Be authentic. Be your true self. Live an authentic life. Authentic. Everywhere, all the time. The newest and latest buzzword of the century. What exactly is it that makes one authentic in this virtual modern-day life we live? Is it in that over-stylised corner of your house you use as a backdrop to your immaculate life? Is it that quick selfie that you took fifty times to get right? Is it that one minute those little monsters you so love stood still, proof of your perfect family? Is it that hour you spent before posting that spontaneous hashtag? Is it how your meal looks more than tastes? Is it the perfect sunset you captured and forgot to see? Is it who you want to be rather than who you really are?
Without pointing a finger, I too am guilty as charged on this one. I am vigilant and over meticulous and anxiety-riddled every time I have to press the post button on any of these platforms. I am grateful for what they have done for my career but I am horrified by what they are doing to my sanity. I find myself struggling with the expectation my higher self has of me. This nonchalant attitude we all maintain of our virtual lives is exhausting me. Being 'authentic' in the way our times require reminds me all too much of how being 'different' was to the nineties and 'keeping up with the Joneses' was to the sixties. In other words, I feel like all this palava about being ourselves is actually making us all the same, and it's not just me. I have seen it happen to the most authentic people I know. People who are grounded on this earth heavily are now spending their days searching for unique snippets of their lives to impress their followers.
Thing is, if we spend so much time seeking those moments to post online when do we have time to live them? I had always prided myself on being authentic. Thought I was the real deal, was excited about this new way of expressing my authentic self online. These days I am feeling overwhelmed by it. It feels like it's taken over what could actually be my real life. Authenticity, happiness and joy, hidden behind the blurry lens of social media seem to me like an oxymoron and as inauthentic a life as you can get. I don't know, maybe I am just overreacting, maybe I'm just overworked or maybe I need to just get out of the house more.
I woke up this morning contemplating the idea of forgiveness and how one might get close to it, even if what has manifested seems outrageously unforgivable. Even if you are to forgive not for one deed but for a lifetimes' worth of them. Even if you are perfectly aware that those deeds will never be acknowledged and an apology will never be uttered. Can you still forgive, I wonder.
Having had a few years of therapy under my belt, I have experienced first hand the alleviative properties of such an action. Even if the action begins on an intellectual level, as in just saying the words, even to oneself, a motion is set up towards the release of the negative energy one carries through resentment. Forgiveness, it seems, just like all such virtuous sounding actions, is a selfish act. It is never done for the other, but for oneself. I think it is called an act for that exact reason. It begins as such. It is a conscious choice to fight the noises in your head, to say I choose hope over anger, I choose love over hate, I choose truth over lies. To fight the malicious ingredients of resentment - bitterness, rage, anxiety, and to say stop. You no longer have a grip over me. I will forgive and I might even forget, but not for you, for me.
To forgive is to say I accept you for who you are, with all your flaws and shortcomings. To say I understand what it is that made you who you are, I understand that you were unable to fight the noises in your own head and that I wish you well, I wish you the release you are searching for and I wish you strength in the battle with your own demons. You are understood but not welcome.
In this modern world, where there are no dragons to be slain and no swords to sharpen, no dames to be rescued and no warriors to be defeated, I find myself wondering, who are the true heroes of our time?
As witnesses to the dismantling of all of our former beliefs, religion, government, family. Where our gods have been replaced by reality show plebs, our governments led by caricatures, broken families, broken homes, who are to be named the guardians of our future? Is it the former middle-class families struggling to upkeep the myth of their previous lives, wrestling to pay their bills and keep their homes? Is it the pensioners whose life savings have been stolen from them, their promised golden years spent summoning all of the energy they can generate to continue existing? Is it the hipster generation, adorning our cities with fancy eateries and all bio please pseudo stop pretending you're not a capitalist, you consumer hypocrite? Is it the unbroken by the mundane daily tasks of adulthood, out of their schools and onto our streets, youth, begging us all for a wake-up call, so they can have a future?
In this upside-down world where nothing of what we knew makes sense anymore, what I'd like to know is who are the real heroes of our time.
Courage is the defining attribute of a hero, and although we are all in some way or other heroic within the context of this crazy epoch we are living, I believe that the most heroic of them all are those that still dare to find hope within the context of this chaos. Those who can bounce back from their previous identities and create a new one. Those who inside of all the whining and complaining and oh it's his fault or her fault or their fault can admit that it is my fault. That can take accountability and adapt. That can stand steady in the storm and say, come on let's get to work. Let's rebuild. Those are the ones that will lead us.
So whether you admit it or not you have a choice. You can sit back and point fingers all you want or you can put on your big girl panties or big boy shorts and get to work. Decide.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word 'hypocrite' as 'A person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings'. The word seems to hold within it such overbearing Catholic type guilt-driven condescension. A 'you're either with us or you're not' sort of attitude. Considering myself a person with a reasonably good moral compass I still to date quite dislike the grandiose attitude of the word.
