At a certain point in life — some people call it old and the rest of us call it “wow, I’m still alive!” — you become authentic. You are really real. Naturally awesome. Totally chilled. You are you
From that point on, you lose the choice of wearing a false face. The faces you needed while you worked, while you “faced your public” — if what you did involved facing “the public.” Garry could no more be a reporter now than I could put on my Working Face or for that matter, remember the millions of details I used to keep in my head.
Especially those of us who worked in a strictly corporate world, the last thing we could be was authentic — unless we were born in a tailored suit and always talked like a TV-series lawyer.
I suppose what most people mean when they say we are authentic is that we are “natural.” No façade. No game face. We aren’t pretending for the camera or the boss. We are being ourselves for good or ill. Mostly, I think it’s good. Purely opinion, however.
Professional work rarely suggests we be “us.” We are whatever we need to be to “make the grade” professionally. Those of us that never manage to find the right façade generally don’t “make it” to the upper echelons of the work we do.
I was good at The Face for about three months. My first three months at any job, I was perfect. It was exhausting. I even attended meetings! The worse job I ever had was as management when I had to hold the meetings. There was no one I could call to point out I was too busy to make it.
After those three carefully guarded months, I relaxed. Bit by bit. Otherwise, I couldn’t do my job. I became more insistent that others do what they should so I could manage my part of the task. If my first three months didn’t impress them, I was doomed. That was the most “not me” I had to offer.
I was not a good corporate player. The bigger and more formal the organization, the less well I fit into it. I wanted to fit in, mainly because I wanted the better salary and benefits, but mostly, that wasn’t enough.
I was impressed at how Garry had two different personalities for home and work. His professional game face was not the one he brought home at night. The only truly consistent feature was his temper. If you got him really mad enough, well … you got what you paid for.
These days, as we age, we are about as real, natural and authentic as humans can get. If by now we aren’t real, we never will be. The best part of aging is becoming yourself all the time.
It doesn’t mean you have to be rude, crude, or mean. Just that you don’t have to pretend any more. What a relief!