I was voted most optimistic by my senior class in high school. None of you who have come to know me in my adult form would even bat an eye at the nomination. In fact, most would say that it was a given. Once the glass is half full, it’s always half full. Right? But truth is a far stranger tale than fiction. Not only did my 17-year-old self see the glass half empty, I saw that glass precariously balanced on some slick surface seconds away from crashing to the floor, shattering into razor-sharp bits and pieces with its half empty contents running away from its protective vessel. If I ever did see it as half full, I was convinced that it was poison. I was the queen of emo before emo’s existed. I was the harbinger of ill tidings with a dash of poor me. Chicken Little and Eeyore all rolled into one cubby, ocular challenged, morose square peg. Always looking for a passive-aggressive fight, I was notorious for deciding it was down when someone said it was up. It didn’t even sway me when they presented the flow chart confirming the facts and statistical analysis in support of “up”.
So how on earth did I manage to win the vote? Ah – you see – I fixed the election. I stuffed the ballot box. Lacking in optimism never stopped me from being opportunistic. Now that’s a trait I’ve had my whole life. From early on, I’ve been very capable of using charm and wit and a big chubby cheeked smile to go after the things I want. Sometimes with a dash of “be careful what you wish for” – like the time this little toddler poured on the Shirley Temple charm on a train till I was given a Halloween’s worth of treats and an equally painful little belly ache.
In my teen geek-phase, curls and chubby smiles gave way to the power of debate and persuasion. And so it was the day the ballots were handed out. It was during my College Prep English class and seated with me were another 20 or so of my fellow classmates, mostly seniors. I wanted to be voted for something, anything really. I knew I was way out of the running for most beautiful, smart, athletic, school spirit, cutest couple, likely to succeed . . . as I read down the list I started to see that half empty glass until I heard the whispers. Those around me saying “Most Optimistic? Whats that on there for? Who’s optimistic? That’s silly. Why bother. They shouldn’t have that one on there.” Bingo! I had my “in”. I piped up to the whispering masses with my best smile “I’m optimistic.” There was almost a collective sigh around the room. As if I were volunteering to be this year’s harvest festival sacrifice. Yes! they all agreed. Cherish will save us all from the one title that was not already preordained. I watched as they scribbled my name in the blank, not caring one lick that I was about to carry a title unworthy of popularity advancement. All I cared about was being voted as Most Something or Most Anything.
So the votes were tallied and all the most beautiful, smart, athletic, school spirit, cutest couple, likely to succeed, and most optimistic seniors were gathered together in front of the school. It was one of the few moments of my high school life where I was standing shoulder to shoulder with the most popular kids in our class. Each Most, one girl and one boy, were photographed in front of the brick wall under the awning leading into our great halls of learning. There I was, standing next to our class president who towered over me. As the camera was raised, he put his arm on my head and I threw two thumbs up in the air with my best cheesy smile. The kind of smile that charms chocolate out of the pockets of fellow passengers on a train. In the click of a shutter, for one split second, I was most optimistic, and then I returned to my natural half empty existence.
Somewhere, somehow, over the years I evolved and the glass became half full. Not only half full, but half full with the promise of being filled to the brim. When Keith got sick, that never changed. When Keith died, it never changed. When Dad was sick, it didn’t waiver. When I lost my job, not a drop was spilled from that glass. Sure, I’ve had my stress, my fears, my doubts, my worries. Who wouldn’t? But my resolve to remain optimistic never wavered. And now I have before me my latest truth stranger than fiction. The breast biopsy results have returned – I have invasive ductal carcinoma – breast cancer. This blog, originally named “Keith’s Updates”, was started to keep everyone we loved informed on Keith’s progress. So it follows that I have added a new category – “Cherish’s Updates” – and this is the first one. All I can say right now is to check back again soon. All the information I have is the diagnosis. What I can update you on is this – that glass will never be half empty again. I’ve earned every drop in there. Struggled and strained to keep it half full, more than half full for three years now. I can do it till my last breath, if need be.
Sometimes, a camera captures in a split second what’s inside of us all along. Those two thumbs up and that candy smile that sits in my yearbook? Maybe my teen self knew I’d need to see them now. Maybe, just maybe, she knew something beyond her young age. Maybe she took advantage of her foolish youth to expel all the darkness and negativity from her soul back when that ugly behavior could be chalked up to teen angst. Maybe she knew that if she could add just one drop of opportunity to that glass, tip it over to half full, she would be giving her future self all the strength necessary to move gracefully from one challenge to the next. That by fixing the vote to snatch up a worthless title in high school, she gave herself the most important one that can be bestowed upon her as an adult.