Finding optimism in difficult times | The Triangle

Finding optimism in difficult times

Photo by Samuel Gregg | The Triangle

If you’re starting to feel like these “unprecedented times” have become rather precedented, or like the last four years have been like one really long, really horrible year, you aren’t alone. Lots of people are entering 2024 anxious about what the future holds and, as a result, feeling helpless to do anything about it. 

Maybe the state of the world has been snowballing downhill for the last half of a decade, or maybe it’s always been this way and we feel the turbulence more keenly now as we stumble into (or further into) adulthood. It’s most likely the latter, but in any case, it seems like with each glance at the news the world grows more weary, nervously anticipating the subject line of the next notification to light our screens. 

I would not make the case that a state of turmoil, even at this level, is something unique to this decade, but I would wager that we feel the pressure more than our recent ancestors did, as we are now so deeply connected to each other in a way humanity has never experienced. It’s also true that too many of us are so consumed by the bad news of our own countries to think too much about that of the others. (Hopefully I’m not the first to remind you that it’s a presidential election year in the US…again? Already?)

In the most difficult times, though, I think it’s important that we let things be only as bad as they are. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that we should “accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” Mother Teresa who told us that our strength lies in the small things and Hank Green, perhaps the true voice of our generation, who told us that although no one person can change the world in any significant way, “no one doesn’t change it at all. So, I implore you to find your own ways to make a dark world a little brighter. Hold a door, share some books, and find some bright spots where you can. Here are a few to start the year off:

The U.S. saw unexpected economic success in 2023, getting a handle on inflation and boosting GDP to the point where it is on track to reach the pre-pandemic predicted level of stability.

A blood test is in development that could be able to detect up to eighteen different early stage cancers– a novel, less invasive way to catch cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages. 

Though college enrollment is still down since before the pandemic, the number of freshmen enrolled in spring 2023 rose 9.2 percent from last year, mostly in community colleges.

The world’s deadliest pandemic might have an end in sight– the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS) announced in July that AIDS transmission can be a thing of the past by 2030.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are examining the effects of a fatty acid molecule that was able to inhibit Alzheimer’s disease in mice, according to a recent, preclinical study.  

Just over the weekend, hundreds of volunteers in the Philly area gathered to pick up trash, cut back invasive species, pack up care packages for victims of gun violence, and deliver food to people experiencing homelessness in the largest historic MLK day of service.

It’s easy to let the bad news consume your life– because there is so much of it spreading so fast. You might have to look a little harder, out in the world and in your own life, but the good stuff is absolutely worth finding. 

Good luck, and happy New Year!