Using it as a point of reference, I find that my life has been made up of one act of hypocrisy after the other. Quite the opinionated brat during my university years I had gone as far as writing a thesis based on the evils of the advertising world and how humanity is being brainwashed into a zombie state. Studying fashion at the time, I remember arguing with my then photographer flatmate about what I had considered being the most evil of them all. Benetton. In the late nineties, London and everywhere else in the world for that matter was plastered with billboards created to sell pink and blue and yellow t-shirts. The campaign was the birthchild of Olivero Toscani that depicted patients with AIDS on their death beds. It seemed such horrific exploitation of human vulnerability to me. Such a despicable show of capitalistic pompousness. A year later I was working in the very place those campaigns were produced. That period set in motion for me a series of life choices all contradictory to those stated in my thesis. I spent a good part of ten years not only in advertising but with real passion and ambition set to conquer the world. Of course, not having the stomach one needs for such endeavours, the industry chewed me up and spat me out. I left kicking and screaming and I vowed never to return. With my head bowed I promised to live a life of consistency and moral purity. I surrounded myself with people that began sentences with 'I stand for', 'I will never' and 'I believe in'. I declared myself an artist and made decisions based on my new-found ethical code. A humble existence of self-loathing and guilt. Shackled by my un-hypocritical life.
Thing is, life is not so black and white. What this newly invented moral code of ethics did for me was lock me up in a cage of my own making. Where every life decision I made had to be approved by an imaginary list of do's and don'ts which only served to limit my experience. What I came to find once I released myself from this kind of limiting thought process was that it's ok to be a hypocrite. In fact, I have come to revel in the thought. To be a hypocrite means I get to live my life as it comes to me. It has made me realise that there is nothing much I can control and that this ever so serious thing will like to call life is actually just a game of chances. That the word hypocrite is not to be given to me by me but by others and to live a life caring about what others think of me is the smallest cage of them all.
I have recently come to realise that there is a standard theme that runs throughout the story of my life. This theme is change. Not existential change, but quite literal change. Counting the homes I have lived in the past fourty two years I seem to have averaged a relocation almost every two years. Not counting the countries and cities, this type of nomadic lifestyle has created within me quite the knack for adaptability and an elusive attachment to objects of comfort. Surrounded once more by cardboard boxes, I find myself in an all too familiar predicament.
Quite the packer, I go through each object I own and I decide what to keep and what to give. Within that task, I assess the meaning of the object. I am taken back to the place it entered my life and I rate its' value. The value I attach to it is not that of an economic nature but a sentimental one. The beautiful vase I had bought in Italy, the little stool that I had found at a flea market, a gift someone that I once loved gave me. I evaluate the emotional use these things have in my life today and then I decide. We don't like to think it, but the objects we keep for nostalgia's sake function to keep us static. They represent who we think we are but also keep us from becoming who we want to be. Being someone that likes to surround myself with many things, what I am talking about is not materialism. I am quite the materialist, but I also believe that what we surround ourselves with is made up of energy and most of the time that energy is hogging the room. Who knows, maybe this nonsense idea of moving houses so often is my way of decluttering my life, although right now I feel like there must be an easier way.
For those of you out there thinking of moving to a new home or a different city or another country, I say go for it. Jump, even if it seems too high a fall. Be strict when you are packing your things. Get rid of the objects that have had the most meaning to you. This will empty a space within you to identify with new things which in part will allow you to forget who you were and discover who you want to become.
This year something happened that I had been expecting. This year something happened I that I had prepared for. This year something happened that I had accepted. This year my mother died. I'd like to say that there was some relief. I'd like to say that there was closure. I'd like to say that there was peace. Really, what I'd like to say, is that I want her back. All in one piece. With her ironic tone and full whit. I want to be annoyed by her pestering and angry at her jokes. I want to tell her that I'm all grown up now and I can do as I please. But please, I'd really just like her back. Time will heal they said and so I'm waiting, but it all feels upside down and inside out. It's like I lost my compass and the sun hasn't come out. She always pissed me off. She was opinionated and egocentric, a real pain in the ass. I bet if I called her now she'd say 'stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it' and I'd get pissy and then get back on track. At this point, there's nothing to be said of grief. No big lesson, no wise words. All I want to say is that I miss her and that I'll always be her little girl.
There I go making bold statements again. This time on a subject I have been trying to avoid but that has been gnawing at me for a while now. As a citizen of this place we call earth, you have to live under a rock not to have been exposed to this new wave of feminism that has engulfed our modern society. As a woman that was once a young girl and as a female adult with a somewhat longstanding career in a number of industries I felt I should speak up.
