A fried challenged me recently on my authenticity. Their challenge was fair. I have had a colorful journey through my life and knowing me, for those who have been close to me, I would imagine has been challenging, confusing, perhaps unsettling and intriguing. It has certainly been a journey for those that have stayed with me. This particular friend has been with me through the best and worst of it.
You may ask, what could have been so unusual about my life journey that is different than any other. I would offer back that my journey has explored most aspects of life that I could find. I have taken the time to explore both my gender and sexuality, even trying the fluidity of how these aspects of life can flex in an individual. I have stressed my physical body to and past the breaking point. I have explored my mental capacities in ways that only the mentally challenged truly are able. And, I have loved and hated in ways that passion may never truly explain. This all may sound cliché or like the workings of a novel but let me share a few highlights before I get to the punch line of this blog post.
Through my college years I struggled with bipolar 1. It took the support of several close friends to get me the medical and professional support that I required before I was able to contain this illness and explore the inner workings of my mind and psyche for a better more controlled life. Through this process I learned many different aspects of who I am and was. Among these facets I learned to love my life as an athlete. I began to push my body to extreme lengths and started to love the sport of running. This began to be a part of my identity; at times going to excess. As this became more comfortable, I experienced an automobile accident that resulted in the ultimate loss of my leg.
These physical transformations in my life led me to explore my personal being. I began to question the who and why of what compiled me. I had been through a very painful marriage in the course of these years and wondered if I had become confused by social norms and where my heart and body aligned. At this point I had spent quite some time writing for the local GLBTQ newspaper and was well integrated into that community. I began to take time exploring this alignment within my own life.
Without dragging you through my own personal journey in grave detail I circle back to the challenge from my friend. The questions became, what is the authentic me? I think the difficult part here is that it is all authentic. What is difficult for some to understand is that I have been authentic to who I am through the entire journey. While some individuals have a fairly straight path and a fairly consistent presentation of themselves from start to finish. Others must wander through brambles and up and down windy hills to find who they are and where they are going.
When I was a kid, I wanted to spend my life outside in the national parks more than anything in the world. My dream was to raise my kids in the wilds of Glacier or Arches, sharing the wilds of our great country with my kids. Today I sit at a computer for eight hours every day and watch zeros and ones fly by hoping to see an anomaly that might indicate an issue that I can solve. I do this for my kids because they are my true dream and my life. It took me a while to figure out that I don’t need to be climbing a mountain or chasing tumble weed through a sand blasted arch to help my glorious children appreciate the wind in the trees. More than that it took me a great journey to appreciate that all I wanted in my life was to help my kids start their own journeys.
So what is the authentic me, A parent, a journeyman, an author, a friend, a painter or life, a thinker, a husband, and anything that life brings me on my journey as it continues. More than anything, I am me.