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The Struggle for Authenticity

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I'm reading Brené Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, and she talks about some interesting topics. I want to take the opportunity to talk about some of the stuff that made me think while reading this book. One thing she talks about is the struggle for authenticity vs worrying about what will people say. She says, "... choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we're supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking."

It is; but I have to admit I had a head start. Living in a culture you haven't grown up in forces you to examine all of the stuff you think you should do, and all of the stuff people around you think you should do, with a magnifying glass. My partner and I were never "classic Israeli" in the sense that we never felt right in the Israeli culture of being in your face about every little thing. But we still grew up in that culture. So when we came to Canada everything from saying good morning to the cashier at the grocery shop (almost never done in Israel) to giving right-of-way on the road (never done, and if you do it the driver behind you will honk incessantly until they pass you on the inside lane going 30 km/h above the speed limit) had to be reexamined. We had to figure out for ourselves which traditions and habits we wanted to keep (big family and friends meals whenever possible, friends coming over without notice, saying what I think and not something around what I think) and which new habits we wanted to adopt (holding the door, saying please and thank you, planning ahead). So, for us, what society dictated was rather up for us.

But it's still a struggle. I wrote before about joining the local library reading group and how excellent it is to be able to do it when it's run at noon on Fridays. What I haven't written about is how hard it is to be the only person under 65 in the room. I've written about my PhD research (a lot) and several aspects of the PhD. What I haven't written about is how hard it was to be closer in age to my academic supervisor than I was to my classmates, because I served in the army for two years and moved to a different continent while they streamlined their MA and BA after high school. I usually laugh about it and say I'm an old soul (and I am; always were), or that being around the "kids" (aka other students) keeps me young. But it's hard to always be the odd one out.

I've written about how I love being a writer and not having a day job, but I haven't written about how difficult it is to battle people's raised eyebrows (real or imagined) or battle that inner voice in your head, who is probably your grandma, telling you that you're a lazy bum. How difficult it is to keep convincing yourself that you're not indulging, you're authentic. And still, more often than not, have that little voice in the back of your brain saying, but what if you're just saying that? What if you really are just indulging? What if you're nothing but a lazy, spoiled brat? By the way, thanks for the work ethics, grandma.


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