Reflections on Authentic Living
While out on my morning walk I found myself reflecting on a short commentary by Ben Stein on CBS Sunday Morning. Discussing a conversation with his therapist, he brought up the very thing I have always believed in and lived by in my own 55 years on the planet: living authentically. Living authentically does not require a degree, or even a huge change in the way one looks at life. It only asks you to live from your own beliefs and not the influences of others. To be the person you want to be, without sacrificing your core values.
When I entered college in 1973, there were not many choices for women at the time in educaiton. Unless you were "gited" with academic valor and became a Doctor, Lawyer, Nurse or the like, you ended up with only a few choices. Teaching was one of them. I began my education at a disadvantage. I was not a good student. I liked all the extra-curricular activities that college offered, but not the classroom work. This meant I would not be someone highly thought of in the job market. Then, in my junior year, there was such a glut on teachers that were trying to get work, I ended up dropping out and trying to find other work.
As such, I began the most incredible journey into authenticity. Of course, I did not realize it then, but this decision, and many others led me to live my life with risk and reward. (and a bit of angst at times!) By leaving school, and working at various jobs, I began the journey to myself and to the manifestation of my authenticity.
The first years were not easy. I married, had a child and worked various part time jobs. Being a mother was hard for me, I was not mother material at age 22. But as a person who would do whatever it took to make ends meet, I worked in restaurants, retail and office jobs until landing a job in banking in 1980. As a young Financial Counselor, I learned the ropes of the banking industry and cross trained myself in other areas of the job. I became a Head Teller, A consumer loan closer, an IRA specialist and a person who balanced the ATM machine at the branch. I was indispensable! Or so I believed. The "good ole boys" differed in their opinion, and in 1984 I did not return after the maternity leave I took to have my son.
A wonderful friend of mine was adopting a child, so I took over her job as a Mortgage loan officer in 1985, and it was a job i could sink my teeth into, loving the work and the people I would meet. I also signed up to take karate classes and was in the best physical shape of my life! My parents shook their heads in confusion, as it was at this time i was already into my third marriage, and I was only 31.
I knew at this time I would not be living long in the New Hampshire, the state where I grew up, and by 1988 moved to Virginia Beach. There I did some more mortgage work, worked in a new venture with my brother, and learned how to do income taxes. I had finally gotten my BS as well in that year and now felt credentialed. I worked again in retail, in home sales, temporary work, and banking again when moving to Panama City Fl in 1991. This area was full of like minded spiritual people, and I grew exponentially in my metaphysical studies. We then transferred to Houston Texas where I lived for the next 7 years, and finished my MLA in Humanities, all the while teaching, home schooling, tax preparation and other jobs while trying to live my life in constant reinvention.
Moving to Arizona in 2000, I met the love of my life, aka #4 and then moved to Reno where I taught college English and also worked part time in various retail positions. From there, I moved again, to Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts and Seattle, where I currently live and found "home". I had never wanted to be born and dead in the same time zone, and I also never wanted to be working for the same company for year upon year. I embrace change obviously, and find comfort in traveling the "Road Less Traveled".
My journey is obviously not for the faint of heart. It also is not something I expect everyone to embrace. But my journey is authentic for ME. There have been travails and trials over time. There is no panacea for living in authenticity! It takes courage to risk the known for the unknown. And in making the conscious choice to try something new, we may confront road blocks and shadows we wish would go away! For me, it is a life worth living. It is being in a constant state of flux, of growth, of renewal and reflection. Each new thing leads way to another, each step defines the entire experience.
Many people have called me a gypsy, a dreamer, a rolling stone. Many have shown their confusion, disgust and concern over my choices. But those choices have led me to be the person I am. They have given me things to write about, to discuss. Stories to tell. Places to cherish. People to love. I welcome the ambiguity of life, enjoying the minutiae of every living moment.
If you ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I would tell you I am never growing up. I am what it is I wish to be all the time. I try on new things, new work, new learning and sift the wheat from the chaff. There is a sobering reminder when I see those who have lived in fear or doing something in their lives that they hate to do each day. I will never retire. I will only keep growing. My life has been spent doing all many wait to do until they retire. My life is the living example of "I am spending my children's inheritance". I gave to them when I was alive. I saw the happiness in their eyes, the appreciation of travel and time well spent discussing life and its bounty.
There is much to be gained by living authentically. And my friends, it is never too late to do so.