Glad Topographies: Finding Abundant Optimism in the World Around Us

To find optimism, all one must do is look around. 

Over the next few days, we are really going to attempt to strengthen our Instagram game. We’ll have a big announcement early next week — a little project Nikki is putting together.

However, as for now, I think I am ready to truly introduce you to my super secret Instagram. It’s called Glad Topographies. Some of you already follow, and I really appreciate it! But for the rest of you, well, I think it’s something you’ll truly enjoy!

In the past, I had been taking direct inspiration from the legendary @sadtopographies — with their blessing, of course — and finding only super happy place names.

Alas, there are only so many Oh-be-joyful Creeks in the world — and if I kept it up for too long it would reflect insincerity. There’s so much more to life than that.

Therefore, I’ve since simplified the premise, scouring Google Maps and finding cool, pretty places that reflect optimism. Included are amazing pictures credited to Instagrammers who have visited these interesting places. Follow to receive perhaps a jolt of wanderlust without all the touristy trappings common to the emotion.

That lends itself to a new weekly feature on Normal Happenings, which I’ll be calling This Week in Glad Topographies. I’ll simply be compiling the posts for that week, and reflecting further on them here on the blog!

This week we’ve attempted to discern the mystery of Agloe:

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Agloe, New York, U.S. 🇺🇲 — Where no one has gone before. Agloe is perhaps the most famous of the "paper towns," a concept made popular by the YA novel of the same name. It's simply a cartographer's trap, designed to ensnare counterfeiters trying to take advantage of the hard work of map makers. Like a fantasy world, Agloe only exists in our imagination. — So many Instagrammers tag Agloe to be ironic, but @emmaswanders and @nickaustin7 are the real deal for making the journey to Agloe. Full photo credit goes to them. — #agloe #newyork #notreal #fiction #fantasynovel #johngreen @johngreenwritesbooks #papertowns #papertown #books #maps #map #topography #geography #nowhere #imagination #ny #upstatenewyork #glad #contentment #gladtopographies

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We’ve ridden horses across the dunes of Tolowa:

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Tolowa Dunes, California, U.S. 🇺🇲 — Perusing the satellite view of the west coast, a certain flat terrain caught my eye just south of where Oregon and California meet. Tolowa Dunes and its collision of ocean side grassy dune and wooded ridge immediately obsessed me. Turns out many visitors ride these trails on horseback — no doubt an incredible way to enjoy an otherwise ordinary day. — Full credit goes to @chrishalsted and @nicolejeanhill for these incredible photos! Thanks @north_coast_redwoods for taking care of a place like this! — #california #pacific #pacificnorthwest #dunes #park #tolowadunes #coast #westcoast #leftcoast #oceanside #horseback #trail #trails #hiking #pines #ridge #peaceful #calm #happiness #glad #gladtopographies

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We’ve hiked the mountainside trails of Gladstone:

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Gladstone Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada 🇨🇦 — Glad Topographies makes its triumphant return! We're going to do things a little different this time around. We're not so much going to focus on finding the overtly happiest place names in the world, rather we're going to venture beyond the topographies. We'll be going to amazing places and seeing the sights of these epic life explorers who adventure to them. The world is beautiful, and anything is a Glad Topography in its own way! — Images of this beautiful park on the shore of Christina Lake are fully credited to @glendularfever and @johnsoda1234! — #hiking #hike #trekking #trek #lake #christinalake #wilderness #wanderlust #scenery #scenic #forest #outdoors #landscape #canada #britishcolumbia #trail #joy #gladtopographies

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And we’ve rounded the famous cape where two oceans meet!

Where will the future take us? Only time will tell — specifically, next Friday, and the one after that, and the one after that… Go follow Glad Topographies on Instagram!


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We Are Here

Last Thursday Nikki and I experienced the loss of our dear cat Ezri, who we loved very much. Both of our cats left this world in the span of four months – we weren’t even over the loss of Lucy before Ezri departed in traumatic fashion. We’ll be writing a proper dedication for Ezri in the near future. For now, we’re still at a loss for words. That kitten has our hearts, and we’re still trying to figure out where to go from here. She was so young, and was such a joy.

