Finding Authenticity: A Guide to Dopeness

A quality line of pines in Jackson, WY. Shot on some black and white film I don’t recall right now.

Be yourself, right?
That’s what people say.

I like this one because it’s so damn cliche it’s hard to access on a personal level. When people say “Be yourself!” my reaction tends to be like, “Yea, thanks. Not possible to be anything else. Beat it, hippie.”
But once you feel what it means to be yourself beyond a hollow buzz phrase, you can’t help but get pretty fucking jacked up.

Enter, this post.

I’ve had a pretty good run the past few weeks of jamming out to some genuine me. It’s been a nice stretch of simply going, doing, and not giving any shits. There have been a lot of moments when I just smile because fuckin’ A! Everything is awesome!

Like a lot of positive changes I hope to make in my life, I rediscover “being myself” every so often. It’ll fade away for a time, I’ll turn into a douche again, and then I’ll get back on the train and re-shed some of my douche layers. It never gets old. I should un-douche all the time probably.

But it’s funny how when I lapse on being myself I don’t notice anything is amiss. I’m just doing things like normal. Living life. And then all of a sudden (is it “all of a sudden” or “all of the sudden?” I’ll have to look that up), I take a look at myself and I’m like, “Dude, you’ve been QUITE a pussy for the past few weeks/months. Sack up you idiot.”

Being a pussy, for me, means things like not saying what I mean, writing blog posts but not releasing them because they’re “not in good taste,” doing things I don’t care about because people say it’s good to do things, telling myself I have to act a certain way so I can be employable or something dumb like that, and just generally looking at my actions through the lens of what “people” might see instead of what’s important (or not important) to me.

It’s like I don’t trust other people to know I mean well – that I’m really trying to offer my best to the world – despite dropping F-bombs on the reg or putting weird shit on Snapchat. Because of this fear and mistrust, I try to show I’m a good person by being boring. Bold strategy.
It’s unfortunate how easy it is to be a pussy in this way. I guess it makes sense, though – it’s like the default social human setting. Play it safe.

But as I said, lately I’ve been way more into being a genuine freak, rather than toeing the line of propriety.

I don’t think I can credit any one thing with shifting me back into authenticity, but I want to talk about a book I read/listened to a few weeks ago that definitely had an influence. It was Resilience, by Eric Greitens. Everyone go buy it, borrow it, whatever. It is some extremely valuable shit.

The book is a collection of letters Eric wrote to his buddy. Both were/are Navy SEALs, and his friend has a really tough time readjusting to civilian life after multiple deployments to the Middle East. He has night terrors, combat hallucinations, his marriage falls apart, he gets deep into drinking… he’s in a psychological prison and can’t figure out how to break free.
Greitens proceeds to tell his friend: stop being a pussy, figure out who you are and how you want to live, and do it.
I don’t have the book in print, and don’t recall a whole lot of specifics, so these lessons are more my takeaway rather than what he literally says, but that’s how I do books. Deal with it.

One of these lessons I am maybe totally making up is that you have to take charge of yourself. You have to come to the realization that there is ONE person you have to be with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that’s yourself. If you don’t like your circumstances, who you are, how you feel, or what you’re doing, well… fucking do something about it.

Greitens is truthfully much more tactful than this. I’m actually amazed at how he offers these incredibly frank directives while maintaining an overall sense of caring and tenderness, but it’s the bold, straight-forward advice that stood out most to me. I recommend the audiobook version for this reason – it’s like having a life coach in your ear, saying over and over, “Stop being a pussy. Get up and grind. Stop being a pussy…”
It is fucking awesome.

And I’ll throw in some tact here as well – the point is not to get bogged-down thinking, “Fuck, I am such a pussy.” The point is to get hyped-up on the thought of becoming best friends with yourself. You should have your own back. You should enjoy your own company. You should laugh at and with yourself. When you experience these things, it’s thrilling. Everyday moments bubble with ecstatic enthusiasm.

Beyond recommending not being a softy, Greitens (mirroring what Atul Gawande says in Being Mortal, which I talked about in my post on happiness) touts the immense importance of having purpose. Greitens, for his part, hashes this out more along the lines of: Make yourself needed.
Wake up every day knowing that someone or something needs you to get shit done. It doesn’t matter if that’s a pet, a spouse, a son or daughter, a team you coach, a student you mentor, or a knitting circle. Give yourself to a purpose so you know you have one, so you know you need to get up and do what you do.

Purpose might seem unrelated to authenticity, but what are we without action? Cliche again, but we are defined by what we do or don’t. Thinking, teaching, deceiving, speaking, making, destroying, caring, comforting, hurting, dramatizing, calming…
Finding an authentic purpose means becoming an authentic person.

So find your fucking calling.
Go. Go NOW!

Jk lol, I’ll chill out. My sincere apologies.
I really don’t want to tell anyone what to do. If it ever sounds like I do, assume that’s just my doltish literary “styling.”
I’ll talk about myself instead.

