We are 15 days into 2023, and I’m finally “releasing” my first post and my One Word for the year. I took a planned two-week hiatus from writing, which ended up becoming a three-week hiatus, due to my mom’s ride on the cancer roller coaster, filled with lots of ups and downs. I am writing today from her hospital room at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, a fine institution that is providing top-notch care.
It’s rather fitting that I get to write with my mom in my direct line of vision (she is voraciously eating after nearly 48 hours without food, and watching football!). This “good fit” is because Mom is the inspiration for my 2023 One Word. She remains the most authentic person I know: authenticity is the name of the game for her; I’m looking forward to staying in that game with an aim to focus on being authentic in 2023 and beyond.
Two years ago, I took on Jon Gordon’s One Word Challenge. In 2021, I chose perseverance, though it was a bit of a half-hearted effort. In 2022, I buckled down and put more concentrated attention into my chosen word for the year: clarity. I can honestly say that I reflected on the word clarity every single day of 2022. It became part of my daily workout routine. It became my computer’s screen saver. It became my focus when I was seeking… well… clarity.
My 2023 word was chosen in November of 2022: Authenticity. Authenticity is the title of a post dedicated to my mom, shortly after her cancer diagnosis. That post will remain my favorite for some time, despite the heartache that comes with the diagnosis. My mom is an incredible person. She is authentic to the core. And I want to be authentic to the core.
According to Merriam Webster, the definition of authentic is, “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” My interpretation: be who you are and be proud of it. My lack of clarity around this? I am a different version of myself depending on the people I am with. I don’t think I’m egregiously different, just different. I suppose that’s true for most people. We know our audience.
I use a more sophisticated vocabulary when working with colleagues. I reserve my cussing for informal settings and people I know well. I attempt to “read the room” and share my thoughts accordingly.
As I write these words, I realize that I am no different than anyone else: we adjust to the people and settings we are with. I ran across the term “code-switching” while reading Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliot (a book that I highly recommend!). The definition of code-switching is: the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. In my words: the practice of using formal or informal language depending on the situation.
In Invisible Child, the featured character, Dasani, does not want to be fake. She perceives black people to be “fake” if they “talk white.” A counselor explains the term “code-switching” to Dasani, explaining that it is not “fake” to adjust the way in which we speak to different people.
So, why “authenticity?” Because no matter the setting or the people I am with, no matter the formality or informality of my language, I will stay true to those values that I hold dear: honesty, gratitude, humility, connection, and family.
The setting of the above photograph is from Mom’s stay in Southeast Iowa Medical Center’s Emergency Room yesterday, before the transfer to Iowa City. The six of us had planned to take a road trip to Bonaparte, Iowa, because of listening to the podcast, Bonaparte. *I highly recommend listening!* Instead of the planned road trip, we took a trip to the hospital. As my sister Jenny said, “It doesn’t matter where we are. We’ve got each other.” It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s just so darn true!
Throughout mom’s frequent hospital visits as of late, she always remarks on how incredibly kind each caregiver is. She expresses her gratitude, even with the discomfort and frustration that come with her situation. I remind Mom that it is her personality that makes her so endearing to others, and I could swear that they up their level of care for her because of it. Mom doesn’t seem to participate in code-switching: she let’s whatever language fly, she is appreciative, funny, trusting, and oh-so-strong. Simply amazing.
It is not surprising that my values are what they are. They were and continued to be, influenced by this amazingly authentic woman.
In 2023, I will focus on being an equally authentic person. I will trust myself to be my authentic self, with or without “code-switching.” When I catch myself getting into my own head and beating myself up for X, Y, or Z, I will ask myself two questions: “In that situation, was I violating my values?” “In that situation, was I being authentic?” As long as I can answer “No,” to the first and “Yes” to the second, I am good with the outcome.