Based on hundreds of late night texts, wine-driven dinners in Chicago, and Facetime sessions with my closest friends, 2017 was a rough one. In fact, I’m pretty confident that all of us would gladly gloss over bits and pieces, if not a majority, of the events of the year. However, being the eternal optimist and self-reflector that I am, I had to find a silver lining to the year of a thousand WTFs.
Recently, someone categorized 2017 as a year of “highs and lows for Jessica.” Although it was impossibly difficult for me to hear at the time, I really can’t agree with the summary more. It was a year of amazing highs and deeply disappointing lows. The difficulty in hearing it came from having to accept what it actually meant—it meant the year wasn’t perfect. It meant I wasn’t perfect. Everything didn’t play out exactly as I’d imagined. Some things went horribly wrong. It was upsetting. It was depressing. At times, it was earth shattering.
You’re probably wondering where the hell a silver lining could exist in all of this. Well, with every setback there comes some sort of lesson. For me, that lesson was learning the true meaning of living an authentic life and not getting sucked into the “supposed tos.” It’s a lesson I thought I’d learned a few years ago after going through some massive life changes, but clearly I was wrong. I may have heard the message back then, but as any educator will tell you, sometimes it takes exhaustive practice to master a skill.
So, what does it mean to live authentically? Summing up countless articles and philosophers, authenticity is being one’s true self, unrestricted, and relentlessly. It’s about being genuine, honest, and just plain real. It means being a neurotic mess when you have to be, or being proud as hell over the tiniest accomplishment. It means letting yourself feel every ounce of emotion you can, and knowing why you feel the way you do. But most of all, it means figuring out who you are at your core, not just who you are in the expectations of others.
You know those “supposed tos” I mentioned earlier? Well, those guys are debilitating to true authenticity. They’re the grocery list of accomplishments we all brainwash ourselves in thinking we’re supposed to hit, followed by a far less talked about list of things we’re supposed to avoid.
College—hit. Take a year off to follow a band—avoid. Marriage—hit. Babies—hit. Traditional 40 hour a week job with a pension—hit. Divorce, becoming a cat lady, existing as a starving artist—avoid, avoid, avoid.
Yes, a lot of the “hits” have amazing benefits, and even more of the “avoids” have serious pain associated to them. But living a truly authentic life means finding out who you really are amongst all the hits and misses, not who or what you think you’re supposed to be. Being authentic means when someone asks you who you are, you don’t just answer with what you do for a living or what role you play in your family. It means knowing what moves you, knowing what you believe in, and allowing yourself to be that person—faults and all.
What I learned from my year of highs and lows is that when I stayed true to my authenticity, things may not have always played out the way I wanted them to, but they always reminded me of the person I really am and the person I want to become. Each time I was true to myself, I learned who and what was meant for me, and the people and things that weren’t. My hope for all of us in 2018 is that we take the time to put the pain, guilt, regret, and disappointment from years past aside, forgive ourselves for any missteps or mistakes, embrace the people and things that are still close to us, and remember who we are at our cores.
So, who am I?
I’m a passionate and opinionated woman, with a creative mind and fragile heart, who’s not afraid to dream big or fight for what I want. I believe in loyalty, empathy, relentless ambition, and unconditional love. I’m a series of mistakes and victories, but proud of every one of them because they mean I’m still learning—I’m still a work in progress.
So, tell me, who are you? #authenticallyme2018