Essay

Optimist versus Pessimist or What a Literal Piece of Shit Taught Me About Myself

A story from college on how a literal piece of poo caused me to realize that I'm an optimist.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” -Winston Churchill

I’ve run down the gamut of self-labeling here on this blog, especially of late. From fearful, to anxious, to chronically depressed, but I’m going to swing the other way and say that, according to the widely accepted definition of Sir Churchill above, I’m an optimist, and I learned that thanks to a literal turd back in college.

It was junior year and I’d gotten hosed in the room lottery- a friend I’d planned on rooming with bailed on me, so I got stuck with a bottom of the barrel number and room. The thing was a prison cell. The joke is that it was built to be oppressive since it had been constructed to host the Russians the last time LA hosted the Olympics. Worse: the Russians had taken a look at it and said “no thanks.” Really let that sink in. Beyond just the layout, I was surrounded on all sides by the kinds of weirdos that seemed never to sleep and always had advice for “articles” I should read about “what’s really going on.”

I hated it, but I was stuck. Thanks to RA friends, I learned of an open room in a much nicer dorm elsewhere, but room switching during the semester was prohibited unless there was extraordinary cause for it. Another Saturday night trying to fall asleep drunk in my room, I heard my weirdo neighbors making their usual noise, but this time there seemed to be extra noise right outside my door. I didn’t have the faculties to pay much attention at the time, but the next morning I found the reason for the unusual noise: someone had taken a shit right outside of my door.

I immediately turned around with a smile, snapped a couple pictures on my cell phone, cleaned it up, and sent an email to the Dean of Students requesting a meeting for Monday. I went about my day in a cheery mood because I was sure the turd would be just the extraordinary circumstance to get me the room switch.

It did.

I didn’t tell any lies: I found a turd outside of my room, and had photos to prove it. Clearly someone didn’t like me to an extreme degree, so could I please move to a different room? What luck that the room is twice the size and in a much nicer dormitory.

I recently got let go from a job I held for eight years. My immediate reaction was relief, my first thought was “I get to move onto to the next thing.” There are always going to be disruptions, storms, and shit in life, but they all become memories someday don’t they? So, move on and get to the good stuff. Granted, the good stuff becomes a memory too, but that’s another discussion.

The point I’m trying to make here is: how do you react to the turd? Because ten years ago I saw an opportunity in it.

Postscript:

I eventually found out the story behind the turd. It was the end of the semester, one of those finals are done insane blowouts. The British exchange student for the year comes up to me and tearfully apologizes, saying that he only did it because he thought I was cool and wanted to hang out with me, and due to a cultural miscommunication, felt like I’d blown him off- so when he’d gotten drunk he’d taken the poo.

When he told me this, the guy was sobbing about how he had wanted to be my friend and had ended up spending the whole semester feeling like the worst person for what he’d done when he was out of his mind drunk. Me? I ended up hugging the guy and thanking him.

We still stay in touch from time to time through Facebook, good guy.

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