We millennials get really stuck on authenticity. We look for it on our pop stars, in our presidential candidates, and in our peers. For those of us who are inclined towards a religious and/or intentional spiritual life, we want a space where our spiritual guides are authentic. When I decided to start a blog, I wanted it to be authentic.
Authentic is a millennial buzz word. I suppose it may be the only buzz word that every millennial regardless of his or her demographic or background holds onto tightly. (Side bar: when we talk about millennials, can we please be intentional about it including more than just Anglo, middle class, majority culture types?). We really want authenticity and transparency in the people we meet.
And can you blame us? Following September 11, 2001, which is arguably the most defining event in our generation’s existence, we became exposed to the notion of an enemy we couldn’t see, an enemy that could be among us. I think we often ask “Where is ‘safe’ any more?” This is bound with religious leaders stepping down from their pulpits yet unrepentant of their fraudulent activities, sexual abuse in the largest church in the world, two White House administrations who’s dealings over seas as well as their surveillance and taxation of their own citizens have been anything but transparent. Then being told by parents, teachers, and guidance counselors that the hope for our future was in higher education only to graduate with near unmanageable debt into a scarce job market. Is it any wonder why we are suspicious of the world yet crave authenticity?
But there is a flip side to my generation’s adamance about being authentic. I do not believe we are willing to offer it first ourselves. We want to be shown authenticity without showing it first. Because there’s an intrinsic ingredient in authenticity that we fear (Please read above again as I ask “Can you blame us?”).
Sometimes rather than say authentic, I’ve seen people spice it up by saying raw! We want people to be raw with us. We want it raw like our meat (or carrots for those of you who may not be into partaking in animal flesh. Respect). We want it untampered with, unseasoned, barely cooked, bloody (well not in the case of a carrot). Bloody like a steak, right? Bloody…
My first thought of at the word raw isn’t meat.
When I was toddler, I distinctly remember running around like a maniac on the side walk while my mom watched on, probably just glad I was burning off hellish 3 year old energy. Inevitably at that age, I kept running giving it all the gas I had. Then the laws of physics took over and my large head decided to throw off my balance and send me to the pavement. Good bye carefree, olympiad grade speed! Hello two squares inches of a skinless, bloodied knee. To shreds! What a devastating blow to fun and the invincibility of youth.
And my mother came to me as good mothers do, and it is the first time I ever heard the word raw. I had skinned (I do prefer “skun”) my knee raw, she said. Raw.
Being raw hurts. Being authentic requires having the barrier torn back and being exposed. Being raw hurts. Not just any hurt like a cut. But it burns at everything that grazes it. A calm spring breeze? Much less delightful with a shredded, skinned knee. A hot shower? Burns with fire of a thousand super novas. And I think we know being raw involves being vulnerable in a way that requires pain. It requires we expose what in us aches and hurts.
And we ask, or more so, demand that people are raw with us even though we do not offer it up first. “Be vulnerable with me and then I will decide if I can be vulnerable with you.”
But someone must be vulnerable first. Some one must be raw first. So why not you? Actually, why not me? If my desire is for the Squall to reflect my chaotic person, then I should be raw. Not because I want to be first, but because I want my readers to know that being raw is okay. Sure it hurts, but then it heals.
Maybe authentic can be more than a buzz word.