Stories on Authenticity
Thousand Reflections by Sandbox
About Thousand Reflections: Sandbox is full of people from all walks of life and background. Here, we try to tap into this collective wisdom by offering a prompt bi-weekly and sourcing short responses from the members.
This week’s prompt
Tell us a story: about a time you were authentic, or not, about a time when you wish you had been more authentic, a time when you discovered what it meant for you…in short, a story about you and authenticity!
When I came to Korea, I had nothing. No house, no job, nothing but a few friends of friends and some appointments set up with some dance companies. I had a six month visa to find a job or leave, but that wasn’t a problem — I only had enough money for two months, if that.
When presented with this conundrum, most people advised me to just put aside my pride and get a job teaching English. It’s easy, you get a visa, and you make money. Cut and dried.
But it wasn’t about pride for me. I knew that I didn’t want to teach, and I knew that most importantly, I wouldn’t have time to dance. I’d be tied to a schedule, inflexible and demanding. My free time wouldn’t go to rehearsal, it would go to lesson planning, a task that remains to this day a frustrating and hopeless exercise for me.
And besides, I didn’t come to Korea to teach. I came to dance. I left behind a beautiful life in Cambodia to come, to grow as an artist, to develop myself and launch my career as performer and creator. It was who I was and who I wanted to be.
So I said no. Again and again, I said no. I ignored dozens of cries of “it’s not easy,” of “well, maybe you can’t,” and went ahead.
I am not a teacher. I am a dancer. And people don’t ask me to teach anymore.
When I discovered dance I discovered a part of me that had been asleep. I am a mix of a very reflecting and active person; long time I had no special interest in dance. Music made my soul beat but my body was ignoring this joy.
About 8 years ago I got curious about dance classes. I don’t remember how things came together, but I know that a Brazilian jazz dance teacher who played such nice music, a German contemporary dancer who explained how the body moves so precisely and with amazing kindness, the movie ‘Pina’ at which my heart awes in joy every time, are some of the things that encouraged me on this path.
Why talk here about dance? Because when I hear the music and dance I get closer to who I am deep inside. I am true. I feel alive, happy and need no other thing. Practice has allowed me to befriend my body, to allow it to breathe. Dance helps me connect with people differently and truer than in daily interactions. You allow yourself to be touched and felt and you meet the other in vulnerability and flow. It is a very honest and kind encounter.
I work in tech. Many Fortune 500 companies use the products I built. I love to dance. I go to Burning Man. I am a husband. I am a lover. I am a friend. I build community. I sell a card game. I stop to smell the flowers.
When I entered the professional workforce twelve years ago I kept the different parts of my life separate. Compartmentalizing helped to keep everything tidy. I got upset when someone exposed too much about me in a setting that I didn’t like. Life was a series of strings that were running next to each other. Rarely, if ever, touching.
It felt clean. I felt in control. I had different versions of myself that I could present when appropriate.
This separation did two things: It prevented cross-pollination. It made me feel less whole. It also took energy and mental effort to avoid entanglement of those strings.
When I saw that I decided that I rather wanted to be one person, living one life. Bringing the most relevant facets of myself forward at any given time instead of having stark separation. Rather being whole instead of disjointed.
Yes, it can be messier. Yes, it can be alienating for some people dealing with me when they get to know ‘unexpected parts of me’. For me, however, it means I can be more of who I am, whenever I want. And that feels just damn good.
I can’t (or couldn’t) understand authenticity so I went to the dictionary. First answer: “the quality of being authentic”. Very helpful, Oxford Dictionaries Dot Com!
Authentic, then? “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine. Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.”
Plus an existentialist philosophy definition, relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposeful, and responsible mode of human life, that, as a definition, doesn’t seem appropriate, significant, purposeful nor responsible to me.
So, I will write about the first, the one about originals and copies, because it reminds me my first full-time job. I was, by accident, some say, working as an auditor. I was told I was not tailored for that job, that I was not that kind of person (is that an insult for the auditors? I’m positive that’s not for me!).
They told me my role as a reviewer of undisputed origin documents and genuine financial reports didn’t faithfully resemble myself. And although those people were not entirely wrong in the assessment of my job-personality fit (much more important than product-market fit!), they were definitely not aware that I (genuinely!) liked what I was doing, as auditing is basically listening, and although I didn’t want to become a CPA it was something I would see myself doing for awhile, as I needed to learn how to listen.
Was I not being authentic with those people? Was I not being authentic with myself? Or is authenticity, also often defined as something that’s “based on facts; accurate or reliable”, contingent on perspectives and angles? And if it depends on something, aren’t there necessarily several possible ‘copies’ of the original version? Why are these alternative reactions, or personalities, of ours, less authentic than our traditional one? Isn’t it irresponsible to live without asking questions to our original self, and challenging it to resemble less and less of the initial one?
I don’t know, but I only worked as an auditor for less than four months!
I think from the beginning our core human pursuits remain the same — that is, our individual choices. I try to follow these in my life.
I always wanted to be independent. Luckily, I’ve found jobs that have allowed me to do that. I have the freedom to choose my work schedule, even sometimes working from home too.
I love transparency as well, though I’ve fallen into problems sometimes being too transparent. But in the end I can’t control what others think of this. I can just control myself.
I’ve tried sometimes to be solemn like other people. But it doesn’t work. I always smile, and I will always smile. I cannot change it anyhow.
This is the second part on our April series on Authenticity. If you enjoy this series, be sure to click the green heart to recommend and follow the publication so you never miss an issue!