Steven Ivory: The Case For Optimism

    Optimism – Depositphotos

    *If you take nothing else from what you read here–if you get no further than this sentence–know that everything is going to be all right.

    To be sure, any day in America can resemble a surreal Netflix drama where there’s yet another insurmountable crisis to battle every week.

    If it’s not our bizarre politics or seething bigotry, it’s rampant crime, inflation, and homelessness. It’s climate change and horrific natural disasters; war and rumors of war, all of it happening against the eerie backdrop of an ebbing pandemic. A nation stressed out, we’re going through more emotional and physical changes than Buddy Miles.

    And yet, people still obey traffic lights.

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    They do so of their own volition, without direct supervision of authority or chaperon. We laugh with strangers in parking lots.  Help others in need.  We share a cordial camaraderie. These casual acts of abidance and goodwill reflect a society that still believes in doing the right thing.

    There’s something else going on, too, an inspired happening that upon first thought is dumbfounding:  Despite the world’s folly, people are doing their thing– making positive, life-altering moves and with fervor committing themselves to their ambitions and dreams.

    These people traded procrastination for acceleration. No more disrespecting life dreams. They’re making their physical and mental health a priority. They are freeing themselves of toxic relationships. They’re launching businesses.  They are doing what they’ve said they will do.

    People have always done these things; life is about change and growth. Today, however, this appears to be a wave in direct defiance of Bad Times. People are stirred.  They are daring to move forward, and they are winning. It’s clear: If there are positive changes you want to make in your life, right now is the time to do it.

    Success – Depositphotos

    Why now? Because life’s proverbial pendulum really does swing both ways and here that pendulum comes right now,  swinging back toward us out from all that darkness into the light, at the speed of redemption. Because a flower, in unremitting defiance of concrete, somehow always manages to bloom between the cracks. Because there’s something about tough times that inspires human ambition.

    And because if not now, when? When do things get back to “normal”?  A world constantly in stunning chaotic flux IS our new normal.

    Besides, at the risk of sounding as if I were born in a log cabin, I’ve lived through enough variations of the things we endure today to know that tough times don’t last.

    I can remember when polio, not Covid-19, was the monster illness. At Carter G. Woodson Elementary, in Oklahoma City, where I was born and raised, the entire student body lined up in the hall outside the nurse’s office.  Vaccine?  We were thrilled just to get that sugar cube in which it was administered.

    America’s support of Ukraine has Putin inferring the possibility of nuclear war, but the closest we came to that happened in 1962, when, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we demanded Russia take their secretly installed nuclear missiles out of Cuba (just 90 miles from our shores) or else. Ultimately, Russia blinked, removing the nukes.

    We’ve seen our share of riots, assassinations (John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy), government corruption (Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair come to mind), 9/11, and national disasters.  We got through all those things, and we’ll get through today’s events.

    We’ve always risen to meet insurmountable.  Just as great ideas and concepts were born during the pandemic lockdown, some of America’s most renowned corporations,  including Kellogg’s, Marx Toys, Procter & Gamble, and Ocean Spray, as well as many mom-and-pop businesses across the country, were either launched or excelled during the Great Depression of 1929. How did these entities and others do it? They simply chose to operate as if the nation wasn’t in the middle of an economic crisis. When the storm passed, those were the companies that survived and thrived.

    Indeed, there is but one force standing in the way of your aspirations, a power more formidable than any of the aforementioned: Fear.

    Fear is usually what keeps us from the pursuit of our passions.  This mighty emotion comes in several strains: There’s the fear of failure—the irrational notion that if you don’t try, you can’t fail. Then there’s the fear of succeeding, as in, “I don’t deserve success.” You can fear doing the actual work involved; that’s called laziness. The only thing to truly fear is that your procrastination could rob you of your dreams. The bogeyman you fear is you.


    Everything is on your side.

    Don’t take my word for it, look around. Despite discouraging headlines, great and exciting things are going down.

    People are following their hearts and finding joy and fulfillment in their application.

    It’s time for you to follow your heart with dedicated effort.  If you don’t, the second you leave here, you’re going to realize how easy it was, and how much you deserved the goodness.

    Steven Ivory

    Steven Ivory, journalist, essayist, and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Reach him at

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