I don’t like scary acrylic nails or plastic shoes, and I don’t like overly photoshopped images. I don’t like artificial cherry, grape, or banana flavoring and I don’t like disingenuous compliments. I do, however, have streaks of purple in my hair and several plastic IKEA plants greening up corners of my home. So, my authenticity requirements are a little bit fluid and loose around the edges, I’m not some kind of hard ass.
I have struggled to fill this space lately, there have been the Big Life Things that only get a passing mention here, and Unbloggable Things that don’t get mentioned at all (let’s go to lunch, I’ll tell you ALL about it). I wonder what having this quasi-anonymous place is for, if not to be able to write about those things!? But, it’s hard to be completely authentic, even if doing so results in lower anxiety levels for me. Also, perhaps it isn’t always entirely healthy to share every thought and feeling and frustration every moment that I have it. (Besides, isn’t that what Twitter/Facebook is for?)
I feel like the last several years I’ve noticed a particular shift online AND in my real life away from the more genuine and towards something that feels more plastic-y, more artificial, more–dare I say it–“styled.” And I get it, I do. The Internet is not the same place it was 10 years ago, trolls are everywhere and you have to fiercely protect your own privacy and family. Hell, I don’t even write under my real name, I’m hardly one to complain about others who curate their outgoing messaging. But I also miss the days before the pretty filters, and the lightening-brightening tool, and the cropping out the unseemly, the messy, and the dark, in order to stay true to a “personal brand.” Whatever that means.
I know there are plenty of places where you still get the Real Deal, you see all the warts and the cracks and the scary bits of someone’s life. It’s a super vulnerable and scary thing to do, to open up and show your true self to the world. It’s probably easier to set up a nice little vignette, three paragraphs of words, or an image, and retouch it a bit to present a shined up version, the “better” version. And sometimes, we all do that. We have to, I think. We all filter ourselves as we interact with humans in our daily routine, and perhaps even more so as we put ourselves “out there” via Twitter or Instagram or blog posts or whatever. I think we’ve all found ourselves unsubscribing from a completely unfiltered feed, it’s too much, too extreme. But, do we also unsubscribe from the other end of that spectrum? Do we put so much value on the filters and the visual tricks that we lose sight of the beautiful and honest core?
The beginning of a new year–calendar or academic–is always a prime time for decluttering and simplifying my life. I unsubscribe from spammy email lists like crazy, weed out my closet, and get rid of the piles of unnecessary and unremembered stuff that tend to accumulate in the corners of my house. Simultaneously, I am also trying to clean up my own Expectations feed, to remind myself that my imperfect, feisty, sweary, nerdy, ranting, defend-the-underdog core is just fine. I need to remind myself that it is much easier to be myself, the sometimes petty, sometimes jealous, sometimes selfish, oftentimes kind (but also sometimes not, see: petty and jealous and selfish), usually nerdy, usually serious version of Harriet that has pulled me through to adulthood. I am not perfect, and that is okay. Sometimes (okay, most of the time), I’m not even trying to be perfect, and that is okay too. Year after year I get slightly better at being comfortable in my own skin, and therefore more honest and authentic about who I am and who/what is important to me; it’s a process.