There are approximately 1.2 billion squirrels in the United States, a number that puts the squirrel-to-human ratio at about 1:4. These numbers likely don’t surprise anyone who’s tried to enjoy a meal in 9th Street Park—a space where squirrels handily assert their dominance with both volume and weirdly heightened aggression—but for me, they’re overwhelming in their mundanity. And that’s why squirrels are my favorite animal. It’s easy to admire exoticism, to love snow leopards and dugongs and dik diks and all the other species that are far removed from everyday life, but it’s much more difficult to find something to smile about on every acre of land. I choose the latter.
I say choose because I have to will myself into positive thinking. After applying to creative writing graduate programs in the fall, I was so sure of across-the-board rejections that I had to see a psychiatrist for a new antidepressant prescription. She asked me to describe my related anxiety, and I said, “It feels like my heart is drowning in its own blood supply.” Optimism can seem like vulnerability, but it was pessimism that ended up damaging me in a concrete way.
I started hearing good news from programs, but I don’t believe in epiphanies. A better mood doesn’t equal a better me. I’m going to have to continue choosing squirrels. As The Sentry approaches spring break and the transitions that follow—including graduation, new jobs, and the training of next year’s editorial staff—I’m trying to encourage boundless enthusiasm. I’m bored of boredom, of people pretending apathy is cooler than passion. I want to see your meals on Instagram because I think it’s revolutionary to get excited about the daily mechanics of our lives. I want you to get excited about the things to come—and the things that might be.