Embracing My Authentic Self
Shannon Ashley is one of my favorite writers here on Medium, and I finally told her so in a note yesterday. I enjoy every one of her articles that I read, including the one that I just finished, in which she says she believes she’ll be successful, not because of her talent as a writer but because she’s embracing her authentic self.
That is a quote to live by if ever there was one.
I’ve often wanted to change who I am, become this person or that person, and at the same time be more authentic. I guess you can’t really have both: you are who you are, and you can change, but if you lose who you are you’ll no longer be original or true to yourself.
I’ve often wanted to change, but I wouldn’t be my most authentic self if I did. But, it stands to wonder, how can I fully embrace my most authentic self if I don’t fully even know who I am?
I should know by now. I’m 25 and I’m supposed to have it all figured out by now: a published book, or two, or three, and a career, a home, a family. It’s also practically 2020 and I was supposed to have a hover skateboard at least ten or fifteen years ago. So when that never materialized, that should’ve been enough indication that life doesn’t usually work out the way you think it’s supposed to when you’re too young to know any better.
It’s September of 2019, and instead of a career I have a pretty dead-end job that I’m about to be laid off from anyway, two college degrees that I’m not using, a mortgage I have to figure out how to pay, no hover skateboard, and no published books to my name. At least I have a family: my fiancé and our love child, a sassy red heeler/Lab mix who will spend all evening trying to bite me and all night cuddling with me because she doesn’t know who she truly is, either.
But I guess all that’s pretty authentic.
To list all my informal titles, past and present, behind my name might look like this: daughter, ballet dancer, student, friend, girlfriend, intern, sister, student worker, marketing assistant, receptionist, fiancée, writer, etc. There’s probably more. And I’ve worn different faces with many of these different titles: I’m a different person with my family than I am with my fiancé, and honestly I am more authentically me when I’m home with him than I am when I’m visiting my parents or grandparents. I have to put on a professional persona when I’m at work, and while that’s always easy to slip into, that’s not always how I feel. I felt more comfortably myself when I worked at Arte Público Press than I do here, but that depends on which coworkers I’m around in the moment, and I’m a somewhat different person when I’m with my friends than I am when I’m not with them.
Of all of these expressions and faces, which one is the one that’s most like me? Even when I’m writing, a lot of the time I don’t truly know if I’m writing in my own voice or if I’m trying to put forth someone else’s, and that can depend on the writing as well: an email will be crafted to sound more professional than this article will. At least, hopefully.
“I write to discover what I know.” — Flannery O’Connor
It stands to reason, then, that if I want to discover who I am most authentically — I must write.