I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now; in fact, I’ve been meaning to write it ever since I read an article on the same topic by one of my favourite bloggers (Awash with Wonder – if you haven’t already read her stuff, check her out fo real).
It also so happens that “Authenticity” is the theme of this month’s #COSItaly (a blogging group for Italy based writers)… I’ve been yet to join in with the conversation, but this seemed pretty fitting.
I like to think of myself as an honest writer. My main motivation behind blogging is the hope that something I write will help someone in some way… be that to encourage them to experience a show I have seen, to be bold and brave in their decisions or just to feel less alone. And when I receive messages from people (often strangers) thanking me for this, it truly makes it all worth while.
I mean, anyone who has read any of my Huffington Post work will know I never hold back on discussing the nitty gritty aspects of life. I openly talk about my failed relationship, my non-existent mother and my struggles with anxiety and stress. I never pretend to be anything but a standard human being; I am not special and my life is not a bed or roses.
Some people might see this as being too honest; to lay out your life in such an intimate way for anyone to see. A best friend of mine recently told me how much she would love to start a blog but couldn’t imagine being so open with strangers. And I get that. Yet somehow it just works for me.
There is, however, this layer of my life where I wonder how authentic I am truly being. When it comes to travel writing, I know I rarely take the “warts and all” approach. I write about the beautiful sights, the inspiring experiences and the life-affirming situations I find myself in. I write about the things that bring me joy and that perhaps people will want to hear.
What I don’t write about are the times such as when I spent four hours in a humid post office crying my eyes out trying to set up a bank account with no shared language whatsoever. Or the time I had a full blown panic attack in the middle of town whilst a power hungry bus conductor threatened to call the “politics” on me. Or the fact that my food shelf regularly contains nothing but a lemon and some chopped tomatoes and I currently have no more than 90 cents in my bank account. Or that this week in a fever-ridden state I cried for a solid hour because I just couldn’t deal. Nothing else. I just couldn’t.
I’ve cried more in the last four months than I have the last four years (and that’s saying a lot, I am a total wimp). I am tired 24-7 and rarely go a week without acquiring some sort of ailment.
I’ve spoken before about the way reality will catch up on us wherever we are, and how it’s okay to not be okay. But how much do I really expose the reality of living abroad? When my instagram is full of lust-worthy images of exquisite food and stunning sights and my facebook is covered in tales of unforgettable trips and exciting opportunities?
Perhaps, subconsciously, I don’t want to expose anything other than perfection. As foolish as it sounds, maybe on some level I want people to be inspired by what I have done and the life I am building; how can they feel inspired if they see that not everything is as sweet as it may appear?
Even more prominent than this, I do not want to be seen as that person who complains about a life many people would dream of. I was lucky. I had no strings holding me back and I managed to secure a job with an incredible group of people. Not everyone has access to those sorts of opportunities, I know.
And when push comes to shove, of course the good outweighs the bad. I believe the type of people who decide to live abroad (particularly in a country like Italy) almost welcome these challenges. You do not do it for an easy life, you do it to break out of your boundaries and expose yourself in a terrifying way. The bad situations become a task where you must find the solution and come out on the other side a more accomplished person. It drives you, it fuels your desire for a stronger existence.
Ultimately, I do not feel the need to share every aspect of this journey. I share the moments I feel are important, the ones I want to remember. I paint this adventure in a way that feels right. I paint it in the way it deserves to be recorded.
There’s a fine line between authenticity and over exposure. Wherever we choose to place that line is purely a matter of perspective.
As long as your work is honest to you and your goals as a writer, then I believe that is authentic enough.