According to Wikipedia, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than itself.
“Authenticity requires vulnerability, transparency & integrity.”*
The above quote is much easier for me to swallow, less easy to implement. I believe these 5 words wholeheartedly. I strive to be authentic in a non authentic world. This is not to blame the external forces, rather acknowledge my personal struggles w shame, fear, insecurities, social anxieties and general inability to believe in myself.
Supposedly when I was in 2nd grade I was the most “popular” girl in my class. My teacher showed my mother a diagram of some sort, of which I have never seen, outlining the social structure of the class. For lack of any scientific evidence, the jist is I was in the very middle of all the concentric circles. All classmates led back to me. Now let me be clear this was not because of any materialistic gain I had, I don’t think I had anything 7 year olds wanted. What I had was an open hand. I would be friends and play w anyone. I was a freckle faced, blonde hair, blue eyed tomboy. I could be found playing kickball w only boys, or twirling on the monkey bars w all the girls. I venture to say I was free spirited (which I hope for every 7 year old out there). What made it even more authentic was I didn’t even know it.
As I fast forward through the movie of my life, I can feel that spirit and freedom to be me losing air. Like a helium balloon losing its strength and courage to fly only to lie limp on the floor and kicked through the air. The summer between 3rd and 4th grade we moved from California to Arkansas. Saying goodbye to my very best friend, leaving behind the safety of the neighborhood and comfort of neighborly smiles and moving to a place I knew nothing about was devastating. This was my second move as a kid. The first one, to Michigan, brought me a brother but no real other connection that I can remember.
Stepping onto Midwest ground from sunny progressive California was confusing. I was constantly made fun of and told I talked weird, that I had the accent. Although I had never even heard the word ya’ll before. My dad had been teasing me that we were moving to Ar-Kansas. So, I used that in defense..who the hell lives in a place called Ar-Kansas. More fuel for the fire. Somehow I don’t think I was going to be in the center of the circle anymore, unless I was getting beat up. My new task was to find a way to fit in.
Team sports saved my life in Arkansas. I played indoor and outdoor soccer, basketball, swim team, little league, and began to learn tennis. I was a pretty good athlete and could hold my own. I felt like I could be me on the field. I was very competitive and my goal was always to play better than you…but you would never know that.
I pretty much learned to be a chameleon through this move and the next one to Edwards AFB in the middle of the Mohave desert. I was 14 when I arrived in this destitute, ugly, barren place. Tumble weeds rolled in front of our car as we drove the long road to enter the base. My body literally slumped. This was it? I was to live here?
Turns out Edwards was a rare base families did not move from. Due to the nature of the focus, personnel had long stints. In other words, a majority of the students had grown up together. I was called “new kid” for what seems like forever. Friendships had already been established, cliques long been formed. It felt like there was no place for me. I observed a lot. I just became who I needed to be in certain classes, during lunch..whenever. I had lost the fanatic by now. I couldn’t even be the real me at home, it wasn’t accepted. That I was struggling in this new environment wasn’t accepted. I turned to pen and paper and wrote poems, crying alone in my bedroom. This is when depression first danced alongside me in 8th grade. But I didn’t know it and neither did anyone else. Nor did anyone ask.
Now at 41, I feel like I want to foster the authentic fanatic in the real world. I was just in the hospital for psychotic symptoms. It’s taking me a while to bounce back. My mom is asking me what led to my inpatient stay. I cannot bring myself to be honest w her. Tell her about my beliefs that demons were coming to kill me, I deserved to die and god told me I was to be thrown away. The shame in the truth holds me hostage. If I truly embrace this bipolar disorder, own it, allow it, forgive myself for having it, will I be free? Can I then look my mother in the eyes and say, this is all of me..every scary and confusing detail.
I remember in AA they would say only divulge your alcoholism if it would benefit the other person, not hurt them or you. Is it the same for bipolar? Will sharing hurt me? I am tired of hiding and lies. This is me. Madness and all. A chameleon tells you what you want to hear to be accepted. There is no room for vulnerability. An authentic soul doesn’t compromise her true self and stands in the circle of vulnerability hands open.
It’s a risk. I think I will view it as an invitation to get to know their real daughter.
*Quote by Janet Louise Stephenson