Sunday, January 19, 2014

Has It Really Been 20 Years?

The other day I got an e-mail from one of my former classmates letting me know that my 20-year high school reunion is coming up. What the fuck is that shit about? I know I'm not the first person to ponder this, nor do I think I'll be the last, but how it's been two whole decades since I graduated from Monterey High is beyond me. I still feel like a kid in so many ways.

No, really. That's not just something I'm saying. I don't and probably never will feel like an actual adult. I don't have any kids, I don't own any property, and I don't really have a career as most people would define the word. I have absolutely no desire to change any of this either. I'm a work in progress just like anyone, but I'm happy with the level of freedom I enjoy. However, all of these factors mean I don't feel much like an adult, especially when I'm physically around people I used to go to school with.

I've had limited dealings with my graduating class over the past twenty years save for the casual maintenance of long-distance relationships with a couple of my better friends. When I have been around them, I almost feel like I'm hanging out with my parents or something. They wear grown-up clothing and have grown-up hobbies. Concepts like day care, mortgage payments, and career goals are familiar to them... but foreign to me. They look, act, and sound their age. I don't. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, because being on either side of that equation comes with advantages and disadvantages. It just... is.

When our 15-year high school reunion rolled around, I wound up not really having to worry about whether or not I wanted to show up. Seth and I were still in Montana at the time and we certainly didn't have the money to travel all the way down here just for the fuck of it. However, since I'm back in Monterey this time around, I almost feel obligated to go. And after a little thought, I think that's OK with me.

When I first graduated, I never would have figured I'd want anything to do with any of our high school reunions down the line. I didn't particularly like myself then and I couldn't possibly have been less happy with my life or less optimistic about the future. I continued to feel that way for many years. I'm realizing that my attitude about high school and the people I knew then has changed because my attitude about my life has changed, even though I consciously still tend to think of myself as being a rather sour, pessimistic person who is restless and less than happy most of the time. (My pessimism is more just part of who I am than anything else at this point.)

I'm realizing I wouldn't particularly mind a chance to show my life off, to be totally honest. I probably will want to drop a couple of pounds before the reunion actually rolls around, but all in all, I think I look great for my age -- well better than average, actually. I'm a professional writer, something pretty much everyone I know envies on one level or another. I'm in a long-standing, happy relationship with someone good-looking, talented, and cool instead of still stuck in a marriage to someone I legitimately would have been embarrassed to show up with. I live a life that is characterized by freedom, art, and ideas in a way most people's wouldn't be. It still needs work to be sure, but the basics are in place in a way I didn't figure they'd ever be. I've come a long way since high school... and I'm proud of that.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On Living Authentically

Life has made me a huge believer in living authentically. I've just known far too many people that turned out to be something other than they made themselves out to be to feel otherwise. Really, there's private and then there's intentionally deceptive. There's not wanting to tell people things that quite simply aren't any of their business and there's keeping things from other people that they legitimately have a right to know.

I remember when social media was first becoming a thing. I hopped on the bandwagon just like everybody else and I fell immediately in love with the way I was no longer stuck playing the same old roles I'd always been cast in offline. For the first time ever, I was free to be absolutely anything and anyone I chose... and I guess that's when I finally discovered that the person I most wanted to be was myself. It was just so freeing. I no longer had to be that silly, over-dressed, perfectly polite princess other people had always expected me to be. I could have opinions. I could fucking cuss, dammit. I could just go ahead and be every bit as writerly and nerdy as I wanted to be and no one was going to try to stop me. It was a really liberating experience.

Ever since, I've been looking for ways to get to know myself better and to become even more authentic in the way I live my life and present myself, both online and offline. I like feeling like I have nothing to hide. I enjoy knowing my primary relationships are truly genuine and that I am mostly surrounded by people who appreciate me for who I am, as opposed to my "potential" to become someone else. That's exactly why I don't understand it when other people don't seem to feel the same way.

I'm beginning to think that authenticity is one of the most important qualities a person could possible ever have and a huge part of being authentic to me means being forthcoming with basic information about yourself. Yes, even online. People should more or less go by whatever name they use offline or at least a legitimate pseudonym that they've adopted for professional purposes. They should have real photos of themselves on their social networking profiles. They should be honest about whether or not they're in a relationship and with whom. They should be up front about what they do for a living, as well as all the other basics of who they are as well. People who don't do this really run the risk of my pegging them as people who shouldn't be trusted.

As anyone who follows me on any of my social media accounts no doubt already knows, I don't believe in making New Year's resolutions... but every year, I still look for ways I could be more authentic. Often that means identifying situations and people in my life that limit the extent to which I'm actually able to be myself and doing away with them. In 2013, my personal spirituality was a big focus for me. I also focused on living a more authentic professional life. I feel more and more every day like I'm able to be the writer I really want to be, even though I'm not yet quite where I'd ultimately like to be. Keeping focused on maintaining my ability to be as authentic as possible seems to have been the key here.

I'm at this wonderful place in my life that finds me looking at people that are living the way I used to -- hiding who they really are (if they even know who they are) so that people will like them more or find their lives more impressive -- and I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for the person I used to be, too. I wish I'd known a lot sooner that all it takes to build a foundation of happiness for your life is authenticity and simplicity. Everything else seems to grow organically once you have those two things in place.