Let me begin by saying that no, men are not allowed under any circumstance to rape, touch or masturbate in front of a woman without her consent, whether she is wearing a burka, a tight dress or is buck naked screaming the words "I want to be a porn star". No means no. Simple. Let me also say that our mothers and the mothers before them worked their damn asses off to create many of the privileges we as modern women sometimes take for granted and for that I am grateful. And so here comes the 'but' to my bold statement. I used to be a feminist. Not the type with burnt bras and banners but the type that was raised by strong women. The type that always kept to the girl code and that believed that her opinion was as valid of that of any man. And sure, of course I have had my experiences with pushy men and male-driven meetings where my voice was drowned under the buzz of testosterone and sure I know all too well that if instead of looking like me, tiny busty and very feminine, I was a large man in a suit, my career would look quite different to what it looks like now, but here's the thing. I like me, and just like the men that use their very nature to negotiate, I too use my femininity to get things done. You see, what worries me about causes like the #metoo movement is that although I believe that many women were violated and that to begin with the intentions were pure, eventually those intentions have been misused by women looking to jump on the bandwagon they call empowerment and that this new female comradery is loosely based on the common premise that all men are dicks. So if that is the new definition of feminism, I'll pass.
We as women have to take responsibility also for our actions inside of this discussion. We cannot just point fingers at a whole sex. Maybe, just maybe, it was within our tribe that we heard the voices of our fellow women saying: "Keep quiet about it, you can't make it on your own without him". And then maybe just maybe we can get to be women and they can get to be men, whatever that might mean. We are not all the same and that is also ok. And no, nobody can touch your body unless you consent. Whether they are male, female, black, white, short, tall, thin, fat, gay, lesbian, transgender, blonde, brunette, European, American, African or Martian. No means no. Simple.
Yes, that ever so taboo subject that us, especially creatives, cringe at the very idea of. Money? What? To be paid for services rendered. Me? A service? How dare you.
Having been raised in a family that taught me that money is hard to earn, that the pain of ones broken back is the measure of money deserved, I had always struggled to get a grip on the subject. That is until I began to understand less about numbers and more about what they represent. A form of thinking that made it crystal clear to my fluffy clouded rainbow covered mind. Money is a measure not of the services I render, but of the belief I have in my self-worth. Of the belief in myself and also the respect I have for the work I do. Us creatives, I think, struggle with pricing our work, not only because it is something non-tangible and elusive but because a lot of the time we have so much fun doing it. We feel guilt when the project is really good and grateful just to be given the opportunity.
And sure, it's easy to blame the client. They wanted it cheaper, they wanted it faster, they wanted more. Of course, they did. Don't pretend to be surprised. The question is not what they want, the question is what will you do about it? But we don't have the budget. Find it. But there are so many other designers out there doing it cheaper. Hire them. But it'll be good for your portfolio. I'm full up. But please just do it and I'll pay you later. Fifty percent deposit and we can begin. And sure, you're like, she's balsy and ungrateful. No I'm not. My motivation has never nor will ever be the money. It has always been the work. Keep in mind that the client doesn't really understand what they are paying for and that the only language you have in common is the numbers. They need to find the budget because when they do (and believe you me, if they are serious they'll find it), they will have actively participated in the project itself and will have taken the same amount of risk as you have. This breeds a common ground and a common goal. It also breeds respect from both parties and a desire for success because both of you have worked equally as hard to achieve it.
The end goal is to create good and long-lasting work and the only way to achieve that is to protect it even if that means losing the project or the client, or quite bluntly, as my mother would say, one plus one equals two, not three.
Youth is not a time of life - it is a state of mind; It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over love of ease. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals.
Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair - these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.
Whether seventy or sixteen, there is in every beings' heart, the love of wonder, the sweet amazement at stars and the starlike things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events the unfailing childlike appetite for what next, and the joy and the game of life. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.
So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the Infinite, so long you are young. When the wires are all down and all the central place of your heart is covered with snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then you are grown old indeed and may God have mercy on your soul.
So here we are, having fulfilled our summertime prerequisites. We swam, we ate, we drank. Those with families held their breath searching for a moment of peace. Those single, attempted yet another bar and yet another drink searching amongst the crowds for a memory to be made. Those in love sunk deep into each other. The workaholics forced themselves to rest and just like their adrenaline-fueled routines they ticked yet another thing off the list: must holiday. Tick.
Belonging to the workaholic crowd, I too allowed myself this summer to force a holiday. Three full weeks. It wasn't the best I ever had, but it served its' purpose. I rested. Mentally and physically. And now here I am, a week into reality and it feels like not a day has passed. The crowds are slowly coming back and Athens is filling with its usual angry and frustrated citizens. This year, having created this extra reservoir of energy for myself, I dived deep into organisation mode motivated by post-holiday ambition. Files and folders filled with new pieces of paper, emails and desktops cleared, long deliberations over the alphabetical or numerological ordering of my life. Very important, important, not important. Delete. To post, not to post, to call not to call, most important project, best client, worst client, must definitely call client. Money in, money out, money paid, money owed. All in a desperate attempt to create some sort of control. A wishful thinking list of dealing better with my life this time.
Thing is, life cannot be put into a folder. Nor can day to day emotions be put into alphabetical order. We do try though, and sure it does help, maybe even on an existential level. An archive to remind us that we lived. That we paid our bills on time and that we did the right thing. This year I have decided to add a new folder to my colour co-ordinated filing system. This folder will have a sticker on it that writes: JOY. In capital letters. Just like all the other folders. In it though, there will be no papers and nothing to tick off, no best nor worst, no bills and no receipts. In it there will only be the hope that this year I might have some.