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?