Self-actualization! I can't even tell you how many times I've edited this post, trying to find the balance between a thought-to-keyboard tirade and sensible, restrained entry. It's supposed to be about authenticity, but it's hard to write about. The concept is even hard to grasp.
Who deems what is and isn't authentic? Do I sound smart and worldly if I just say, "Everything's authentic, there's no such thing as inauthenticity?" That's probably my canned response, like, "Everyone's got their own authenticity."
But it can't be true. If everything was authentic, than I wouldn't bristle when pretentious aquaintances brag about their co-op parties and their obsessions with Uggs. I'm not saying Uggs can't be authentic, but are they? This is Austin, Texas, where the winters clock in around mid-December and the temperature hovers at 70 degrees fahrenheit. Is practicality the ultimate tell of whether something is authentic or not?
What about motives? Perhaps, more so than practicality, the motives behind purchases and life decisions are a better measure of authenticity. Do you dress to be accepted by a peer group? Even in alternative circles, there are surprisingly salient trends. Child predator glasses (not my term), dark hose, dirty hair. Okay let's look at something less tangible than clothing. (It always seems to go back to clothing...)
Life decisions. Are you in business school because your parents demanded it/expected it/"your dad graduated from McCombs?" I'm not trying to judge anyone here. I'll be the first to admit that I am a product of my parent's raising. I'm independent and strong-willed, but that's because my parents taught me to be those things.
So, if you do anything someone expects of you, are you inauthentic? Motives cannot be a true measure of authenticity, because people do many things with ulterior motives that are entirely authentic.
What's the final answer, then? I can tell you one thing, I'm not authentic. I write my little blog, tromp around in my combat boots and Seven jeans, chatting about the latest issue of Texas Monthly and how I'm "sooo jealous" of all my friends' internships. I'm such a poser! Like, mad-pose! I'm not saying this as a deflector, either. This is not one of those disguised, "See I'm really authentic but I'll play like I'm not to diffuse any negative response." I'm serious.
I want to be authentic. I want to be as bold as Marc Jacobs, as enduring as Madonna, as creative as Steven Meisel. I want to be a genius like Kanye West and be as infiltrative as Crispin Porter + Bogusky. I want the life of The Sartorialist!
Bottom line. I may not be authentic, and can't tell you what is, but I can tell what isn't. Don't pretend, and don't be pretentious*. Don't live a life of self-indulgence and selfishness. Life a life of consequence. If you live for yourself there's no reason to live.
When Christopher McCandless entered the Alaskan wilderness alone in 1994, he thought life was about self-discovery and the relentless search for "the meaning of life." Dumb! He's authentic, for sure--he died for his own authenticity--but his theory failed.
On his death bed, McCandless wrote on a page of Henry David Thoreau's "On Walden Pond." Obviously he didn't have any paper, but in the margins he scribbled, "Happiness only real when shared."
You know, I may have just figured it out. (This is a post about authenticity, so I feel I have to reiterate that I didn't "get it" five minutes ago--this literally just clicked, which is a happy literary coincidence!) Living an authentic life means living a life loving others. A life is nothing without a counterpart, a husband or wife. How crazy, too, as a feminist and civil rights activist, I shouldn't be preaching eternal commitment. But I am because it's truth.
The key to an authentic life is--please excuse the heavy-handed cliche--love. That's what it's about.
[Dramatic pause. Go read something frothy so you can absorb all that corn syrup!]
And with that, I conclude my second weekend post.
Ooh, I feel all fulfilled and crap!
[This is an offish new tradish. Every weekend, since my life seems to both peak and recess somewhere between Saturday night and 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I have wild new thoughts. Definitely more on the rambling side, but they're important. I had a rant a few weekends ago on personal style, and you should read it. There's even a hobo shout out! Wha-what!]
*I know I'm like, extremely pretentious, so just pretend Mother Theresa wrote this post.