Writing is about getting close to our genuine self and the authentic way we see.
– Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning
When I a junior in high school my journal was a chunky spiral-bound notebook with ‘1988’ written in big black bubble letters on the cover. I don’t recall much of what I wrote but I know that if I pulled it out of my parent’s attic today I would be so embarrassed by how soooo in love I was, and how totally awesome or completely unfair everything was. One thing I remember clearly though is the words I wrote to myself on the inside cover:
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
16 years old and very aware that I was too easily influenced, too gullible, too eager to please, and so afraid to have an opinion that might set me apart or disqualified for not being cool enough. I don’t believe I was conscious of what being True looked like, sounded like, or acted like, but my journal did. My words may not have openly reflected this authenticity for which I was searching (wouldn’t be nice to have a manual to ourselves?) but I do know this: it worked.
I’m not saying I was no longer a shallow, self-absorbed teenager, but I do know that I made through those difficult years without completely compromising my values or my style.
While my classmates were sporting their uniform of rolled Guess jeans and oversized sweatshirts, I refused to wear jeans (except on Fridays). Instead, I wore perfectly matched outfits complete with vintage jacket and a brooch at my throat (OK, so I was a bit of a prude) or long “hippie” skirts and shirts belted low on my waist. While the other girls were hanging for dear life onto their shiny, plunging necklines, I floated through my choir solo and proms in beautifully home-sewn high-necked Victorian-styled dresses (thanks, Mum!). I was the first in the entire school to grow out my bangs (even though I could then be, technically, called a “slap-head”) because the look better suited my face than the monstrous hair-dos of the 80s. I hung out in the choir room. I was in drama club. I didn’t drink, go to parties, or wear a class ring. I was proud to be different.
(I do have to admit here that a lot of my “individuality” came from the inability/refusal of my parents to buy me Guess jeans or a class ring, along with the restrictions of the religious home I was raised in. However, I firmly believe that these “difficulties” were made easier to bear and adapt to because I wrote a journal. I was more self-aware and therefore confident enough to pull off the not-fitting in as not giving a damn, er, I mean, darn!)
Back then I had no idea that my journal was helping to form the woman I was meant to be. All the whining and complaining on those pages was my escape from the stress and unknowns of everyday – little did I know it would be my life line. While I could say exactly what I wanted in the journal I was unknowingly shaping the opinions that would suddenly fly out of my mouth in later years, surprising both me and my family.
I was also laying down a path to my future which was 20 years in the making. How could I have ever known that through my hopeless romantic teenage and 20-something musings I was actually creating the life I saw for myself as an writer/artist/”something out of the ordinary”? Scribbling away in my tiny bedroom imagining my life as a driven artiste brought me to the place I am now – a driven artiste and business woman.
At 16 I didn’t know who or what I was exactly but the whisperings were there. The inspiration to write those words “Be True to Yourself” – despite the fact that at the time I admonished myself for not following my own advice – was actually my Genuine Self tapping me on the shoulder. It wanted me to listen carefully to what my Subconscious had to say. And I even though I didn’t know it, I was listening, and I started very slowly to look, speak, and act like myself.
Prompt: Dear Genuine Self, am I Authentic and True to you?
P.S. For more information, please read my Journaling for teens article at Examiner.com where you will find other articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization, and almost everything in between.
2 thoughts on “Quoting Natalie: Getting close to our genuine self”
this is great! I too, live in Rutland. I have journaled forever, but unfortunately was compromised 3x with this passion of mine. My mother read it twice (once, she wrote back and told me what I SHOULD be writing, another time I was grounded severely for what was in it) and another, my ex husband read things I wrote and I have never felt so violated in my life. To have the 2 people closest to me crawl into my head and know my every thought was very traumatizing to say the least. Yet, I keep doing it. Needless to say though, I believe I censor my true self for protection sake. I just got a journal app on my iphone, so with the password no one can see what I write. I am hoping to be able to release my authentic girl and see where she lands!
Tiffany, wow! I cannot imagine being violated in that way. But what strength to keep going! I hope that new app helps you release your authentic one. And here you are in Rutland! It never ceases to amaze me how I continue to discover people surrounding me (even in this blue-collar town) who are searching and looking at life in a similar way to me. I took a quick look at your blog – you look familiar. I hope that we might be able to meet one day. You might enjoy the Yoga ‘n’ Write class I offer at the Pyramid on Thursdays…
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It helps to know I am not alone!