The pessimistic optimist
I just read a random line on Pinterest that was “There are two kinds of people: the hopeful and the exhausted.”
And my first thought was Ah, yes. Zach and Ash. The hopeful and the exhausted. Sunshine boy and stormcloud girl.
But then I kept thinking, and I realized that wasn’t quite right. It was, in fact, a gross simplification of Ash’s character.
Because she doesn’t quite believe in the Inherent Good of People like Zach does, and we all know she’s permanently exhausted, but she does believe in knuckling down and doing some hard work to make things better through sheer force of will.
It’s why she loves working as a TREE officer–she gets to just solve problems and make people’s lives better every day.
Pessimistic optimist: she thinks the default of any situation is that it will go terribly wrong, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to let it. She’s here, and that means she can change it to be better, so pipe down because everything is going to work out, because she’s going to make it work out.
The real trick will be finding out if I can demonstrate this in canon instead of just talking about it
Thought (this probably won’t help, but I’m kinda channeling Vimes again):
Have someone question her abilities. Challenge her beliefs. Tell her that the world sucks and that’s just the way it is and nobody can do anything about it. Ask her why she bothers trying. Make her fight to show them that just because the world isn’t inherently good doesn’t mean it’s inherently damned to stay that way-–not completely, not if she can help it (?)
Speaking of pessimistic optimists, have you read The Silver Chair by CS Lewis? Because that’s exactly what Puddleglum is.
Puddleglum is a marshwiggle, a race of froglike people who are known for how pessimistic they are. Upon meeting him, the human protagonists are told that Puddleglum is considered overly optimistic by other marshwiggles, but their impression (and the readers’) is that he’s extremely pessimistic. He’s constantly assuming the worst. For example, someone cries out for help and he says “both legs broken, I shouldn’t wonder?” Every ominous sign means they’re going to die, and he seems just kinda glum about it.
But then they end up trapped in an underground country ruled by an evil tyrant woman with mind control powers, and she’s playing hypnotic music while trying to convince them that they imagined the rest of the world. There is no sun, there is no aboveground, it’s all just a fantasy. And the human kids are succumbing.
But then Puddleglum says that he doesn’t care if he imagined it all – it’s better than the world she rules, and he’s never going to give up trying to get back there, even if it doesn’t exist. And in doing so, he breaks her power and saves the day.
Because the thing is, Puddleglum assumed the worst, but he fought for the best.