The one topic of conversation that has come up time and again over the last few months; between me and my girls, me and my girlfriends, and me and myself; has been authenticity. Keeping it real. Being myself. Knowing myself. And this movie just wrapped it all together. The movie was ‘The Runaway Bride‘. I watched Maggie Carpenter trying to find herself, trying to mould herself to what everyone wanted her to be, trying to find out how she preferred her eggs, and I realised that was me.
Okay, I never ran from a wedding. I only got married once, and I actually went through with it. I had my doubts, but don’t everyone? We loved each other, and surely that was enough? I am a strong believer in perseverance. I don’t believe in giving up. And when the cracks started to show, I set out all my effort to fix them. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I really wanted. In fact, I didn’t even really know myself. I spent most of my teenager and young adult life trying to fit into what I believed other people liked and wanted from me. Trying to second guess what way other people liked their eggs, so I could make the popular choice. Be in with the crowd.
I think it is only when my eldest daughter was born that I started finding my feet. I was 27 years old and for the first time in my life I had a purpose. I had real meaning in my life. I wanted a better childhood for my daughter. But I didn’t quite know what that was. As I still needed to find me. But it was a start.
Honesty is a strange thing, and somehow the person that it is most difficult to be completely honest with, is yourself. Because once you are honest with yourself and admit that something is not working (be it a relationship, a career of a something like alcoholism); once you admitted to yourself what the true state of affairs is, you have to do something about it, or live with it. At the age of 36, I finally admitted to myself that my marriage was not working. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life. Nobody gets married to one day get divorced. And when you come from a broken family, you are (or I was, certainly), even more adamant to make it work. But admitting it to myself and letting it go, was the right thing to do.
But all of the sudden I was all by myself. All of a sudden I had to rediscover myself, make new friends, learn how to be by myself.
It has been a difficult process. I have made some stupid mistakes along the way. I got into a relationship where I started losing myself again. I allowed myself to be manipulated mentally, and even once did an ‘online application’ to the man I thought then was the love of my life. And this is the second reason why I bawled my eyes out tonight. Because in my Curriculum Vitae, in the section listing my prior work experience I listed the following:
Marriage from November 1993 – August 2007
- Actually, on second thought, I consider myself totally inexperienced for the specific position, which scares the shit out of me…(ever the lady…). But, nonetheless, I decided to apply anyway.
- I have never felt this way about any man before…you make me happy, you make me smile through my tears sometimes, and I think I am the luckiest girl in the world to have met such a great match…
- Yes, I am scared, but that is not going to change, and I cannot think of anyone with whom I would rather ‘ride it (out) together…ah aah’.
- So… in the words of Maggie Carpenter: “I guarantee there’ll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is going to want to get out. But I also guarantee… that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. Because I know in my heart… you’re the only one for me.”
You see? There is Maggie Carpenter again. Even way back then, I realised there was a connection. I realised that we had something in common. Unfortunately, I saw the world through coloured shades and did not realise that I was being lied to and was living in a lie, but that was part of the learning process.
Today, I cannot say in all honesty that I know myself 100%, but I pretty damn well have a much better idea of the real person I am. One of the best compliments I received in recent years have been from a (male) friend, who said that I have the ability to make other people let their hair down and be themselves. I don’t know if that is true, but it is certainly something to strive towards.
And it is certainly a value I am trying to instil in my kids. I want them to be themselves. I want them to be authentic and real. I want them not to waste half their youth on trying to find themselves. I also realise that this is part of the process of growing up, but maybe if they have a sense of what it is they are looking for, it may be easier. It certainly made me smile when I received my 12 year old’s progress report last week, stating that she is a ‘free spirit’. Her teacher said ”I love that she is different, and proud of it!”
I have my fingers crossed. And most of all I am trying to show them what it means to be real. And for me it means admitting that you are not perfect. It means admitting that I have flaws and that not everyone will like me. But that it is okay. I have gained more friends by being myself than I ever imagined in my whole life. And these people like me just the way I am, quirky, weird, flaws and all.
And that is fine with me.