I feel like my calling is to be myself. Yay! Circular reasoning!
But I’m kind of serious.
I like to think, and I’m okay at it, so that’s part of my purpose. Playing volleyball is absolutely the dopest dope, so that’s got a place in my calling. I enjoy seeing others pursue curiosity and learn to make themselves better, so education has something for me. Plants drive me wild, so spending time with them is important.
And when I say I “like” or “enjoy” this or that, I really mean I’m drawn to these things in a way I can’t ignore. They seem to constitute a set of actions my inner self requires. They are me. It’s not the same as how I like bread, but could care less if it stopped being a thing. I’m not bread.

The result, at present: I’m a full-time landscaper. I listen to assloads of audiobooks while working, and think my socks off because of them. I write on this blog thing to share the stoke for thinking. I do substitute teaching and coach volleyball at a high school to encourage young brosephs to get after it – to be authentic, constantly-improving humans and to make their world dope.

Back to Greitens’ view of purpose – needing to be needed… my team needs me to be present and ready to go. That one is big. Besides the fact that I totally fucking love coaching, knowing that twenty eight high school guys are counting on me to mentor them and guide them through a sport they love is an epic motivator. It’s that whole, “Contribute to something bigger than yourself” idea. It is powerful as shit.

Writing this blog has also been exceptional. It’s really satisfying to have an outlet for all my thinks. I had a bit of a dry spell, but I think that was because I started writing stupid shit I didn’t want to post. I’m trying now to just put down the words when they come, and when I’m into them. It’s much more entertaining and worthwhile. It makes me a better thinker as well. When my thoughts are down on the “page” (the blog text edit area), they become external things. I can analyze them from several different angles and clarify them. I also get a better sense of how many times I’ll need the words “fuck” and “dope” to explain them.

And landscaping has been landscaping. I’m outside every day, interacting with plants and other creatures. I get to listen to hours of podcasts and audiobooks. It kicks my ass physically and forces me to cultivate some zen. A racing mind easily turns seven hours of pulling weeds into a torturous eternity.

Life’s not bad. It’s not bad at all.
Blessings abound and I’m so #blessed from the blessings.

Quick shout-out to people who read these posts and say nice things. That’s a real cherry on top.

5 thoughts on “Finding Authenticity: A Guide to Dopeness

  1. Solid post Mick. Yeah audio books rule. A fave of mine in the past year or so is David Byrne’s “Bycicle Diaries”. It’s full of incredible observations of human nature by a brilliant artist. Def worth checking out even if not one who spends lots of time on a Bycicle. Capital B according to my iPad. It’s not about “cycling” or “riding BRO!” Or any of that.

    Anyways authenticity is a wonderful thing for all of us to be searching for. I wonder why we don’t always live authentically and connected with ourselves. I think authenticity IS something that needs cultivating – like no ones gonna just get enlightened by going to a crappy job all day and then whining about it @ the Greene Turtle afterwards. It takes work to get in touch with yo self. Perhaps our habitual patterns of inauthenticity are a result of a deep sense that we aren’t lovable or something, ya dig? Well when did we start believing that BS? I don’t know. Perhaps the “work” of cultivating authenticity is about dropping the belief that we’re unlovable and accepting ourselves for all of our shittiness and our glory. Both! Non-dual thinking.

    O btw Mick sorry didn’t text you back the other day. Was driving and just remembered you wrote me. Now my phone is down stairs on airplane mode and I’m in bed. Umm. Yeah. See you in a few weeks man!

    1. Yes, Jeff! Yes! Preach, gurl!
      Haha but in seriousness, I really, really like this line:
      “Perhaps the “work” of cultivating authenticity is about dropping the belief that we’re unlovable and accepting ourselves for all of our shittiness and our glory.”
      That is what we in the biz call “insightful.”

  2. Hey Mick, Your post reminds me of a conversation I had with Nana one day when she woke up from a nap and came out to her living room at Courthouse Square, feeling kind of confused. (It was around the beginning of her ten-year illness.) She said, “What’s my purpose? I don’t have a purpose…” This from a woman who had never read any books about the purpose-driven life. She’d simply had a purpose for most of her eighty years and suddenly her brain condition had robbed her of it. Flash forward ten years to Oak Crest. The day Nana died, her Jamaican nurse told me that Nana would always follow her on her rounds, trying to help, sometimes following her into other patients’ rooms. She would laugh and tell her, “Mrs. Stringer, I need you to stay in the hall by the cart.” I loved hearing that story. Nana had found her purpose.

    1. Wow, that is an awesome story! I actually read a book recently about aging and what I might call end-of-life decision paradigms, and at one point I thought of Nana and realized I had little understanding of her life at Oak Crest. My memory seemed pretty bleak, but was also woefully incomplete. This story made me smile the type of smile that almost hurts your face. Thanks for sharing!

What are your thoughts?