Opinions & Editorials

I’m obsessed with being real

By sophie boulter, World news Editor

“You know,” I said earnestly to a close friend. “I’ve been on an authenticity kick lately. I’ve been obsessed with being real.”

He laughed and indulged me, saying, “Don’t I know it.” But after I talked to him about my “authenticity kick,” I realized the idea’s absurdity. Isn’t the idea of an “authenticity kick” completely antithetical to the idea of authenticity? 

Isn’t the very drive I’ve had toward being real and honest, inherently dishonest? In other words, authenticity is supposed to be natural, not something pursued off a whim. Having to chase authenticity, to make an effort to be my real, non-contrived self — isn’t that as far from natural and as far from honest as you can get?

I thought about this a little more and still couldn’t really make sense of my identity. Was my real self just that — real — or just another thing created by a convergence of societal forces and interpersonal interactions? Strip away the things that society wants me to be, and what remains? 

After four years at Xavier, I still don’t think that I can externally express my authentic self. 

I remember my first year being cripplingly insecure in just about everything. From my intelligence to my femininity to my future, it was as if everything was in flux. 

Nothing was constant, except for my drive, curiosity and self-loathing. My femininity always seemed to return with vengeance, too; it was a constant in my life, but I couldn’t discern its meaning. 

There is a sort of ambiguity to femininity. Was my girliness anything more than an outwardly expressed social construction, or did it have a deeper significance? 

The summer prior, I had been rejected from all of my top schools while suffering a debilitating mental health crisis. That summer sapped me of steadiness, exchanging it for doubt. I entered Xavier with these forces whirling within me, with academic success my only recourse and escape. 

I was my achievements (or lack of them); I was my appearance (and insecurity); I was my outwardly expressed self. This didn’t feel like enough, and I felt arrogant for demanding more. 

Over these four years, not enough has changed. Too often, my self-worth is still easily broken by these shallow external forces, like flowers scattered across the floor in a shattered glass vase.

It hurt to know that people saw me as those external things. They’d assume I was a dumb blonde or someone obsessed with grades and image, and in some ways I became all of those things and none of them. I was never dumb but always retained a certain naivete; my grades and image never took me over, but they were a seductive distraction from my mental health.

Eventually, I found Newswire and realized that writing was the escape, the way to turn the stereotypes and assumptions into something creative and meaningful. To let myself be led by naivete and a certain simple, silly faith in the power of knowledge and truth. 

I became immersed in a group of turbulent, fascinating and emotional people that I met via Newswire, people who led me to writing as a means of not only self-expression, but of pursuing the truth. In our frenzied Internet age of airbrushed influencers selling us a manufactured, revised image of reality, truth has never been more important.

The only way to fight the falsely-created images marketed towards my peers and me was to create things myself and to create myself through writing. To pursue truth even if it’s unclear what truth is in our cynical age.

I wrote Newswire pieces crying out for something deeper, feeling dissatisfied by our current cultural moment. In these pages I advocated for a civic, inclusive nationalism that would infuse democracies around the world with something deeper, more imaginative and perhaps more authentic. 

I moved the U.S. and World News section in a more international direction, believing that  reporting on the wider world could help expand the perspectives of our campus community while also leading us to be the best Americans we could be — to be true and authentic to the spirit of our country’s founding. 

My work with Newswire has led me to conclude that there’s nothing more authentic than writing. Writing requires delicateness and weakness: vulnerability through inspiration and creation. With an unabashedly feminine voice, embodying every word I choose — writing emancipates me, lets me touch something tantalizing, something typically just out of reach.

Maybe that “something” that my external self can’t touch, that writing easily touches, is my authentic self. Maybe, through Newswire and introspection, I’ve finally found the answer to the absurd, yearning feeling encapsulated in my “authenticity kick.”

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