realities.
So when you do not get drafted to the NBA or NFL, develop programs and camps to teach that sport to keep our youth active and off of the streets; because that is what an optimist would do. When you never get that big break in your music career, use other outlets to let your voice be heard. Use that weapon to raise awareness about problems you see in your community, and how you plan on solving them; because that is what an optimist would do. And when you feel you cannot keep up with what everyone demands from you, whether it be in appearance, at school, or at work, seek the proper help you need. Do not be afraid to lean on others for support or help others who are in need; because that is what an optimist would do.
So I hope I was not only able to deliver a speech today, but rather I was also able to leave you with a challenge. I challenge you to respond to life’s problems optimistically, to help others do the same, and to be the overall best optimistic you can be; because being positive and being true to yourself is the greatest reality.