Dear Atticus, amazing things will happen

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” -Conan O’Brien on his last episode of The Tonight Show

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Dear Atticus,

At the end of the summer, your dad got into a television show that I wasn’t interested in. It was funny, sure, but it was so cynical. I said that to a group of friends and they looked at me as if waiting for the punchline. I am a pessimist, it’s true, but I like my stories with a little bit of hope, a little redemption. This show didn’t really have any. And it was uncomfortable to watch these people never really get anywhere. I want to believe in a little bit more than that.

Cynicism is closely related to bitterness and pessimism, which I am well-acquainted with. But cynicism seems to tip over into the idea that things will not get better. That’s where it goes especially wrong, I think, to start to believe that people cannot change and that there is no hope. I am often afraid to hope, afraid to wish for something better. However. Your dad is one of the least cynical people I know. If he has a negative opinion about someone or something, I take it very seriously, because he believes the best of people. He believes in second chances and change and the wide-open possibility of the future. We make a good pair, I think. I keep him grounded and he teaches me how hope can soar, even when I am afraid.

Conan O’Brien said the above quote on his last episode of The Tonight Show, after a difficult dispute with NBC. He’s back on the air now, and he appears to be doing a good job. A lot of people (including me) are rooting for him. What he said on that last night doing his dream job is something I want to pass on to you. Work hard, Atticus. Be kind. Things will not go just like you plan, but roll with the punches. See life for the gift that it is. It is full of beautiful things, small graces, lovely people, laughter. If you take advantage of all of that, Conan is absolutely right: amazing things will happen. The secret that he knows is this: they are all around, waiting for you to join in.


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