One of the sessions I attended at a recent conference was about resilience and optimism. The presenter said it was once believed that resilience was an inherited quality, but we now know that resiliency skills can be taught. As she spoke, different life events came to mind, some I had not thought of for many years.
At the end of the session, I shared with the presenter that I have always thought of myself as resilient but not optimistic. Her talk helped me to see that I am, by her definition, an optimist. I told her how, early in my life, I came to believe that every curse has a blessing. She said she had never heard that expression and then added, “You definitely are an optimist.”
One of the distant memories that surfaced during this session was when I started a new job and was getting to know a co-worker. She told me that she had been raised as a “Jewish princess.” Her parents had given her everything she asked for and praised everything she did. Her young life was idyllic.
When she turned eighteen, she moved to California to begin a career as a singer. She said that she quickly realized her parents had not told the rest of the world how wonderful she was. The new people in her life did not offer enthusiastic praise nor support her dreams as her parents had done. Her life turned out to be a series of unmet expectations and disappointments.
I shared that I grew up being told that I was useless and would never amount to anything. Nothing I did was good enough; I had no particular talents, and I was not smart enough to amount to anything.
I, too, left home at eighteen and quickly realized that the rest of the world did not know how incompetent and worthless I was. At work and church, I began to receive praise for what I did. Every compliment was a blessing, and I was filled with wonder and gratitude. My life has been more amazing than anything I could have imagined.
From the outside, my co-worker had a wonderful life—good job, beautiful home, classy car, lots of money—but she was not able to appreciate it. She saw what was missing instead of what she had. In comparison, I have had very little in terms of material wealth, but I see abundance in what I have.
Having started out with low expectations, I have been continually surprised at what I have received and appreciate the richness of my relationships and opportunities.
I remember telling my co-worker that somewhere between our two extremes was a healthier way to raise children.
Truthfully, I am grateful that my life has unfolded the way it has, even with the challenges of reframing myself and learning to see my value. I do believe that every curse has a blessing, and I believe that the best is yet to come. I guess I am an optimist!
Madeline Bialecki grew up in Detroit and recently returned after living in Philadelphia for twenty-eight years. She began writing about her spiritual journey and faith life after the death of her best friend in 2012. She likes to read, knit, bake and garden. She shares her spiritual journey here.