I gasped taken aback by the one question that demands an instantaneous response, but the weightiest question I have encountered. You don’t want to flounder; you want to respond with the eloquence that is reserved for royalty. You want to pause at all the right places for the listener to feel the texture of who you are descend upon them. You want to be certain of even the conjunctions that string together this all-encompassing tapestry. You want confidence to beam with the certainty of a sunrise in your very eyes.
“ I notice authenticity without so much as a second glance. They’re the ones with white knuckles and shaking hands. The world tries to rip it from them but they never let go. You must grab hold of who you are with both hands and never let go.”- Cindy Cherie
Authenticity: I soon realized that, that twelve letter world was all things I hoped my response would be to that question, “Who are you?” and any other question that resembled it. I found this virtue the spring from which all other virtues were free to be entirely themselves. Kindness was one of a kind. Happiness was joy. Humility was the realization that you my dear are not the center of the universe.
I found myself obsessing over authenticity and all of a sudden wherever I looked there it was staring at me adorned in all its glory but oblivious to me staring at it. It wasn’t there to solicit my praise but when I applauded it, it glanced over its shoulder and smiled.I recently read the Year of YES by Shonda Rhimes, what I marveled at was how she didn’t attempt to perform literary gymnastics unless she really felt like it. She was shockingly honest about the things she struggled with and the wounds she is still plastering. She confesses that she like many women struggled and still struggles to embrace compliments, irrespective of the fact that she Shonda essentially owns Thursday night television with Greys Anatomy and Scandal. The Year of YES, was a challenge to say yes to the things she feared and this is how she undid the fear. Saying yes to what she feared she soon realized she was saying “Yes” to the parts of herself that she felt undeserving of, was saying yes to “stepping into the sun”.
She takes a scalpel and dissects the character Cristina from Greys Anatomy and how she represented a rainbow of authenticity that Shonda vicariously lived through and found herself.
This Cristina that we made was a revelation. She was never silenced. Never small. Never insecure to make good on her natural gifts. The Cristina of our collective dreams was larger than life. While often afraid she overcame her fears through sheer strength of will. This is why I wrote her more eloquently. Coloured her brightly and drew outside the lines.”
I have since seen this authenticity rear it’s head in the humility of Maya Angelou: “ I consider nothing human alien from me.” I see it in Chimamanda’s brilliantly crafted letter to Michelle Obama applauding her for being not what was expected but striving for true above unique. Its in the way Chimamanda wholeheartedly celebrates Michelle in words that are alive, raw and oh so generous. It’s in Zadie Smith and how she admits that she doesn’t read comments about her writing simply because she doesn’t have the stomach for it and she would rather be happy than voluntarily seek unhappiness. All these women are yards from perfect but they are real. Perhaps by knowing what we like, what we don’t, what makes us happy, by intimately knowing ourselves we are better able to just be all that we are. Witty, Intellectual, Childish, Idealistic, free. The wind, rain, a train and spring time.
So, Tell me Who are You?
By Ijangolet Ogwang
Ijangolet Ogwang is bullish on Africa. She is most passionate about complexities and the opportunities hidden on the continent. When she isn’t writing, she is reading books from multi-faceted disciplines. She is passionate about how entrepreneurship can be used as a tool for economic growth, catalyzing the idea that business must be used as a tool for doing good and social impact. She is a Finance professional, understanding the stories numbers tell by day and crafting stories by night
The Year of Yes is on my list of books to read in my #30bookchallenge. Ijangolet has given me another reason to read it. We are a month and a half into 2017. May it encompass the authenticity we need in order to live our best lives. Let us know who we are and never let go.-Lerato