I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.
This week I focused on chapter five: Reigniting a Sense of Honesty.
I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:
- Daily hand-written Morning Pages (managed to write 5 out of 7 days due to holiday travel)
- Weekly solo Artist Dates (visited 3 museums while out of town)
- Two 20-minute solo walks per week (early morning dog walks are the only way to survive this heat)
- Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 21-25)
I was curious how this week would pan out. I consider myself an honest person – I always have been. I just didn’t know how this time in my life would connect with the weekly topic. But once again I trusted Julia Cameron’s process and plunged into the memoir questions without hesitation.
- Describe the major relationships of this time period.
- Where did you live? In more than one place?
- What was your driving force at this time?
- Describe a sound.
- Describe a taste.
- Describe a strong opinion you held.
- Were there parts of your personality that were more pronounced?
- In what ways did you effortlessly express yourself? In what ways did you struggle to tell the truth?
- What was a source of frustration?
- What other memories feel significant.
Transition would be an apt word for this period of my life. I was a junior in college at the age of 21, graduated at 22, married three weeks later and immediately began working as an administrative assistant in corporate America. Two years later we moved to New York City (Greenwich Village) and I transitioned into a “career” as a market research analyst.
This was the early 1980s. Women were told we could have it all: happy marriage, fulfilling career, 2.5 children. The problem was… I didn’t want it all. I am an old-fashioned girl.
While I was grateful for the opportunity to work outside the home, I preferred to stay in. I wanted to raise my children – not send them to daycare.
This concept was counter-cultural, however. And in an effort to fit into this modern society, I found ways to work from home, take care of my children, and keep my thoughts to myself. Soon I began to doubt my convictions. I wondered if I was doing my children a disservice. Would they be better off socializing with others their own age?
I may have had strong opinions, but I didn’t often express them. Silencing my voice took its toll.
In answer to the question – what was a source of frustration – I wrote:
I liked school. I liked learning and I understood the assessment policy. I wanted As and Bs and I knew what I needed to do to earn those grades. Excellence was rewarded.
Outside academic institutions assessments were difficult to understand. Corporate America rewarded mediocrity: nothing extra for excellence and peers felt threatened if anyone went above-and-beyond.
I wanted/needed to know what was expected of me and I wanted to deliver excellence. I do not like settling for mediocre.
But how did this apply to this week’s topic of honesty? The key lie in Julia’s introduction to the chapter:
Now that the kids and job are gone (and you no longer try to fit in) you can get in touch with what you really think. You can begin to live more honestly by resisting the impulse to please others or do what is expected of you.
Could it be that I have been so busy fulfilling others’ expectations of me (or my perception of those expectations) that I have lost some of my true identity?
I’ve written quite a bit about Impostor Syndrome – the feeling that I am a fraud. Despite all my hard work and accomplishments, I fear someone will soon discover I am not who they think I am (a teacher – a writer – a good mother).
Could this constant striving to meet the expectations of others contribute to this Impostor complex?
Could the secret of living an authentic life – an honest life – be found in dealing with this syndrome once and for all?
If I eliminate the idea that I am a fraud (dishonest) then I am free to be me.
Wow… that was a lot to process! Even though I don’t have definitive answers to these questions, I do think I’m moving in the right direction. Onward and upward!
Next week’s topic is Humility.