The Least Sexy Superpower: Optimism

I don’t want to talk about superpowers. Clearly, if you talk about your superpower, it will–swoosh!–disappear. The first rule of superpowers is you don’t talk about superpowers. As my character Rose would say, “You want to bring on the evil eye? Puh puh puh!” But since that’s the agreed upon topic this week, then that’s what I’ll write about. Puh puh puh!

Defining my superpower is difficult. I don’t have great parking karma–I can drive for a good hour looking for a spot. I can’t sense the fastest line at the store. I never make traffic lights. My husband’s superpower is clearly his ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime in seconds. How I wish that were my superpower! If being able to wake up at 4 a.m. and stress for an hour about things out of my control were a superpower, we’d have a winner folks. Sleep is clearly not my supepower as, if I stay up late one night, I’m toast the next three days. So what is my superpower? While I can assume a Hulk-like rage in a matter of seconds, I’m not sure that’s something to brag about.

"This irrational optimism is infectious!"No, if truth be told, my every-day super-secret power is… expecting the best. For lack of a better word, we can call it optimism. Okay, all you people who know me in real life: stop laughing! I’m serious. While I can definitely be negative on a day-to-day basis, I have this underlying, agnostic, basic faith that everything will turn out okay.

This may sound a bit Pollyanna; of course not everything turns out okay. Bad things happen in the world, people you love pass away, Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. I can worst-case scenario the best of them. But on a basic level, things generally turn out okay. While I can predict doom and gloom with the best of them, I have this underlying sense that everything is going to turn out just fine. Maybe not great. But not bad either.

"I'm sorry, you've confused my genuine optimism for me being drunk off my ass!"When I was in Bulgaria, traveling as a twenty-something, completely alone, a little frightened, and not sure how I was going to find my hostel in pre-Internet Plovdiv, I knew it would work out. I finally found the place, met a brother and sister traveling together, and suddenly had someone to explore the town with. When I was debating whether to go to graduate school for Middle Eastern studies or take the job at “this little Internet bookstore” my friend had heard about, I didn’t know which was the right thing, but I had a strong feeling that whichever I decided would be the right choice for me (and it was: that “little Internet bookstore” gave me not just a decent salary, a small nest egg, but an introduction to the man who-would-become my husband). This will sound the craziest, but those twenty years when my writing was going nowhere, I still had faith that I would see a novel in print. Sure there were days when I asked myself, “Who are you kidding?” But deep down I felt it. Just like I know that the next novel–some way, some how–will sell, even if it’s not the novel I’m currently working on.

When things get rough, I remember the worlds of my grandfather (and, ahem, my character Rose again): “This too shall pass.” Things will get better. Eventually. And things happen for a reason. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s what I tell myself to get through those rough spots, in which case, who cares? It works. It’s my power.

My superpower isn’t sexy. It isn’t going to score me my own TV show. But it makes life a little easier to live. Things are going to be okay. I can feel it.

Puh puh puh!

Author: Jennifer S. Brown

Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at