It happened in 4th grade: She sat in front of me in Mrs. Schmidt’s classroom at Greentown Elementary School. She had short blond hair, brown eyes, and freckles. From my extensive research on the subject, I had concluded that I was in love. Except I wasn’t in love. Here’s how I know:
When I finally worked up the courage to slip her a note (the 6th and final draft). The content of the note was simple: “Emily, I like you. Do you like me?” Near the bottom of the page I had drawn two check-boxes. Beneath one: “yes” the other “no.” Cute. But painful.
(Incidentally, Emily created and checked a third box labeled: “maybe”)
When Mandie and I met, it was different. Poetry happened to me. Suddenly, I discovered that I was able to save money to take her out to dinner. I bought flowers on a whim. I dashed off love-notes by the dozens and left them at her desk at work. But no check-boxes this time. Why?
Because authenticity is never calculated. It doesn’t have time to be. Authenticity demands immediacy. No committee meetings with deliberation. Authenticity doesn’t feel the need for unnecessary safety nets. Preparation, soul searching, planning – yes. Needless analysis and c0ntemplations – no. The fact that we look for a safety net for leaping could be wise. But then again, it could be cowardice. And it probably is.
Skip the check-boxes. Show up with a dozen roses and gut-wrenching poetry. Helpful tips for the check-box types:
1. Find 3 people whose opinion you trust. Ask them often but ask them quickly.
2. Consciously and tangibly own up to your mistakes.
3. Ask which is the greater tragedy: a foolish excursion or a neglected passion.
(a word for those in leadership: Allow authenticity its full life in those you care for by empowering them to act on their passions. Steward their dreams by creating platforms. This might be expensive and time-consuming for you. In his furious passion, Van Gogh spilled some paint here and there. But he also created masterpieces)