Young Truman: I want to be an explorer, like the Great Magellan.
Teacher: [indicating a map of the world] Oh, you’re too late! There’s nothing left to explore!
– from The Truman Show
I stand in the middle of the red brick road, the sky perfect blue above me, the picket fences perfect white beside me. I walk slow and marvel at the eerily cheerful colored houses, bright but empty. I am Truman Burbank, minus the cameras and the goofy smile. Well, and lots of other things too but you know what I mean. I understand Truman as I stand there, know why he would want to travel the world and explore. Because the thing that makes this place so uncomfortable is also what is supposed to make it great – it’s too perfect. I stand in the middle of the busy hallway, children stuck to my side. I want to be real but the line isn’t moving and I have to get these children into Sunday school, you know. Sometimes there is only time for fine at church. I am Truman again and I want to explore, be explored, want you to see what goes on behind these eyes. But it’s late and I’m tired and maybe there’s nothing left worth finding anyway.
I wrote a whole chapter on what it means to hide behind our picket fences, to show the world our prettied up versions, to say we’re fine even when we’re not because it’s safer or maybe we’re just lazy. I still struggle with this one, circle around this word authenticity, wrestle with how the meaning changes for me as I get older. I’ve talked with lots of women about this and there is always the argument that sometimes when people ask how I’m doing, they don’t really want to know. And I’d have to agree with that. I hesitate as I write this, though, because isn’t this a tired conversation? Haven’t we exhausted this concept already? Are there still honestly ways I hide from you and the world and my husband? Is there anything left to explore?
My circle is small and those who really know me are few. But they are there and they are listening and I am thankful. I’ve grown in my ability to be honest with people I trust. I think it’s because of time and grace and being loved anyway enough times. I’m learning that they don’t want to see lined up pretty with pastel cheeks, picket fence smiles and covered up secrets. They just want to see me.
Even after all you have read and heard and know about authenticity, is it still hard for you to practice? If yes, what makes it so and what would make it easier?
by Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky
**I recently took these photos in the planned community of Seaside, Florida where The Truman Show was filmed back in 1998.