I was in Florida a few weeks ago, bringing the kids to visit their dad. I approached the trip with mild trepidation, knowing it would likely bring back some painful memories. It has been almost a year since we sold our “dream home," packed all my stuff in a POD, and the kids and I left Florida. So much has changed since I lived there. I was mostly right. It did bring back memories, but not necessarily the ones I was expecting.
My time in Florida represented a time of manicured appearances. The landscape of Florida mirrored me with haunting accuracy. Pictures would show the perfect lawns and well-placed palm trees, but what was real were the fire ants, constant appearance of giant black snakes in our yard, and the woods I would never step foot in out of sheer terror. Likewise, pictures of our perfect family, representing our happy life were plastered all over social media. People would comment how dreamy our life looked, how lucky we were to be living in such a beautiful place. What people did not realize until well into our second year there is that we were internally struggling with the realization that my spouse was transgender. Inside we were deteriorating, falling apart and yet I couldn’t let anyone see that.
I was so concerned with what others would think, how they would respond that I lost myself in living for their approval. I used social media to create the life I wanted them to see, the life I wanted to see. When I would scroll through those perfect pictures, I could pretend that my life was really that easy. When everything did fall apart for all to see, I promised myself that I would be more honest, both with myself and with those who were watching. I've learned that being authentic gives others room to do the same.
This past year I have built my life in the most authentic way I could. I’ve been honest to others about my struggles and most important I’ve been honest with myself. What I’ve found is that being real has brought me more joy than any illusion I’ve ever created. My life is abundant and rich, but not in the ways that traditionally measure success, rather rich with love and friendship, with experiences and the freedom to express myself. In a culture that expects the perfect pictures, the fairy tale stories, I challenge you to be authentically yourself.