A few weeks ago, I was taking the ferry back to the city after a gorgeous day spent in Manly, and I was surprised to discover, upon thinking about how I would feel if I were to leave here, that I would miss this place; this city. Not just miss, in the way that one misses the beaches of an all-inclusive in the middle of winter, but in the way that one misses the familiarity of chatting with a friend while enjoying your petit déjeuner served by les garçons at the café on the corner by the bakery with the amazing brioche glacée while the market buzzes around you in the square… ahem.
Where was I? Ah, yes. Sydney…
There are times when I still do not feel as though I belong here; yet, as I looked at the twinkling lights from the hundreds of little houses on the harbour while we cruised along the ferry route, I did not feel like a stranger just passing through anymore (Of course it didn’t hurt that on the way there I had a few tourists follow me to the ticket queue because I “looked like I knew where I was going.” The people turned out to be Canadians, because the world is minuscule, and we had a great chat the whole way to Manly). The routine of second semester has begun, too, and the inspiration of a new school year, while lacking the usual smells of September’s crunchy foliage and sticky grape skins, is driving me forward.
Earlier tonight, after another remarkable thunderstorm rolled in and then out of town, I went outside to my back step and sat for awhile, breathing in the amazing post-rain wet soil smell; the petrichor. Life is so much about scents, for me. The crisp air was so refreshing, the stars and crickets were out, and as I watched the silhouette of a small mouse run across the far dividing wall between the neighbouring property, I made up stories about the lives of the people living in the many-storied apartment building in the distance, where I could just see the varied lights, illuminating random squares on a massive grid in the sky. Then I remembered that there was a delightful cinnamon rooibos chai brewing inside for me, and I moved from one small joy to the next.
This past summer in Aus has been a fairly introspective one. It was the first summer in over a decade where I haven’t had a job, so I spent a lot of time by myself, and I read a lot of books. I always read about these characters and I think, “That person is just so cool. They are so true to themselves. They are Authentic. I want to be just like them.”
Oh, the irony.
I’m trying to figure out what authenticity means to me, and how to make sure it infiltrates my everyday. Suspiciously, a number of articles have popped up on my online radar that claim to assist in just such a quest. They throw words around like “passion” and “beliefs”, “uncompromising” and “loving yourself”, as if figuring out what you believe in, what your passions are, and learning to love yourself and be uncompromising in any of those things is as easy as reading an article about it. They’re good articles, sure, much better written than anything I’m attempting here, but I feel like authenticity is still elusive. I’ve been composing this post for quite some time, too, and I’m still not certain how much insight I have on the topic. Just when I think I’ve figured out who I am and what I stand for, something changes. For example, I recently turned 28, and one of my oldest and best friends from home just had a baby, and suddenly I feel like I’m not entirely sure I know myself as well as I thought I did.
Then there’s this picture I’ve seen go around on Pinterest a little, and it sort of irks me (I’ve censored it for, you know, propriety or whatever):
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
He also said that “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” If words truly are our most inexhaustible source of magic, why do reading quotes like this or how-to articles not seem to work?? Help me Dumbledore!
I think it’s deceptive and facile to do things for the sake of it making you happy, or to give up the things that don’t. I don’t think happiness equates with worthiness. Some of the most worthwhile things take a lot of really hard work, times where you regret your decision, times where you want to give up for being so remarkably tired and seemingly unhappy. You might get to the end, and you might feel at last happy, or you might not. You might never feel happy about it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have done it, that you should have given up. There are a lot of reasons to do things, I just don’t think happy cuts it.
I do, however, fully and wholeheartedly support things like happy ‘hour’, and those little moments in life that make things just a little better. Moments that, however fleetingly, remind you of what it means to be alive and to feel the joy of communion with humanity and the earth.
I need these moments, sometimes desperately. The things that need to be accomplished in this world are so huge, so monumental, that I become paralysed at the vastness of the feat, at the insufficiency of myself to do anything about it and at the lack of knowing even where to begin. It’s like David versus Goliath, except I don’t even know how to use a slingshot, and the crowd around me can’t even see Goliath so they think I’m crazy. I see images like this:
and I think about how late I slept in today (and yesterday, and the day before) and it takes everything in me not to despair at the mountain ahead of me and rush back to the bottom so I don’t have to stare at the incline anymore. I don’t think that’s the intended effect of that mug, for some reason….
Why it always takes such a circumlocutory path for me to remember that I believe in a God that moves mountains, that is directing all creation to His glory, a God who is bigger than my fumbling and floundering, my doubts and fears, and who takes on our burdens and loves unconditionally, is beyond me. Immediately, the weight is lifted. Joy fills in the gaps of heavy doubt and weariness, like molten steel over a crevice-ridden surface, and I remember that it isn’t all up to me.
I attended a lecture the other night, purely out of interest’s sake and a lack of other plans. It caught my attention because it said ‘environmental’ and ‘lawyer’ on the flyer, and when none of my friends could join me, I found myself sitting in a large lecture room on campus with less than 50 other strangers waiting for another stranger to get up and speak. I couldn’t possibly have known how monumental an evening that would be for me when I decided to attend, and I’m sure I don’t fully appreciate it even now. But it was one of those evenings that I am certain will stick with me forever. Perhaps a watershed moment, even. Time will tell. As I sipped my wine at dinner later beside the speaker, at a table with a small group of like-minded people who’d all been in the audience too, listening to the world-changing ideas go back and forth, the possibilities were palpable. Everything I’ve been working towards thus far was reinforced and I felt optimism surge through my veins (I’m sure it wasn’t just the wine, either).
I felt like I was doing the right thing after all, and you know, I felt happy, and true.
Hm. Isn’t that interesting.