I don’t have much to say right now. My heart is torn.

ezri
We love you, Ezri.

One thing is for sure, bad things happen no matter how optimistic you are. And though I display my optimism with great alacrity – positivity a banner I take into the many battles of life – I also could never be rightfully accused of being naive. On the contrary, from spiders to planes to, now, having my cat die of cardiac arrest right in front of me, I find it hard to be scared of anything anymore. That alone scares me more than anything. I’ll call it courage, because I need it to be courage rather than the alternative. Continue reading “We Are Here”

Appreciating Everyday Life

The normal happenings of each day help beautify our lives. They are like the trees planted to spruce up a city block, or perhaps a painting in a room acting as a fixture to draw the eyes. They may be hard to notice in the moment, but the sum of our moments would be far lass valuable without them. I simply appreciate that life exists and I am part of it.

In my introductory post for Normal Happenings, I said, “if you ever catch me straying, remind me to go back and read this post.” Perhaps this post should be added to that arsenal as well, readied for the day I inevitably fall off the wagon and start speaking incomprehensible gibberish that only makes sense in my own head.

I want to take this time of relative respite, while the big events of the past few months — things like Tracking Shells or the Blog Awards — to reemphasize what Normal Happenings is all about. I’ll call it a renewal of vows, if you will, perhaps because I’ve recently been concerned I’m reaching a bit too far outside of my writing core. It’s important I slow my roll and do a deep-dive into my own motivations. After all, over-ambition can get the best of me — a topic I intend to discuss in an upcoming post. Continue reading “Appreciating Everyday Life”

May the Years We’re Here Encourage Us

💬 Highlights:

  • Many live like they’re cursed by time.
  • Though times can be tough, it is possible to use it as a tool for encouragement rather than destruction.
  • Loved ones, learning, and art can make negative time a little better.

“May the Years We’re Here Encourage Us”

Volume 2, Number 4

Winter in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. can be rough, especially if you can count on one hand the number of times you’ve seen snow growing up. When Nikki and I moved from Alabama, U.S. to STL, we very quickly found ourselves feeling particularly down during the winter months. We are outdoorsy by nature, and when the ability to explore nature twelve months out of the year was taken away from us, we found ourselves experiencing “cabin fever” quite often. The temperature would plunge, freezing the roadways and making it impossible to even go to the gym or get groceries. Finding ourselves stuck in our apartment, we were forced to confront negative time.

Continue reading “May the Years We’re Here Encourage Us”

Positivity By Force

💬 Highlights:

  • Positivity is a learned skill, but it has become my new default.
  • It takes a lot of energy to be positive.
  • Often tools are required to be optimistic in situations not ideal.

Part of my pursuit of removing pretentiousness and bloat from my own writing. Sometimes simple messages are best told simply.

“Positivity By Force”

Volume 2, Number 3

I am an optimist, but I was not born one. I am positive by default, but it is a learned skill. I do it because I feel it increases the quality of life of myself and those around me. The funny thing about positivity — it doesn’t come as easily as negativity. Like how it takes more effort to smile than to frown, it seems reasonable to set my default state of being to within a standard deviation of neutral. The day determines if I fall to the left or right of that baseline — a slight push towards negative or positive is determined by the weather, the daily commute, or the current level of caffeine consumption. That type of life does not work for me, however. I want to be more than the sum of my reactions.

Continue reading “Positivity By Force”

Pedestrians of Our Own Lives

💬 Highlights:

  • There seems to be an interesting connection between forming our first memories and forgetting each day as an adult.
  • As we grow up, we lose our wonderment towards everyday life.
  • Avoid deriving a sense of purpose from life’s big accomplishments.

Minor trigger advisory: this piece makes a few sporadic references to faith. As we’ve made clear in the past, we have no desire to push those on other people.

