For me, being optimistic has never been a choice. Finding the silver lining, the upside, the teachable moment, the light at the end of the tunnel is just how my brain works. And I think part of why I love being a part of City Year so much is that the organization is all about idealism. It is about taking optimism beyond a positive attitude and shaping it into a powerful force for social change.
But there’s a reason that people often look down on optimists as not being realistic. It’s because being a cynic is easier.
It is easier to focus on what is not working. It is easier to complain about how the system is broken. It is easier to complain about how things are not what you thought they would be.
It takes strength and courage to look past all that and find the solutions, to work for change, and to make “what could be” a reality.
There’s a reason the first PITW that City Year has is to challenge cynicism wherever you find it. The education system is surrounded by and full of cynical people who think that the problems facing our education system are insurmountable or that the tasks we ask of the corps are beyond what should be expected or can be accomplished by such young people.
Like I said, I don’t really have a choice in the matter. Pushing beyond that cynicism each and every day is just what I do.
But as a senior corps member, it is always my hope that I am inspiring that same response in others. That I am nurturing the idealism of the corps and squashing cynicism whenever and wherever it appears. That I am building a team that knows it can overcome any challenges presented because they have the power to create the change they want to see. That the passion I have for the work we do speaks volumes about the difference a City Year can make and makes people think even this early in the game about serving another year.
Call me a cockeyed optimist. Call me an idealist. Call me crazy. It only fuels the fire more. I am giving a year to change the world, and nothing, nothing, can stop me!
Deborah Woo, Team Leader CYSJ