Notes on authenticity
I received an email the other day, and the first sentence was: “You’re living my dream life.” It was flattering, and yet, a bit jarring: am I even living my own dream life? Because, in all seriousness, the life I imagine in my dreams does not involve fluorescent lights and subway rats and forking over most of my paycheck to rent.
I live in one of the world’s most expensive cities, a metropolis that’s crowded and cultural, stunning and dirty, the best on a good day and the worst on a bad day. I work in an office that’s housed in an architectural gem with expansive views, but I’m still surrounded by glowing computer screens and HR policies. I trudge in with the morning commuters and rush home on the evening train, working for those two glorious days of freedom (and yet, spend most of my weekend cleaning the bathroom and buying groceries and squeezing in a workout).
In many ways, I’m living the life that I quit five years ago. I quit my job in high-tech PR because I wasn’t passionate about it, because I knew that every day would trap me deeper in a life that I wasn’t sure that I wanted. And alas, here I am: a “travel” blogger who is at home far more than in an airport.
I feel like a fraud sometimes: touting a full life of travel and adventure, a life where you create and follow your intentions. And other times, I just feel stretched: in obligations, in time, in pressure I put on myself. I’m straddling these two worlds–one of settled-down success in which I try to be an ambitious employee and upbeat girlfriend and chic New Yorker, and one of a travel-lifestyle blogger who deigns to give advice (which implies that perhaps she’s figured it all out).
It’s a weird juxtaposition to live. It’s surprisingly easy to take a photo of a door (or Central Park, or a bustling avenue) and caption it with an inspirational quote, and then spend an indeterminate amount of time cursing the slippery streets and turning down travel opportunities and waiting on the subway platform. It is often remarkably unglamorous in real life.
I worry about whether people hate me or if it sounds like I’m bragging or if maybe life would be easier if I wasn’t trying to capture it all. I think about the things that I’m not saying here: that I don’t know what I want to do in my career, that I don’t have a perfect family, that I compare myself all the damn time to everyone and anyone. I don’t always wear a helmet when I bike (because I don’t want to mess up my hair), and I don’t always wear sunscreen (even though my grandmother had skin cancer). I’m impatient and easily upset and I can work myself into a bad mood for no good reason, and then swing back into a good mood at the drop of a coin.
I often wonder about how much to share, about what in my life should be kept sacred from public consumption and personal promotion. I debate whether it should be balanced or aspirational. And honestly, I don’t know. I am not perfect, and this life is not perfect, and my Instagram feed is also not perfect. And the stuff that happens that doesn’t make it to Instagram is far, far, far from perfect.
This is not a dream life; it’s just a life. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s bad; sometimes I’ll share, and sometimes I won’t. I guess all I’m trying to say is that romanticizing and idealizing my life (or any other slice of the internet) isn’t going to improve yours: only you can do that, because only you know what what your behind-the-scenes looks like compared to the highlight reel.