My goal in life is to live authentically. This is something I’ve been working towards for years, and in our age of passively being entertained by technology, and quick thrills (like fast food and texting), it is something that I have had to choose and teach myself over the long-term.
Choosing To Live Actively Rather Than Passively
I grew up with TV, and I remember when we got our very first VCR. I recall that prior to the VCR, as a family, we would excitedly keep watch for the annual showing of Annie on cable television. I also recall that the year that we got our VCR, we taped it, and thereafter, though I was quite young, the fact that we never again caught it on its yearly showing because we all ready had it on tape was not lost on me.
Before college, I had never lived with a home computer, but once I went to college, the pressure to have a personal computer was too great and I had to get one. It was, of course, incredibly useful for my school work, but it was also fun. I was in college while Instant Messaging (IM) was popular, as well as during the start of Facebook – back in the day when you had to have a college email to have an account. With my own computer, I did get lots of papers written and poems typed, but I also ‘accidentally’ spent hours IM’ing people with whom I had seen in person just a few hours before. The same is true for television – who here has never had the day sucked away from them by a Law & Order marathon? Everyone has – and that’s ok, as long as you don’t let it rule you, as long as it is occasional. I find that blogging – writing posts and reading other’s – is also addicting, and when planning just to spend a few moments to see if there has been any movement on my updates, all of sudden two hours seem to have passed and I didn’t even notice.
But just like I used to do after a night out drinking, after this lost time to the screens, I ask myself, “Is there something better I could be doing with my time? Is this living or just letting life pass me by?”
I love blogging, I like texting, I enjoy watching TV – but all in moderation, as with everything else, right? Is spending hours everyday in front of the computer an authentic way to live? I love creating something, I have to write, I enjoy editing my post and putting the finishing touches on it, and I get a natural high when I push the Publish button and see my final creation on my page, but is all that living out loud? Is it a way of keeping me balanced? Does it produce anything? Does it make my life more lived? Does it fill the space with things that I will not regret while I am on my death-bed? These are the questions I ask myself daily when I assess my life and how I occupy my time. These are questions that I ask myself to determine if I am living authentically.
What is Living Authentically?
To me, authentic living is multi-faceted. The biggest thing is probably in living a life I will not regret. I do regret things sometimes, but not often and generally not the big stuff even though it may hurt (particularly emotionally) or be demanding. Living authentically involves being present in the moment throughout most of the day. It involves doing those little things like stopping to smell the roses, or noticing the little things, like my two-year-old son following my example and stopping to smell the roses too.
Living authentically also means being responsible for your responsibilities – that sounds silly, right? But being responsible extends past just getting to work on time or paying your bills when they are due, it also means not making excuses and stepping up to the plate when you are wrong; it means smoothing over a misunderstanding – not because you will be rewarded but because it is the right thing to do, and choosing to do what is right just because it is. Being responsible involves volunteering with a volunteering spirit and being an active and positive part of your community whether you are planning for it or just participating in it. It means thinking about others first and often, even when you get little or nothing in return.
Creating something also always feels authentic to me. I believe in the Slow Food Movement – cooking a meal from scratch – soaking and long boiling beans, chopping veggies, cutting a whole roasting chicken into pieces – seems more authentic to me than sliding a TV dinner out of a box and punching holes in the top before microwaving it for 3 minutes. Art is another authentic activity, as well as writing for pleasure, making music, gardening, sewing – creating anything at all is authentic.
As well, sports – any sport – from soccer to horseback riding to hunting, is authentic. Being outside (though not all sports are) and being with other people (though also, not all sports require this) is authentic. Moving your body, knowing yourself, is authentic. It is a shame that though sports are highly esteemed in high school, players are often considered ‘dumb jocks,’ when the learning to trust your own body should be prized as academic knowledge.
Living Authentically is an On-Going Development
Living authentically has recently been prominent in my life in the aspect of seeking the truth for me. My husband and I have been having some huge problems, and I knew something was up for a long time, but looked away. I’ve come to realize that I have been denying things to myself for a number of years because I didn’t think we could keep it together if I addressed the truth. Does authentic living mean that I have to drop him because things aren’t easy and I’m not being supported on all fronts? That’s what was suggested in an article I read in Yoga Journal Magazine a few years ago. At the time, I thought to myself that it did not because sometimes marriage is hard and things take time to work out, but it does mean that since I have begun to stare at the problems straight on, I can no longer look away, and I’m not going to lie to myself nor let him lie to me anymore. To live authentically, I must seek the truth and we must face it if we are to survive as a couple. On the flip-side, in relationships of any kind, living authentically also calls for giving forgiveness where it is due, and trying your hardest to keep the relationship, because throwing in the towel doesn’t amount too much in the way of happiness; actually working through hard times leaves both parties with a strong bond and a magnified sense of connection once over the hump.
Living authentically most importantly means filling ones self with real experiences. What I was aiming for with the technology examples is that all that stuff is not real, not really. You can have friends across the world via the internet, but if you have never seen them face to face, you are still missing an important aspect of that friendship. As well, a blog is a beautiful thing, but if all the power goes out someday, it’s gone. If our world goes into a direction in which the internet is not supported anymore, whether for doomsday reasons or just that something bigger and better has been invented, then it’s, again, lost.
What are authentic experiences then? For me, it is going and doing and seeing things, filling myself with honest encounters, seeing the world as through the eyes of a child. I am so proud to be able to count among the things I have done with my life thus far: 1) Driving across the US, both ways, 2) Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras, 3) Organizing the paperwork to bring my Honduran husband to the US all by myself, 4) Giving birth to two amazing children completely naturally, 5) Being the one to be home with them as they grow up and beginning homeschooling my daughter. And these are only the major things. Authentic living would be different for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are able to physically go to Africa to see lions on the Serengeti or not, a local zoo is authentic. We live in an amazing world, and no matter where you live, there are local, natural and cultural histories abounding – be a part of it! Physical disabilities make that seem impossible? Even playing cards with friends is enough, because being face to face with people is authentic.
Living Authentically 2015
My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was ‘Peace On Earth,’ and I sincerely believe that continuing to consciously pursue living an authentic life is one step towards that. No longer will I accept lies – from myself or anyone else. I have also realized that part of my mission in homeschooling my daughter is to guide her forward in having an authentic life, both as a young girl and when she has left the nest, because authenticity doesn’t begin when you become an adult, nor end when you become one either, but continues to be possible until you die. And even then, who knows? Do you want to be an angel who says that they “watched a lot of TV” as a person? Of course not, so get out there and live!
Share your thoughts: How do you lead an authentic life?
For more on our homeschooling, check out my other blog, Seed To Seedling.