As I see it: My stubborn optimism

“Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.” (Photo by theseanster93 used under Creative Commons license)

By Patty Juliuson

“You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you? Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. English novelist John Creasy got seven hundred fifty-three rejection slips before he published five hundred sixty-four books. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs. Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Unknown

There is an interesting behavior modification technique called aversion or avoidance training. This training, used with both humans and animals, involves linking a negative experience with an action you do not want a person or pet to perform. The goal of the negative experience is to reduce or eliminate the undesirable behavior.

Sometimes life has a way of handing out a little aversion training, too. If you’ve ever received a failing grade, been rejected by a crush, or had your car towed, you’ve received aversion training. Some of those painful consequences are designed to eliminate bad behavior, others to encourage better habits, and still others seem like a senseless punch in the face that makes us hesitant to put ourselves out there, try again, or take a chance.

I have had some pretty powerful aversion training in my life. Circumstances have knocked me off my feet, people have slapped me in the heart, and there were times when it seemed God intended me to earn a doctorate from the school of hard knocks. By all rights, I could have pulled back, stopped trying, and protected myself any way I could.

But I didn’t. There is just enough of the stubborn optimist in me to believe circumstances can change, not all people are cruel, and, at times the hardest to accept, God knows best how to shape and mold my character and guide my life. Sometimes it took a little time to get back on my feet, but there always came a time when I was ready to take another stab at life. I was ready to pursue the career change, open up to the new relationship, migrate to the new location- in essence, throw myself back into living, ideally with some wisdom gained through simply enduring.

If you’ve experienced some aversion training, don’t despair. Know that you’re not alone, and that you WILL survive. GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Learn from the incident and, when you’re ready, pick up your feet and move forward. You may just shuffle at first, but soon you will find yourself striding toward some new and exciting experience or relationship with hope in your heart and a song on your lips.

I’m just optimistic enough to believe that for you. See you in class.