What is This Weird Emotion I'm Feeling? Could It Be...Optimism?
Plus, our favorite articles from 2022.
Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times is feeling it. So is Tom Nichols at The Atlantic.
Last week, I wrote how I’m feeling it too, at least professionally.
But I’m feeling it personally too. Honestly, it’s been a bit confusing. I have always seen myself as a generally optimistic person, but these last six or seven years, I’ve sensed a change in myself.
I started to expect bad things to happen. I expected every single public debate to immediately collapse into bad faith and name-calling. I expected corporations to always make the most cynical, soulless decision possible — and for it to pay off handsomely.
And politically? Well, Michael and I first left America because it was becoming a place we didn’t recognize — and we no longer wanted to be part of it.
In my career, I started to expect that my latest novel wouldn’t sell, and the funding on my latest movie project would fall through (again).
But suddenly, I don’t feel things like this, and I’m clearly not the only one.
What is this strange emotion we’re all feeling at the end of an old year and the start of a new one?
Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve felt it that it is unfamiliar.
Wait, hold on a minute. I think maybe…it might be…optimism.
And why wouldn’t we be feeling optimistic? Lately, much of the news has been, well, good.
Fascism seems to be on the wane, and cold fusion might actually be real. Inequality might finally be going down, and whether the hellmouth that is Twitter is gone or not, its moment of relevancy really does seem to have passed.
Oh, and people are finally, truly ignoring the sad, pathetic clown at Mar-a-Lago.
If all that’s not enough for you, I defy you not to be blown away by this amazing New Year’s Eve duet between Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton — wearing, at age 76, what appears to be a see-through skirt.
The truth is, these last few years, I’ve wondered if there was any way out of our cultural funk.
Since I’ve been feeling pessimistic, I ultimately (and secretly) came to the conclusion, “Well, we probably won’t get out of this funk. So I wonder whether civilization will have a slow decline or a rapid collapse.”
Those don’t feel like the only two options now. I really do feel optimistic again, like maybe this planet is finally getting its shit together and maybe we are going to get serious about solving some of our problems.
What caused the change in me — and the world at large?
It’s so simple that it never occurred to me that it could actually happen.
I think we all finally just…got tired of the funk.
We got tired of the bullying, the pointless screaming at each other, the lies, the hate, the endless posturing, the willful misinterpretations, and oh God, the constant outrage.
But mostly, I think, collectively, we all just got tired of feeling so angry, fearful, helpless, and depressed all the time. I know I sure as hell have.
How’s that for a happy note to start the year?
But before we move on into this glorious new year of 2023, how about a brief glance back?
Michael and I never got a chance to share our favorite articles from the past year.
Here are my favorite articles that Michael wrote this past year:
Overtourism is Bad. But Tourism Helped Save Italy’s Cinque Terre. Not everything about tourism is terrible.
Is Rotisserie Chicken the Perfect Food? Every country we've lived in makes and loves fantastic rotisserie chickens — with one glaring exception.
Is a Week in an Italian Villa as Romantic as it Sounds? We have the answer.
A Letter to My Young European Friends Who Smoke It's absolutely none of my business if you smoke. But I'm still offering some words of advice.
And here are my favorite articles:
Can We Please Stop with all the Nomad Hate? Some criticisms of nomading are legitimate. But many critics completely miss the big picture.
Horoom Nights: Pride, Freedom — and Sex — in Tbilisi, Georgia Somehow I ended up somewhere I never expected to be.
I Accidentally Conducted a Social Media Experiment on Myself. I Really Like the Results I've come from your future to tell you there's a better way.
That Time Our Apartment Caught on Fire Our first year of nomading, I wondered, "What's the catch?" Later that year, I discovered what it is.
And here are some of my and Michael’s favorite other Substacks:
Writing from a spiritual perspective, Holly Rabalais shares the ups and downs of living in rural Mississippi, where things might not always be pretty but beauty can usually be found if you look close enough.
Michael — our resident photographer — appreciates Chris Arnade’s fantastic photography, but also the fact that Chris often travels to place very few others visit.
There is nothing common about Antonia Malchik’s exploration of what it means to “own” the land that we’re ultimately all sharing.
I've been discussing this exact "vibe shift" with friends and family of late. The villains (e.g., crypto bros, bad faith culture warriors, Musk, Putin, etc.) have taken a lot of Ls recently, which has provided some unexpected hope to close out what's been a decidedly tough year.
Here's hoping to some forward momentum!
Seeing Dolly and Miley made my morning...thanks for that! Happy New Year and here's to optimism!