"If I could grow up and be a hermit, there is no doubt in my mind that I would. I just see things so much more differently alone...and I love it."
-- From a journal entry dated October 6, 2003
Most of my posts come to me through conversations. About three years ago I was standing at a birthday party with an old colleague. She asked me about my book. Back then I was working on a memoir.
"It's hard, to tell the story I want to tell a lot of people will get hurt," I said. The whole thing was too topical and safe.
"Well, you know. But it's your art," she stressed. She was saying something I had been telling myself for a long time.
I don't give much value to authenticity. For me it is as simple as allowing someone to be who they want to be verses who they actually are. I don't find much harm in that. I think it is the dream and the desire that leads someone to become the person they want to be eventually. TV seems to consider "fakeness" the worst disease in existence, carried in reality TV host bodies. I can only shrug.
In Philadelphia this September I got a taste of the freedom authenticity can afford. I remember the moment exactly. I was walking through downtown, the streets were still shutdown for Pope Francis. Mass was slowing to an end. I drifted toward a coffee shop, got a drink and sat in the window. I was experiencing an emotion I'd never felt before -- a strange, unfamiliar acceptance of self. I was quite frankly afraid because I had been afraid of it for a long time. But I felt free. For about twenty minutes I had successfully let go of an idea simmering since I'd arrived in New York: the worry of being disliked for being myself. People say all the time, "But your blog is so open," and I want to tell them that is just the surface.
I remember as a child writing in my diaries that if anyone "knew the real me" they'd hate me. But even in my teens, I recognized my need to tell a true, complete story when writing about my life. Someday I'd need to sacrifice my relationships, my friends, my relatives and after everyone in my world hated me, then I could go to my cabin in the woods and become a hermit. The plan was to die there, completely satisfied with the cathartic exposing of myself. The burdens off my back.
I know that exposing one's life might not save me. Art, won't save me. But everyday I become more and more comfortable with revealing more of myself, and with it comes the small feeling of weightlessness I've desired. I wonder if that's what this really is? Is this how everyone feels all the time? I just look up and tell myself, "I can't wait to get there." I ride in taxis in new cities all alone, and I wonder if all my solo trips are just to satiate that 18-year-old wish to disappear completely? If I circle the thought long enough I realize they aren't vacations.
They're dry runs.