I’m sitting there, squirming in my seat. My emotions flash from sadness to embarrassment to hopefulness as the song lyrics slice at my jaded, 47-year-old psyche. At Creative Mornings, a monthly event for the creative community, there are about dozen diverse young people on stage passionately singing some of the most beautiful, positive, vulnerable words you can imagine. Some of the song titles are: I Open My Eyes, I Care Too Much, Song For All People and I Am Welcome. They believe every incredibly optimistic phrase they’re singing – and I’m struggling to follow along emotionally.
The group is called, First & Foremost, and they composed the 20-minute piece specifically for the Creative Mornings audience. As I looked across the crowd at the motionless onlookers, I could feel that I wasn’t the only one having trouble connecting to the ultra-positive, Broadway-esque performance. These kids were singing about the way things should be, can still be, might be for some? But, our dented and rusted lives can’t take the emotional buffing. We don’t have that optimistic luster these beautiful young people display on their fresh faces. I leaned to the woman next to me, who was close to my age, and said, “This will really test how jaded you are.” She stared straight ahead and said, “That is so true.”
It’s a strain for me to remember back 30 years ago when I was in their shoes. It was before the business failed, the foreclosure, the lost jobs, the crooked partners, awful bosses, the rocky patches in my marriage, betrayals by friends and multiple anxiety attacks. Have I allowed it all to harden my heart so much that I can’t find encouragement when it’s earnestly sung to me from three rows away? I know the answer. The hard part is what must be done about it.
Resolving the past is a great place to start. I was at a motivational event this week where we talked about the challenge of letting the past control our present and dictate our future. Being jaded is the definition of dragging the past along. It warps your soul toward the negative. It becomes easier to align yourself with pessimism than it is with optimism. We tell ourselves we’ve gained wisdom, a thick skin, savvy, street smarts, and other good sounding terms. The difficult reality is that we’ve also lost a sense of wonder, idealism, optimism, positivity, and hopefulness.
What to do then? How do you become “unjaded?” It starts with fear. A jaded person fears the worst outcome. Fear blocks the mind from being excited or hopeful. It blinds us to how close we may be to what it is we really want but fear will never happen. How do you overcome fear? Visualization and meditation. Align your mind with images of success – not failure. Affirm your power over situations and not the other way around. Trust that your bad experiences can still serve as signal flares if things start going wrong, but they are not the map you are now following.
Let the pain of whatever jaded you make you crave the positive energy of the way things should and can be. Visualize and correct your thoughts continually. Being jaded is a bad habit – like smoking or being a Republican. It will take consistent retraining to rise above the negative clouds in your mind. Just like smoking, if you hang with smokers your chances of quitting are low – unless they are quitting too.
Find positive people to be around. Find a jaded friend and become unjaded together. The reality is, if you’re over the age of forty, you have some level of jadedness that would probably be best to shed. If you don’t believe me, find a recording of First & Foremost and tell me how it hits you. Set yourself on a path towards optimism, positivity, and idealism that includes books, music, movies, art, and people who support your journey.
If you stick to it, the result will be a heart that is more easily encouraged. Your soul can be fed by any source of optimism – even a bunch of young idealists singing about life the way they plan to make it.