“The adventure begins,” I thought to myself while sitting on the couch after working hard to get my apartment furnished and in order. One would think I was referring to the idea of being an adult, independent, beginning a new life of being self-supportive. However, in this case, my thoughts were of something else entirely. The adventure was of me completely abandoning my pessimistic ways and completing my metamorphosis into a real idealist. I honestly didn’t think it was possible.
There is a running joke between myself and my fiancee where I, in a self-deprecating manner, call out my own 17-year-old identity whenever he bubbles to the surface. This age was peak cynic for me. Matt the Detractor, Matt the Skeptic, Matt the Pessimist, Matt the True Hipster, Matt the Overthinker.
Matt the Confused.
This is not self-loathing. On the contrary, I understand now that this was an important step in my journey towards being the better person that my creator wants of me, but it doesn’t mean I like myself when my brain goes into fact-checking mode. It is a sign of insecurity in yourself when all you can do is try to prove others wrong using facts and statistics, however true they may be. To do so expresses a kind of high arrogance, an assumption that your methodological way of viewing the world is the only correct one. The surface of rationale, argumentation, and dialectic, however, is cold and hard, and the consequences of such paradigm are two-fold.
First, you’ll find yourself without friends, speaking a language unintelligible by common folk. Or, at least, you hope that to be true, but in the recesses of your mind there exists one other alternative: that all you claim to be is just a collection of fancy words and mindless trivia, and that everyone else is just as smart as you. Second, you’ll find yourself adopting a view of the world that significantly darker than those around you. You’ll begin to pedestalize your own intelligence while reducing the value of the opinions of those around you. Soon, nobody’s discussions about anything seem to make any sense, despite them having existed in the world for as long as you have.
Here you are, you can put it on the map. When you assume that everyone else is either uninformed or stupid, you have arrived safely at Cynicism. There are no humans in Cynicism, only lonely individuals pretending to be gods without actually having the power to back it up. They dole out judgments where none are needed nor appreciated.
Getting to Cynicism is an easy drive on a Sunday afternoon with little traffic to get in the way. The journey back from Cynicism, however, is far more dangerous than that. It’s more like a hike through hot swampland with alligators and venomous snakes. My trip took at least five years, and featured a detour through chronic lower-back nerve pain, a case of Meniere’s Disease, and experiencing a setback in my dream to teach college.
There on the couch I realized, I’m no longer that person. I have his memories, yes, and the skill of skepticism sure comes in handy while doing academic research, but I’ve been transformed somehow. God, with his actual power, has turned me into a better version of myself.
I suppose I made it official when I changed my name on Facebook from Matt to Matthew. Matthew the Idealist, Matthew the Dreamer, Matthew the Pollyanna, Matthew the Sociable, Matthew the Optimist. I’m glad my dangerous journey has ended, and I’m excited to start my new adventure of actually being human.
So, I must ask. Have you made the same journey I have? Have you been wooed by the lights of Cynicism, only to realize that once there, it was a very dark place? How did you escape? Did you escape? Are you still escaping, or are you headed down the road to Cynicism right now?