“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” ― Virginia Woolf
Like a blank canvas, the empty white walls are ripe to be painted with the blood of secrets. Within its 20 square feet, the DVR sings a soft hum blanketing the thin, concrete carpet, resonating an aura of sterility. Two chairs are positioned in middle of the tiny space, facing one another, intent on conjoining. Though there is little room for movement, the space is capable of containing a skywide expanse, joys, tales and tears.
The whitewashed halls echo the clamp and clog of my secondhand leather shoes. My stomach gurgles and churns at the silence of the sanatorium hallway. I open the office door, sit across from my client, his hands fidgeting, and welcome him, ‘My name is Kris, and I will be your counselor.” In this moment, I feel as if I have arrived.
You Can Choose Nothing If You Forsake Yourself*
We marvel at the immense force of minute change over time. A thin stream can carve a grand canyon and the dusty wind shaves mountains to plains. In a similar way, the minor events, emotions and thoughts of our life can wear away our firmest ambitions. What once made the sun shine can envelope into a black hole, sucking our vitality and those closest to us along with it.
Usually, we do not understand the power of these incremental alterations until looking back and piecing together a narrative. While there are times of pivotal change, when we widdle our life’s path down to two roads, these roads are formed by groupings of small steps. We are constantly shaping the person we are and the story we will one day look back on, kindly or not.
When the road splits, we find ourselves looking backward to help guide our next step. We begin to ask questions such as who am I, what do I value and what do I want to contribute? Each question remains open to a multitude of sufficient answers. However, we only have one life. In this one life, there are conflicting demands and limited time. There are demands of what we call the heart and those of society. While I am still unclear what it means to be true to one’s self, it appears that prioritizing our own needs, even at the risk of failure, is key to living a life of integrity. Without integrity to one’s own needs and desires, there can be no happiness.
Here are 4 Ways To Create A Life Of Authenticity that have helped me assess my dreams and kept me in line with my own sense of purpose.
1). Embrace your uniqueness. Our everyday lives are congested with road signs and billboards selling us preset destinations. Teachers, parents, friends, authors and advertisers each play a role in shaping the person we are and our idea of who we ought to be. Yet, wherever there is an abundance of choice, there is an equal share of confusion.
Happiness, or the good life, cannot be given to us, nor can it be replicated. What works for you is unique and should be celebrated. Though we all have individuals we respect and want to replicate, we must fight the urge in favor of carving our own design. The world already produced a one Picasso, Kurt Cobain, Andy Warhol and Miles Davis. It has also produced the sole existence of you. There is more value in one you than a thousand Picassos.
When it seems that everything important has already been said, remember the wisdom of James Stevens — “Originality does not consist in saying what no one else has said, but in saying exactly what you think yourself”
2). Be ethically bound to your passions. Our life is a collection of effects on the world. If we chose to pursue a life of mediocrity and dishonesty, we cheat ourselves and others of the richness of our potential. If we are not spewing fire from our mouths, the flame simmers into a meek heartburn.
Furthermore, whether we like it or not, others are watching us. Whether they are looking up or down depends on how we choose to react to this fact. If we live a life in line with our values and stand firm against judgment and query, we set ourselves as a standard. If we bend to the whims of others, we falter, often feeling weak and helpless. How we choose to treat ourselves and others impacts how we are perceived and the direction of our life. Be mindful of this and you will be one step ahead of the curve.
3). Pave the road, do not simply follow a route. We often chose roads based on their ease and directness. The road that gets us from point A to B with the least traffic and potholes suits our urgency to arrive. However, the difference between a trip and a commute lies in our orientation. Trips are meant to explore the unknown, accepting each roadblock as a means of discovery while commutes meet roadblocks with frustration and anxiety.
It is cliché to encourage the road less traveled, yet we often choose the well paved tollway. Each day offers a new sun and we awake reborn from yesterday’s dying. Mornings offer a fresh choice on which road to take, the trip or the commute. Let us discard the GPS of life in favor of the uncharted.
4). Embrace the freedom of the unknown. For many years I have taken comfort in the predictability of well set plans. I cling to the fading horizon hoping to find a new sun, only to have it rise behind me while I rush forward. I define myself by my future yet feel stuck once I arrive.
It seems that if we choose to live aimlessly we find it as jarring as a life of routine. We seek a sense of liberation through breaking and rechaining of our shackles. We create rules to break only to build structure from their ruins. There lies balance between the recession and inflation of our will. Similarly, if we look for freedom in either extreme, we become bound by our bias.
Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
The purpose of writing this is to expel my own fire, burning deep within my chest. Life is too short to spend laboring towards an end that negates the work itself. I am not a guru nor an expert on how to live. All I can offer is a viewpoint — an honest account of my experience. That being said, I cherish honesty, passion and vitality. I want each of us to leave this world with its marrow sucked dry and the earth gasping to bear our veracity.
In the end, we are not our career choice, the clothes we wear or even the ideas we endorse. Each of these are fluid. Authenticity lies in the wiliness to be vulnerable and positioning ourselves in such a way to stand for something, even when we falter. If nothing else, life seems to be the process of stubborn growth in the face of certain demise.