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Authenticity Found

July 11, 2008

Are you authentic?Authenticity, relevancy, adventure, and my family.  These are some of my top life values.  For me, understanding my values enables me to define my personal vision, mission, goals, and objectives.  Without understanding who I am, how can I be that guy?

Yes, it’s a cliche’, to go and find yourself, and in some ways I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve spent most of my life looking for myself.  Not that I didn’t have goals, I did.  And I’ve accomplished one or two things too!  However, when I participated in a process to define my personal vision, mission, and values a couple of years ago I was awoken to some new ideas about who I am.  These weren’t necessarily secrets to me, but they hadn’t been articulated in my own head/heart so clearly before.

“So, what’d you learn?”

This past week, or two, has been like that.  Things are being revealed to me in ways I hadn’t been able to articulate before.

When I left my very satisfying and rewarding emergency services career in 1995, I didn’t do it to “find myself.”  I didn’t leave TVFR because I was bored, dissatisfied, or unhappy.  I left because that’s where I was being led (but that’s another story).  But last week, Kelly, at Scappoose Bay Kayaking, asked me: “So, what’d you learn?”

It was a great question!

It was a great question! No one, in 13 years had ever asked that of me.  And here was someone I’d known for less than 10 minutes, asking the penultimate question.  By her asking that question, I was better prepared to meet with my former co-workers and firefighting brothers last night at my friend Al’s retirement party.

I told Kelly that I had learned that “having a great wife and kids is the most awesome thing to ever happen to me.  If I’d known it was going to be this cool, I would have cleaned up my act a long time ago!”

Then, last night, I was able to reiterate this sentiment over and over again.  People I hadn’t seen in at least 13 years wanted to know what I was doing.  I told them about my kids, my wife, our great place out in Columbia County, and the great life that we’ve built for ourselves here.  It was cool!

“having a great wife and kids is the most awesome thing to ever happen to me.  If I’d known it was going to be this cool, I would have cleaned up my act a long time ago!”

On the way home from Lake Oswego last night, I was hungry and I knew the Portland Werewolf gamers were meeting at Lucky Lab on Hawthorne, so I stopped to check it out.  (If you’re curious how I knew, check out Twitter) I’ve played Mafia a few times – and it’s basically the same game.  So, because some friends were playing, I wanted to take a peek.

Of course I got sucked into playing – and of course I had a great time!  One of the reasons it was so much fun was because it requires a lot of authenticity.

As I drive home via Skyline Blvd last night, a route I used to drive a lot (while looking for myself), I reflected on my career, my life, my friends, Twitter (and other Web2.0 venues) and the Werewolf game.  I measured the amount of authenticity required of each, and the amount of authenticity provided.

  • I decided that there isn’t a lot of authenticity required in my current employment, nor is much provided.  I’m sure many people could attest to this.  However, for GenX and younger, this is an assumed requirement for respect to be attained.  If you’re wondering why GenX seems so disrespectful, take a look in the mirror.  These “kids” (who are now reaching up well into their 40s) aren’t going to enable inauthentic behavior and attitudes.
  • My life has some measure of authenticity, but not enough.  In order to keep my employment, not estrange the in-laws, and walk the fine line of socially acceptable appearances, there is less than optimum authenticity.  Truth be told, I’m working on eliminating the white lies from my life, but old habits die hard.
  • My friends, my true friends – those that are scattered far and wide across North America – we share authenticity.  What we lack is time.  It is difficult to maintain a quality friendship with someone you haven’t seen in six years and only speak with on the phone every six months – if that?

My local friends, at this point, are few but growing.  Having just moved last Fall, I realize that I haven’t been here long enough to really establish deep friendships.  This is a process that usually takes about three years for me.

  • However, last night, while playing Werewolf, I felt a level of authenticity that really turned my crank!  I approached the game with an absolute resolve to be truthful – always.  At least as a villager. 🙂  (It might spoil the game for others to be a truthful werewolf)  Plus, I saw a prying into people’s psyche, their nervous ticks, and their verbal sparring.  No one was able to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.  Walls were not allowed.  Deceit was easily parsed.  People were absolutely brutal with their interrogations.

I left feeling like I’d experienced more authenticity in that two hours than I have in a decade of church attendance.  I felt safer with the secular community of Werewolfers, Tweeters, and Web2.0 folks, than I do at many churches I’ve attended.  This is a problem.

In a game like Werewolf, authenticity is not just required, it is prevalent.

I had another epiphany after last night’s game. As I passed the Skyline Memorial Cemetery and saw a great big, rusty-red, 1/2 moon settle over the coast mountain range, with the cities of the Tualatin Valley glittering in the night, I wanted to pull into the cemetery and take in the view, like I have dozens of nights in my past.  However, there were locked gates.  It’s a sad commentary to today’s world, when we have to put gates on our cemeteries.

Anyway, it occurred to me how quickly I’ve felt accepted into the circle of Portland’s creative/tech community.  Less than six months, and already people seem genuinely happy when I show up!

And that happiness is authentic.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’

Robert Frost (1874-1963), U.S. poet. Mending Wall (l. 32-36)

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