Notes on authenticity

April 14, 2015 in Featured,Life,Philosophy

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.

Partially inspired by what Design*Sponge is afraid of. The Moral Bucket List is worth reading after this post. And a few other things I’ve written that you might enjoy:

  • Thank you for writing something so real. Social media makes it super easy to appear as if you’re living a “dream life” and it is way too easy to get caught in a comparison trap. “Dream life” has so many different definitions, but I feel that if you are happy most of the time…you’re living it! And if you want a change, it’s best to go out and go after it – not go to blogs or social media and get tough on yourself because you aren’t living the dream. Been there, done that. 🙂

  • Jill

    Even though my life is completely different from yours, I understand. When I share any info about my travels or plans in my life, I get many comments from family and friends saying I live “a charmed life” or “wow, I want your life”. I try to explain that they are only seeing the highlights. Who talks about eating alone on the couch in front of the news for the umpteenth time? or washing out the blender? or returning pants to the store? I talk about what I enjoy and look forward to – which is my case is travel. But that doesn’t mean my life is perfect. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this subject . I thought I was the only one who thought this way!

  • I like this post a lot. And this is timely, because I’m in the midst of trying to figure out where the line is between what to share and what not to share: my site is very, very much in its infancy re: direction and amount of content, so it’s easy for me to justify either direction, but each direct is such a mixed bag in and of itself. The goal is obviously a balance between the two, but also like: are the other corners of the internet could be better suited for wavering, for self-doubt, for plain old quarter-life-crisis musings? but alternatively, isn’t the point of writing to work through all of that, to examine it and maybe inspire?

    Before this turns into some sort of existential!comment, all I’m really trying to say is this: maybe I just read between the lines more, or incorrectly read between the lines, or whatever, but I honestly think your blog is one of the most authentic I read. You don’t dwell on the negative, or the doubt, but sometimes it’s stated quickly between commas or hovering between words, and you use it well: I find the large majority of what you write incredibly inspiring, if for no other reason than it reminds me to appreciate the everyday beauty that exists in the routines that are my life. (And a sidenote: the longer I read your site, the more I find myself using colons? Your typing style might be a little contagious – definitely not intentional. I used to be allllll about the semicolons in everything.)

    (Also: have you read http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html? I feel like it’s something you might appreciate.)

  • Whitney

    I can so relate to this. Thank you for sharing. It is so easy to compare your life with others. I know what it feels like to have people envy your life. But it isn’t my life that they envy, it is my highlight reel. I have a life that I love but it too is far far far from perfect. This post reminds me that every one is fighting a battle that you know nothing about.

  • If it was appropriate to comment with only the hands up in praise emoji, I would do just that.

    I like reading your posts because they feel relatable. There have always been a lot of parallels: I’m from California’s Central Valley (Fresno), was in a sorority at college in southern California and have recently moved to the east coast (Boston) to pursue what to many is a “dream career.” I never got into travel blogging as much as you, but I have spent the last 3+ years living in Thailand and Australia. It’s really hard to come back and settle into a fixed life full of mundane annoyances (even if sometimes they make for a good post or photo)! It’s even harder when people think you must live a glamorous life, when the reality is usually nothing of the sort. Anyway, just wanted to say hi and my hands are up in praise – I get you.

  • sincerelykateb

    way to keep it real sister

  • Shireen

    This is a great reminder that one’s “internet personality” and real life are often contradictory! I appreciate you bringing this to light, because I think so many of us compare our real life, day to day bullshit, to people’s curated online lives full of pretty Instagram filters and only the best moments!

    I keep coming back to your blog because you consistently write well, and you showcase an interesting blend of world travel, close-to-home travel, and also the daily life you live in the city. It’s relatable on many levels, but it’s also fun to “escape” in your travel or NYC stories. I like your pretty Instagram photos, but I also know that you (and everyone else!) have bad hair days or frustrating moments that you don’t write about. Just keep on keeping on, Christine!

  • jennaebert

    love it

  • Jessica Elizabeth

    Really love this Christine! I think it echos what a lot of us are thinking/going through!x

  • Great post! I recently discovered your blog (as a fellow Yahoo Travel Explorer!) and can relate a lot to what you wrote, particularly as a new travel blogger but also as a fellow New Yorker with a full-time job who tries to squeeze in trips as much as I can. It’s easy to forget in this social media-driven world that what you see online is only a fraction of what someone’s life is really like. Of course bloggers will mainly showcase what they want readers to see, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ups and downs, frustrations, insecurities and all of the other things that are normal to pretty much every human being. This post is a great reminder that instead of coveting someone else’s life based on what you see on their Instagram or elsewhere, think about the life you want to create for yourself and figure out how to get there. Thank you for this!

  • Thank you for sharing this post. I don’t think you should wonder whether people hate you or think you’re bragging, if that were the case people would not follow your blog! You content is wonderful and I appreciate this realness. I feel like there is always an internal debate over what is too much to share and what isn’t. No one is perfect, keep being you.

    Christine
    http://www.DimesandDonuts.com

  • Allie @ 6000 Miles to Home

    Love this honesty – you know all bloggers feel this way sometimes! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Brenna

    great post!

  • Such a good post Christine. I’m sure the way you feel is the way most bloggers do, if they take the time to think about it!
    Don’t stress about being a fraud, you’re doing great xx

  • Tricia Savino

    What a refreshingly authentic post Christine! That’s how I feel about my life in New York and having to always explain to my friends back home that what they see on social media is really a highly “curated” life…

  • Brandy

    Great post. Like you said, it’s so easy to look at someone’s Instagram feed (or blog, or Facebook) and feel bad because you don’t think your own life measures up. But, no one’s life is perfect, and obviously most people are posting the highlights of their own life – the best parts, not the day-to-day grind. I love my life for the most part, but oh how many times I’ve thought about how my daily life isn’t very Instagrammable. Which is a terrible thing to think!

