Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Authentic: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.
Vulnerable: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.
These are two words that represent the cornerstone of my daily mantra, as it pertains to both my personal and writing life. And as you might expect, the remainder of this pseudo-manifesto will share what I hope will be a genuine representation of those guiding principles.
For those who follow me on social media, you know I offer passages from my stories along with quotes from philosophers, thinkers, authors, leaders, and other influential people. With the images that accompany these thoughts, I hope to provide depth, allowing you to see ordinary words in a different light, from a fresh perspective. While the authors of these quotes may or may not have garnered impressive accomplishments or noteworthy accolades, they are no different than any other human being on this planet. Whether we want to openly admit it or not, each of us honors a universal truth. We crave belonging, love, acceptance, and meaning.
But here’s where some of my authentic vulnerability reveals itself. The words I share and the emotions I portray through them might sometimes appear to reflect exactly how my life unfolds on a daily basis. It’s easy to assume that what you see is the complete truth, but it’s not. I write my words and share my thoughts, as much for my future self, as I do for you, my dear reader. Because we’re all in this together. We are each greeted by seemingly impossible struggles, endless moments of self-doubt, chasms of fear, and an unyielding desire to make a meaningful difference. To leave our own personal legacy. I struggle with each of these anxieties. Every day. It’s part of being human. I suspect that working through these challenges is part of what helps make our life’s journey meaningful.
For the longest time, I was unable to admit to others that I am an author. That I write romantic fiction. It doesn’t fit with what society deems as normal. A male writing love stories is not commonplace. When someone asked me what kind of stories I wrote, I would retreat into a metaphorical corner. I’d rationalize, defend, or explain why these types of stories speak to my soul. And remaining true to my two guiding principles, I still struggle with these admissions today. Too often, we see things as black and white. Binary. Something either is or isn’t. The truth is, there are few things in life which fit that mold. There is an intangible element to even the most logical certainties that make us question their validity and doubt their truthfulness. No one magically wakes up one morning and completely embraces a shift in perception. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and sometimes it’s a painful one.
No matter how much we might like to compartmentalize our thoughts and emotions into carefully guarded and separate boxes, things don’t work that way. We can’t siphon off joy to one part of our being, keeping it as far away as possible from fear. All emotions blend together in a messy and beautiful way. We try to make sense of ourselves and the world surrounding us by dissecting what we see, what we know. And sometimes we disregard something much more important: what we feel. We search for meaning. We grasp for understanding. We hold onto any shred of insight as though it’s an elemental piece of a bigger puzzle. And maybe it is. But the tighter our hold is on that desire to understand, the further we get from our truest selves. It’s like squeezing sand in the palm of our hand, desperate to not lose it, only to watch it slowly but surely slip through the cracks.
Our minds become cluttered by competing thoughts and an overwhelming desire to have them mean something. We are a servant to the overactive mind, unable to separate ourselves from what matters most, a connection with our elemental, authentic, and vulnerable self. It’s only through that self-connection that we create meaningful bonds with those surrounding us.
I was recently at Epcot, watching the lights on Spaceship Earth dance across its surface in sync with the music playing in the background. I wasn’t making any sort of concerted effort to be self-aware, but maybe it’s in those moments, when we let go without making a conscious decision to do so, that we notice the glow we’ve been searching for all along.
A young woman stood nearby, adjusting her glasses, checking her hair, and swiveling her head left and right, searching for the perfect pose in her phone’s selfie camera. There was a look of determination, purpose, and intent on her face. She propped the phone up on a nearby post, set a timer, stepped back a few feet, struck her practiced pose, and flashed a most brilliant smile. As soon as the indelible image was recorded to her phone, that same look of resolve returned, as if an invisible mask had been removed from her face. The physical person before and after this event was undeniably the same, but the emotional ones felt completely different.
That young woman could have been me. Looking back at all my thoughts, images, and posts, I can see where the pictures I have painted might appear to reflect some idyllic state of life, of a reality that I live each moment of every day. It’s not the complete truth. I do have moments where those guiding principles of authenticity and vulnerability resonate with me on a deep level. The composition and sharing of these very thoughts now are one of those moments.
Life will never be perfect. Things will not always work out exactly as we had hoped, expected, or planned. And we can’t fault ourselves for not always remaining completely true to the principles we hold most dear. We’re human beings. We’re constantly changing, learning, and growing.
I am an author. I write romantic fiction.
I never would have had the courage to speak those words a few years ago. And maybe it sounds silly that it would be so difficult for me to do so, but that’s what makes our human existence so compelling. We each have our own path and obstacles that block it along the way. And even though it doesn’t make sense, or maybe because it doesn’t, there’s an unspoken warmth in knowing that while we each walk along our own unique path alone, we are at the same time walking a different one together.
Maybe many of my thoughts come across as messy or incohesive, and that’s okay. Part of our journey involves veering off the path we think we should be walking upon, even when it doesn’t make complete sense or defies logic. Because those serendipitous encounters with an unexpected experience, either alone or alongside others, create those precious moments of authentic vulnerability that provides us with an opportunity to discover the person we were always meant to be. Find true north on your personal moral compass and follow it with the devotion it deserves.
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