A quick note: This is a little different from my normal posts. You might be asking yourself “what’s a normal post here?” That would be a valid question, because my blog really runs the gamut. From odes to airport fruit cups to tales of travels gone awry, Hayley’s Bizarre is kind of like a mystery-flavored lollipop. It is bizarre, after all.
But this is like, really different. Because I’m going to get real. There’s no sarcasm here (although hopefully there’s still humor, because the last thing I want to be is a boring ol’ stick in the mud). I’m going to channel my inner Brene Brown and let y’all in on some soul-searching stuff.
Ready? Let’s go.
A couple years ago, my cousin Ingrid introduced me to a neat take on New Years resolutions. Rather than writing out a laundry list of goals for the year, she simply chose one word as her intention, the true north of her compass. In one word, she sought to encapsulate her ultimate goals for the year, the value she wished to develop, and the person she wanted to become. She told me that her word was “courage.”
Full disclosure, I’m a huge New Years resolutions person. As a naturally contemplative person, I relish listing the highlights from the past year and dreaming in bullet points about the year to come. As a lover of writing, my goals feel so much more real once I’ve seen them printed in my journal. At first, I wasn’t so sold on Ingrid’s idea. What would I do without my lists?
Like most people, I also rarely get around to checking off every resolution from my list. So this year, after reflecting on another half-completed list of aspirations and inspired by my cousin Ingrid, I decided to pick one word: honesty.
You might be thinking, “Gee Hayley, are you a pathological liar?” The answer is no, I am not. (Of course, I could be lying about that too, but I hope you’ll trust me.) When someone asks me a straight question, I tell the truth. Okay, I am known to exaggerate stories a little bit (like any good storyteller. Hello, Tim O’Brien!), but that’s it.
So if I don’t have a lying problem, why honesty?
As I’ve grown up, honesty has developed a much deeper meaning to me than it did when I was say, in high school. In high school, I viewed honesty as a means to not get in as much trouble. I knew that if I did something wrong, my dad would be much less mad if I fessed up to it than if I buried the truth and he found out anyway. Honesty didn’t flow purely from my heart as much as it lurched out from my deep desire to avoid unpleasant consequences (cough cough, getting grounded on my 16th birthday for crashing prom).
I picked honesty for my word because I noticed that I had a pesky habit of being dishonest with myself when the truth was inconvenient or painful. Unlike the prom crashing, this wasn’t dishonesty in a direct, flat-out lie type of way, but more in an insidious denial of my deepest needs. I judged my desires or believed they were flawed, just like me. So the truth got buried deeper and deeper and deeper. While the consequences of lying to myself weren’t as clear-cut as getting grounded, they were much more serious.
Of course, like Carl Jung said, “what you resist persists.” The truth never goes away. It will continue being true whether or not you accept it.
Here’s an example for you. I had a job that I felt absolutely “meh” about for a few years. Yes, years. I knew I didn’t love it. I knew I didn’t love living in a small town, or teaching, or being so isolated. I could admit that to my friends and family jokingly, but never in a serious way that demanded attention and action. So I remained stagnant for years. And why? Well, in a way I suppose I wanted to avoid the painful consequences just like in high school. Admitting the truth to myself would demand action. It could be difficult. Did I believe in myself enough to take action?
One day, I got the nerve to be honest with myself and admit that I wasn’t happy. Since making the decision to leave that job, I’ve felt more momentum in my life than ever before. My five-year plan is still nebulous, yet I feel more hopeful that I’m moving in the right direction. Honesty got me unstuck.
I picked honesty because I recognized the difference it made in my life. I knew that I wanted to do this more: to live on a deeper level, in tune with my real self and in deeper connection with others, especially when it was hard. (Okay, to be HONEST, I did not feel excited about being honest when it was hard, but I realized that was the only way it’d be meaningful.) I wanted to be real about whether or not I was living my values. I wanted to get honest about what I really want out of life, and not avert my eyes when I believe it’s too daunting, too spectacular an opportunity for disappointment or failure. Dear lord, I just wanted to not get stuck for years in a job I felt “meh” about like I’d allowed myself to do already!
Until at least the end of 2020, I’m going to be writing reflections on honesty. How it is truly the best policy. How it is hard. How it packs a ton of power. I’m not 100% sure what this will look like, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve storytelling, truth telling, and a healthy dose of philosophizing.
I hope these reflections will be encouraging to anyone who is on a similar journey.
P.S. Here’s a very on-theme, hilarious video about honesty that my friend Arisa showed me.