“Pedestrians of Our Own Lives”

Volume 2, Number 2

Back in school, I remember having a friend who insisted that he could remember being born. He was the competitive sort, especially when it came to one-upping others in experiences and smarts, so despite my pension for giving people the benefit of the doubt, I am still skeptical. He is not the only one, though; a subset of the human population also believes they possess memories prior to birth. Sentience, without so much as glimpse beyond the barrier of protection that is the womb? That’s hard for me to believe. The passage of time, that sudden stream of memories flooding our brain, and our very own purpose — our first great awakening — it all comes together in a funny way I cannot fully comprehend.

Continue reading “Pedestrians of Our Own Lives”

What a Pessimistically Optimistic World We Weave

💬 Highlights:

  • There is a concerning obsession for pessimism in world slowly improving.
  • While not blind to the problems of the world, I strongly desire to make the world better.
  • Many Normal Happenings features this year will be thematically optimistic.

🎧 Recommended Listening:

Your First Light My Eventide, The Echelon Effect

“What a Pessimistically Optimistic World We Weave”

volume 2, number 1

Do you remember back in December 2012, when the world was at least in part convinced themselves that the world was just going to end? That, even after all of the little story arcs in all of our lives, Earth was simply going to blink out of existence. Books and documentaries of both prophetic doomsday and analytical reassurance rivaled each other on the shelves of their media marketplaces. The whole pandemonium seemed a bit childish, especially six years removed from the calamity of never.

Continue reading “What a Pessimistically Optimistic World We Weave”

I Am a Pollyanna: Personal Positivity in the Face of Societal Negativity

A personality defined by irrepressible optimism, even in the face of the most adverse or discouraging of circumstances. That, in a nutshell, is what the word “pollyanna” means.

Normal Happenings is a blog of unbridled optimism. Although I recognize and have deeply experienced the darkness of the world, I choose to encounter the world through an unbreakable positivity. I have no qualms about saying that’s a form of Pollyannaism, and a very healthy manifestation of it at that. I am not naive, nor unrealistic, but it my worldview of optimism that keeps me from sinking.

Flashback to May of 2015: I had just finished my first year of graduate school, proposed to Nikki winter prior, and extremely recently lost my assistantship due to misunderstanding and bad luck. This was an obvious section of my life that mixed strong positivity with negativity, making it apropos that this is when the word came into my life. It always came as a surprise to me that the word took this long to show up. By this point I was already making end roads of manifesting my overly positive personality, but more so my communications background should have given me knowledge of the existence of the iconic 1913 children’s book by Eleanor Porter. After all, the book inspired a great many movie adaptations and firmly cemented its way into modern vernacular. Continue reading “I Am a Pollyanna: Personal Positivity in the Face of Societal Negativity”

Light

– By Nikki –

I hear a voice more harsh than a gunshot whispering in my ear.

“No one will understand, listen, or care about you,” it claims, wrapping it’s arms around my neck and dragging me out of the existing moment I am participating in. I struggle against the weight of the constricting arms that are slowly choking me to death. I try to to verbalize what is going on, but all that I see is your hard face not noticing me.

I close my eyes and allow the darkness to overtake me.

I don’t feel anything.
I don’t have an opinion. Continue reading “Light”

Five Ways to Stay Positive

Coming off of a somewhat dark post, I want to reinforce the fact that this is an optimist’s blog! I am irrepressibly positive, or, as I’ve been called, “nauseatingly optimistic.” I like blue skies, music with eighties-sounding synthesizers, and kissing my wife on top of ferris wheels – something we haven’t done since we’ve gotten married!

So today, we’re looking at five ways to stay positive. It’s a simple message, no doubt, but sometimes the world needs simple messages.

Let me show you a little of what I know, specifically, how to stay positive. Despite my pension for delving into occasionally dark topics, I am at the top of the food chain for most upbeat person I know. I acknowledge the darkness that exists in the world, but I rarely ever embrace it. I have the confidence that everything is going to work out, no matter how bad things seem. I am not blind to negativity, but I’d like to think that I am, at the very least, sufficiently shielded from it. Continue reading “Five Ways to Stay Positive”