  • THIS reminds me of a lovely and true quote I just read yesterday:

    “Single people want relationships, settled people wonder if they’re missing out on something, traveling types miss stability, stable ones are restless, old friends want new friends, new friends miss old friends, and basically almost everyone my age has some dangling worry trailing around after them everywhere that they’re somehow not doing everything, that what they’re doing is not altogether the right thing, that they are missing out. …Do not be ashamed. The doubt is natural, and everyone you know – yes, even that person – carries it sometimes too. Allow yourself to be peaceful. Allow yourself satisfaction in what you have. If you really don’t like it, allow yourself permission to make changes.” –Lillian Schneider

    Sarah
    http://www.coffeeandinsulin.com

  • Briel79

    Great post Christine! I really enjoyed reading your perspective on this topic.

  • camorose

    Thanks, Amanda! Such a good note and so true on that everyone has a different “dream life.” Totally believe that happiness is a choice, and I feel really good about where things are in my life–and when it’s not, it’s up to me to make the changes necessary!

  • camorose

    Yes! So glad you were able to relate, Jill. I love that bit about the highlight reel versus the behind-the-scenes because it’s SO TRUE for everyone!

  • camorose

    Glad you were able to relate, Whitney xx

  • camorose

    HIGH FIVE (and maybe dancing twins?!) EMOJI BACK TO YOU! 🙂

  • camorose

    you see all the behind the scenes too so you know how it goes! xo

  • camorose

    Thanks, Shireen! Really appreciate your comment, especially because that’s basically exactly what I’m living and what I’m trying to share here–that you can make the most out of travel anywhere and everywhere, even if it’s “just” the next block over or the next town. Still find it so great that we met in a little hostel in Thailand and are still in touch today–that’s the joy of social media!

  • camorose

    thanks babe!

  • camorose

    Thanks, Jessica–so glad you enjoyed and can relate!

  • camorose

    So glad you found my blog and that you were able to relate–it certainly sounds like we’re going through a lot of similar struggles! 🙂

  • camorose

    Thanks, Christine! Definitely always a bit of an internal struggle but I really am so grateful for the community that I’ve made both on- and offline via this blog 🙂

  • camorose

    Thanks, Allie! Glad you could relate.

  • camorose

    Merci Brenna!

  • camorose

    Thanks lady! Appreciate the support 🙂

  • camorose

    I swear, there’s something about NYC that always comes off amazingly in photos–but it is SO MUCH more of a challenge and a story behind the scenes!

  • camorose

    Haha! There are days that I have where I have nothing to Instagram because it’s just normal life and I feel weirdly guilty about it sometimes…and then I’m like WHY. Not everything in my life needs to be picture perfect, especially because a coffee can be enjoyed just as much even if the light isn’t right!

  • camorose

    I love this quote SO MUCH. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  • camorose

    Thanks, Briel! Glad you enjoyed.

  • Heather

    It’s often easier to covet someone else’s life than make changes to your own. This is a refreshing reminder that the grass is not always greener.

  • cicada

    This post is really interesting to me because I feel as though we’ve switched places. Two years ago I was living in Brooklyn, going to work in Manhattan, wishing I could travel more. Now I’ve moved to Europe, take a trip somewhere almost every month and find myself sometimes missing the the daily routine and regular paycheck. I have a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on learning a new language as well as visit other countries but also feel I’ve lost a part of myself by taking a break from my career. I worry that I’m losing my skills and that the marketplace has already moved on for what I do. I don’t regret taking the opportunity but it’s hard not to get into a ‘grass is greener’ mindset from time to time.

  • Very honest! It’s easy to say that we want the life of another, but hard to accept your own as being good. The best bet really is to make the changes you want in order to acquire a life you feel better suits you and makes you happier.

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  • camorose

    Grass is always greener where you water it 🙂

  • camorose

    Totally hear you. I think that’s something that we all struggle with, but you just have to focus on enjoying the experience that you’re having–especially when it might not be something that lasts forever!

  • camorose

    Thanks for reading, Ashley!

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  • SLC

    I genuinely appreciated this blog. Sometimes we can get so caught up in perceiving the lives of others as perfect that we forget to create perfect memories of our own. This was so well written. Also, I came across your blog around 10:00 this morning and have yet to come off it, aside from doing my little duties at work. I love ! New favorite, you inspire me so much.

    Saphia Louise
    http://Www.LifeWithSaph.com
    Lifestyle blogger

  • camorose

    Oh yay Saphia! I’m so glad you found it and that you’re enjoying it!

  • Rachel

    Thank you! I also live in NYC and although I am not a famous blogger people always tell me how jealous they are that I live in NYC. I’m starting to think NYC isn’t my “dream” city… I think the rent has something to do with it!

  • camorose

    Haha I love that you’re grouping me into the “famous blogger” category. And yes, the rent is INSANE! But then sometimes I go somewhere else and it’s just like–it’s not NYC. So who knows where we’ll all end up! Enjoy it while you’re here 🙂

  • What a great post! I am so glad I found your blog! Like you, I travel whenever I can and I’m mostly always out of town on long weekends. I just recently started a blog to chronicle my travels while still keeping a full time job. You sure are an inspiration! Looking forward to more of your posts! 🙂

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