Knowing when it is the right time to write or not write, speak or stay silent, be with people or be alone, can be a lifelong lesson, and one we won’t always “get right.”
There are long phases in my life where I retreat into myself. I am a social person, but I have those moments. It is the curse of the ambivert. We are caught between two worlds – one of many outings and conversations and FOMO, and one of the sweet allure of the darkness of our bedrooms in the day and the company of a good book.
I need to stay home during these times, and to put it frankly, work through my shit. These are often my most creative periods, although they may be my lowest points.
For the majority of my pregnancy I have been sick, depressed, and stressed beyond my breaking point. In fact 2018 as a whole has been the year of tears in my life. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time crying than in several other years combined. I have experienced some of the lowest and most desperate times of my life.
The good news is, it hasn’t all been for naught – I‘ve learned how detrimental it can be to pretend to be something we’re not! Through the struggle I have evolved, and come to a greater understanding of myself and how I function within my family unit and as a member of my larger community.
Playing At Something We’re Not
One thing I’ve learned is that my purpose in life is to start things, make things happen, pinpoint problems in society, and find their solutions. My skill set makes me an excellent creator, leader, and a natural muckraker.
Despite my best intentions and my creative consciousness egging me on to it, my skill set does NOT make me an excellent entrepreneur, employee, or career woman, which is why I’ve spent the past year crying. It is folly to believe that lessons can come without tears.
That isn’t to say that we cannot develop skill sets that aren’t natural to us, but there is always a price to pay for playing at being something we’re not. And when we are, we can’t not know it.
When I was a Realtor, I dressed up every day in my professional clothes like I was going to cosplay. When I was a teacher, I felt like I was playing a teacher in an improv performance that went on from 8am to 4pm every day. And just like with all dress-up play, it was fun at first, but the game can’t go on forever. Eventually Mama calls us for a snack, and we put all the tulle and lace and sequins and fur and chiffon and glitter back in the box.
When we play at being something or someone we’re not, it never feels real. Throughout most of my life I have regarded myself as a crusader of authenticity, so this year of playing pretend has felt hypocritical and disingenuous.
As much as I like to dress up, and masquerade for fun, it is an entirely different story when I am doing it for real. I already have enough issues as it is pinning down my identity, so playing around with it is only more confusing.
It’s like method acting and then forgetting that you’re really the actress playing the character, and not the character herself. Many a noble actor has succumbed to madness and literally gone insane under these pretenses – just look at what happened to Heath Ledger when he played (or became?) the Joker in The Dark Knight.
So I’m here to say that I’m here to stay. I may not know who the fuck I am, and I may never know, but one thing’s for sure – I know who I’m not, and I don’t ever want to pretend again.
The truth is it’s not that hard to live in authentic alignment with our true selves. But it can be hard to make money doing it. It can be hard to find acceptance within our family and within our larger social circle. It can be hard to be ourselves when we feel the rest of the world wants us to be more responsible, more engaged, more obedient, or less impulsive.
Reflecting on what this really looks like can help. Ask yourself, what would I be doing today if I could live as my most authentic self? What would I be doing right now?
I’m sitting at my laptop at my kitchen table, with the morning sun at my back. I’m connected. I’m listening. I’m teaching. I’m leading. I’m engaging in short-term projects that set my world on fire. I’m exposing injustices in society. I’m organizing people to do more good in the world. I’m telling my stories. I’m writing my heart out.
We Have Time
The best advice I ever got in life is from my mother, who said to me many years ago, “We have time for what we make time for.” I heard that, and knew that I could never make excuses again.
It’s never true that we don’t “have time.” All of us have equal amounts of time at our disposal, it is what we choose to do with it that makes us say we don’t have it. But that is a syntactical trick. We always have time. It’s that we haven’t made it.
So I am sorry for this year where I have been MIA. Where I haven’t made time for my friends. It’s been a difficult year for me as I chipped away at getting that one piece of the pie I always felt like I was missing. Not only did I not get the whole pie, I lost other pieces in the process. It’s interesting. I don’t think we’re meant to get the whole pie.
This is the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Circle of Life exercise. BEFORE (left) I started trying to fix my career and finances, my circle was almost complete. I was not happy because I was missing career and finances. AFTER (right) two full years of trying to “fix” my career and finances… career and finances got marginally better, but everything else in my life suffered significantly as a result.
What I would like to walk away from this year knowing is that although I may have lost a lot of money, a lot of friends, a lot of sleep, and possibly a lot of sanity, I haven’t lost anything integral to myself. It’s not too late for me to choose to be who I am again.
To our loyal Gold Millennial readers, followers, fans, and friends: if you are reading this, know that you are cherished. We appreciate you. You are the loudspeakers that let our voice be heard. Thank you.
Have you ever worked a job or played a role in life that made you feel like you were playing a role in a staged performance? How did you reclaim your authentic self?