Being Authentic, Cue Diana Ross
“I’m coming out. I want the world to know, got to let it show.”
Since 1980, Diana Ross’s rallying cry disco hit has been one of a series of earworm-y songs running on a loop in my head. (Just added: The shamelessly addictive soundtrack to Kinky Boots. Make it stop!)
In our third week of TueNight.com, “Coming Out” has re-entered my brain playlist. I think because I want this site to be a sort of a coming out: a culmination of who I am, who we are as mid-life/ gen-x women, and what we love to do/ read/ experience/ share. Something like the actual conversations I have with my friends.
As we progress in life, it can become harder and harder to be authentic, or our true selves — not to sound all Deepak Chopra, but it’s true. We navigate worlds by playing multiple roles, shifting and adjusting our voice. Today I’m a financial analyst, in three hours I am a mom, tomorrow night I am a drinking buddy, consoling my recently-divorced pal. As in Deanna Brown’s story this week, there can be an element of hiding who you really are by leading parallel lives. Or consider Kristy Krivitsky’s pov, as we get older, our “true selves” actually evolve and change into someone else, someone unexpected.
Maybe because I don’t have kids, I’ve defined myself, more often, by my job.
For most of my 20s I was a music critic/ music editor in Philadelphia. When people asked what I did, I’d say, proudly, music editor of the Philadelphia City Paper and they knew exactly what that meant. I didn’t have to explain anything and I obviously loved the job. You could hear it in my voice. Plus, I had a certain level of d-list celebrity in that town, partly based on my weird, memorable name (and Philly is kind of a big city small town) — so that was always a hoot.
When I was recruited by AOL in ’99, for a gig as managing editor of Digital City (a Patch before its time), I felt like a spy in a weird, new corporate world. My speech got garbled when I tried to explain what I did. No one really got it. And I witnessed weird reactions from my colleagues. “You had this great job as a music editor of a newspaper and left for this internet thing?” “I always saw you going into magazines.” “Are you crazy?”
In fact, it was crazy and foreign to me in a weird, light-blue-buttoned-down shirt-and-khaki Dulles, VA campus kind of way. I was used to combat boots and a combative newsroom
I don’t relay this story to suggest I knew what the hell I was doing. I didn’t. I just knew that after 10 years, I couldn’t take my crappy alt-weekly paycheck much longer and was intrigued.
It’s that intrigue that, in hindsight, led me to do things that seemed out of my comfort zone. Start a business? What? I’m not a business person? In my head, I still saw that kid in the thrift store dress, not a person with a P&L.
We can be truly hampered by our idea of what things should look like, and more often than not, they don’t match up. Thank goodness.
When we rely on what others think we should be doing, it never works out well. I like this quote from author Brené Brown, “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”
Anyway, it wasn’t until the last few years running my own content strategy business that I started to feel all of my experience come into its own – editorial, management, digital, corporate, creative. I even named my company Gyrate Media after my old music column, Gyrate.
However, I still missed a big puzzle piece of my former self; I wasn’t expressing my own creative point of view, just that of my various clients. I could eke in a little bit of me, but it was time to really, authentically, strut my own stuff.
Just last week, in telling my 80-year-old Dad about TueNight over the phone, he said he could hear the passion in my voice. “It’s obvious,” he said, “You love this work.”
Sometimes those around us can reflect back what we don’t quite recognize.
TueNight is the time and place, to let it show. We’re coming out.
“We navigate worlds playing different roles.” That sums it up beautifully. So easy to lose yourself in that hodgepodge of places. So precious to slow it down and figure out the real you again. Thanks for writing this Margit, and for launching this site!
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