I grew up with two parents who were products of the American Depression. My father Victor Snow was raised in a rural part of Alabama, not too far from where the University of Alabama is located in Tuscaloosa. His mother and father divorced when he was still young. Dad grew up with one older and one younger sister and his mother, my paternal grandmother, Sarah Snow. My dad’s family didn’t have much wealth or material possessions but they endured the Depression era with a lot of love for each other. Dad was super intelligent and earned scholarships in engineering to Rice and eventually MIT where he met my mom on a blind date.
My mother Suzanne was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Harvard and MIT are located. She grew up in bedroom communities outside Boston, namely Wellesley and Needham. Mom attended the Choate School for Girls and later Needham High School, and she could have easily attended college if she had chosen. Her extended family had wealth and provided much material comfort to mom, if not always emotional support. I don’t believe mom suffered much through the American Depression, certainly not like my dad may have suffered, though he never talked about it. Here’s the thing: my parents were eternal optimists, especially my dad. I never saw my parents ever down or depressed about anything. They had challenges, what with four sons and one very dutiful daughter (that’s me!) A few of my brothers gave them a run for their money, meaning that they were wild at times, but through it all mom and dad gave us love and support. I never doubted their love, even though they came from an era when one didn’t always outwardly demonstrate affection. Whenever anyone asks me about my good nature and optimism, I always credit my parents, my best friends for life. So read this recent article, “A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full,” published in the New York Times. It explains that optimism is a healthier choice. I believe optimism is also a condition of one’s culture. I come from a culture that prefers overcoming problems through sheer will and–here’s a key term, stick-to-it-iveness: colloq. (orig. U.S.), defined also as dogged perseverance.
So optimist or pessimist, which are you? Do you think being one or the other impacts feelings about politics and policies. Can culture influence a pessimistic or optimistic outcome?