Is it possible for someone like me, to “live authentically” right now, today? I have been asking myself this question recently, reading the novel The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan. This novel takes place over a 20th graduation anniversary weekend of Harvard graduates. A quick read with a somewhat predictable storyline, I felt the characters were diverse, relatable, and interesting. My favorite part of the book was the actual Red Book entries, where the graduate tell of the last 5 years on a page. Insights and false realities to introduce the characters. We all have the lives we show the public and the dreams which have been put on hold, forgotten as we march through the day-to-day.
We spend the years of our youth and early adulthood being molded by society, our parents’ demands and expectations, our teachers, our peers, where we fit in the family hierarchy, the location where we grow up, our interests, the media, our religion, the family beyond our house, and the unexpected events—sometime crises- that are thrust at us.
It can be years until we peel off the layers of expectations set upon us. When we are open enough to learn about ourselves, admit our dreams, possibly think about what WE really want—free of the plans others have laid out for us—we can be busy in that gerbil-on-a-wheel life of kids, mortgages, spouse/partner, aging parents, a stash of lovely friends, our health issues, bills, and the other minutia that comprise a life.
Our abilities and work experiences have perhaps led us down an unexpected and now-monotonous path. But in this economy and where we are in our family lifecycle, we cannot afford to change drastically.
I’m not sure there is a way off that path right now, so I will grasp the moments of joy, of exploring my dreams, while I can. I will continue to morph my business into something that brings greater satisfaction. Hopefully I can increase the “moments of authenticity” until they feel a more-integrated part of my life, not simply escapism.
As for my kids, I have been talking to them about me understanding the pressures around them, but they should think about the paths they want to take. Make their study, work, activity choices based on what THEY want to do to succeed, not what they think that we, their friends, their educators, the media, their peers (not always the same as their friends), and guilt think they should do. Not an easy feat.
And if you have a chance, pick up The Red Book. It might make you think about how to make your life yours, not someone else’s expectation. C