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What if you could look at your life as a character in a story?
How would you describe yourself? What would inform that description? What defines you in the story of your life?
Most, I dare say, would point to the highlights: the degree, the trip around the world, the promotion, the wedding, the work. These are what I like to call the stage moments, the moments everyone was watching and you knew it—the great performances of life.
I am a performer. I started dancing at the age of two. I taught myself to play piano, guitar, and to read and write music just so I could sing outside of the privacy of my car and bedroom. I light up on stage, and I love a good performance.
I don’t think the performances define us, though. I believe we are defined in the moments behind the scenes when no one is looking and no one cares.
What do you do? How do you show up?
This morning, I put on a playlist called “European Cafe,” I lit candles, and opened the shades so the sun was shining in. I put on frilly shorts, a white sweater, and a silk robe. I washed blackberries and raspberries and set them on a plate. I fried an egg, sautéed spinach, and used a cheese grater to sprinkle cheese on top. I boiled water and slowly inhaled the warm scent of the bag of organic Peruvian coffee grinds as I prepared my pour-over cup of coffee.
I felt rich. I felt beautiful. I felt alive. I felt like I was on vacation.
It’s Tuesday morning at my mother’s house.
There are no special occasions today. I do not have the day off, and I do not have anything out of the ordinary to celebrate. No one saw me today and most days (when I’m not writing such articles), nobody would know. These are the moments that matter—the moments that show how you feel about your life when there is no one to impress.
All positive change in life begins with awareness. In a world that moves so fast, where our attention is constantly being pulled in every direction, we aren’t given the opportunity to stop and ask ourselves this extremely important, central question: how do you define yourself?
Would you describe yourself as happy, grateful, wealthy, beautiful? Would you like to?
We’ve gotten good at answering questions like, “How are you?” with the answer we’re supposed to give instead of the one that’s true. I hope you take this opportunity to ask yourself these questions for real.
There was a long time where, if I asked myself if I was really happy—and I was intent on being honest—the answer was no. It’s confusing because I’m sure that, to others, I looked happy. I was smiling at happy hour, and I still knew how to have fun. I realized, though, that I was having fun on stage, smiling for performances, and most of life is not a performance. Despite what Instagram would have you believe, most of life is behind the scenes.
Anybody can put a smile on their face for the hour on stage in the height of their biggest performance. I want to know if you smile on Tuesday mornings alone in your bed. I want to know if you take a minute to feel gratitude for your meal on the 364 days that aren’t Thanksgiving. I want to know if you adorn yourself and make yourself feel beautiful when no one will see, or do you think it’s a waste of makeup and a good outfit?
We all post our thanks on Thanksgiving and smile on the stage, but if you really want to be able to describe yourself as happy and grateful, it’s the ins and outs of every day that define us more than a performance ever could.
The moments on stage: the graduation, the presentation, the promotion, the fundraiser you organized, the wedding, the party, the nights at the club, and the trip documented on Instagram are a small percentage of the moments in your life. These moments are important and they are beautiful, but to say that they are the defining moments of life is a good excuse to forget about everything else; to blaze through life only focused on the next peak experience, when all the while, you could be making every moment beautiful.
I decided I wanted to be described as someone who is happy, grateful, and beautiful, and so I figured I better start where it counts: at home, literally and metaphorically. I believe that the best characters are defined behind the scenes, so I chose to find and create moments to smile and be grateful when no one could see.
Today, I deeply feel those things, on stage and off, because I chose to embody them in every moment.
You can do this too—it just starts by asking, How would you like to be described and how will those qualities be defined?