I recently returned to a call centre that I’d worked at a couple of years previously. It was interesting to see how much the workplace had changed in that time, both in terms of their policies, but also in terms of the people there. Only two of the old colleagues I’d befriended were still there and I was largely working alongside new faces.
Indeed, I was part of a whole team of new people who were working on a specific client. One who left a particularly good impression on me was a young woman who had a very positive an optimistic disposition. I admired that, but unfortunately, most of the people there didn’t take it too seriously. They often joked that she was naive, or that she didn’t know how the world worked, or that her perspectives would all change after a couple of years in the real world.
This quite resonated with me, because these are all things that have been said to me in the past and which (in some instances) are still said today. What I also found quite interesting is that while I shared many of her viewpoints and expressed this fairly regularly, I wasn’t branded as naive like she was. Perhaps her age was the factor in them dismissing her.
At one point, she was talking about how she doesn’t swear – something regular readers of this blog will know that I never do either. Everyone was telling her that she wouldn’t be able to keep it up and that it was unrealistic to think she could do that. It had come up once before and I pointed out that I never swear either. This time, she said “Well, Adam doesn’t swear either, why don’t you say the same to him?” and one person said “It’s just because he’s a nice chap.” But why couldn’t the same be said of her? Is she not a nice chap as well? (or ‘chapette’ I suppose I should say, but I hate that word).
I was only there for a short while (one month overall) and on my last day she said it had been a pleasure to know me, even if only for a small amount of time. I thanked her and wished her good luck as the only optimist left in the office.
She said to me that meeting me had given her hope. Made her realise that her optimism isn’t a naive flower growing out of her youthfulness, but a legitimate way to see the world. If I, quite a few years older than her, held all the same views, then she could hold them for just as long as I could and wouldn’t change and become cynical like they all said.
“Yes,” I said. “Don’t let anybody tell you you’re wrong to be optimistic or that you haven’t realised how bad the world is. Really, the world needs more optimism.”
“I worry,” she said, “that I might one day become really sad and lose my positivity and everyone will be right.”
“No,” I said “Everyone will be wrong. Even positive people are sad sometimes. You don’t have to act happy when you’re suffering. Even the most positive person in the world is sad sometimes. If you become sad, you’re still a positive person. At your core, you’re positive, but external factors may dampen it. But you have a positive soul and that’s all that matters.”
And shortly after, we said our final goodbyes. Though we didn’t exactly become close friends, I still feel that this brief encounter was a significant relationship – I am touched that I was able to give her hope and, honestly, her optimism gives me hope too. I hope that she will continue to be a positive influence on people’s lives for years to come – and I’m sure she will!