The Benefits of Pessimism

Hello, my name is Annie Silva, and I have been a pessimist for nineteen years.

It all started when I was born. I came out of the womb screaming, “Mom, did you know that the U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates among developed countries?! I am more likely to die in the next year than babies of many other first world countries!” Of course she didn’t respond, since she was under heavy anesthesia since I was a risky birth and she almost died from the procedure because that’s what happens when women get pregnant.

It then shifted to my childhood. A childhood filled of “did you know around 2,000 people get kidnapped everyday?” as my friends and I walked at night through the woods in our neighborhood. Or, “did you know that scientists predict a new plague in the future due to the rise of germs resistant to the overuse of antibiotics in our society?” as we walked to the school bus.

It turns out that a lot of people don’t like pessimism. On numerous occasions I have been called negative, dismissive and “please, for the love of God, shut up!” the latter being the most numerous. But I can’t help it! I see the world half empty, and there is little to do to change me. I can’t reverse how I think, so instead I like to think of the positives of pessimism (look, I’m already changing).

1) We live longer.

Sure, pessimists live in constant fear of the irrational, but their is longevity in incredulity. Guess who will never take their chances with gas station sushi? This girl. Guess who will never jump out of a plane asking themselves, “what’s the worst that can happen?” This girl. Because the worst can and will eventually happen.

2) We don’t take risks.

Although somewhat in line with the previous positive, this lack of risk taking makes pessimism financially responsible and dependable. I have never put my money into the lottery. I have never bet on something I was unsure of. I have never gambled unless it was monopoly money, and even then, Park Place can wait till my assets are firmly in order. Pessimists are dependable and responsible because we don’t take risks.

3) We’re realistic.

Not only am I pessimist, but I’m honest with myself and others. I know my faults, and I know others’ faults too, which I will happily tell them if they ask (and maybe even when they don’t). Pessimists dreams are never crushed because we don’t have dreams because dreams only get crushed! Instead, we focus on the plausible, the practical, the realistic. We are the people to go to when you need to be grounded and hit with a shot of reality.

But, as much as it hurts to say, we need optimists, too. The world would be a sad existence of grounded, realistic humdrum worker bees if only pessimists existed. The world would also be a chaotic existence of far-fetched, unrealistic crazy hooligans if only optimists existed. We need some people to build us up and some people to tear us back down. If I was not surrounded by optimists, I would never have pursued my love of theater. If I was not also surrounded by pessimists, I would have never gone to college and would probably be starving in New York City. The world is full of balance. The goal in life is to find enough from either end to create the perfect mix.

Hello, my name is Annie Silva, and while I have been a pessimist these past 19 years of my life, I also acknowledge the necessity of optimists. Which one are you? Optimist? Pessimist? Somewhere in between? Comment below!