A for Effort


My best days are my most effortless days.

They’re the ones that roll out of me, like your grandparent’s phone number for the last 40 years. Innate. Natural. Not memorized, but imprinted.

They are the days when I am my most genuine self. The real me, who it can be so hard to find most days, comes shining through. I like her, my most genuine self. She tends to guffaw and her voice rises an octave when excited, but like the child she birthed, the laughter and excitement of others is her first concern.

These effortless days are rare. Too rare. I spend most days attempting to manufacture my best days, and thus, my most genuine me. She’s a slippery rascal. The harder I try to gab on to her, the more readily she slides through my fingers.

I try to convince her that there is no one worth impressing. Anyone who truly matters has already accepted me. Anyone who does not accept me doesn’t really matter. She calls me a liar and runs to hide. So I’m left digging in my box of personas, fitting script to occasion. “Should I wear the pink reserved professional or the teal over-achieving momma?” The memorized, not imprinted, lines flow off my tongue clumsily, each less than perfect line reminding me of the effort I’m wasting on this charade.

Wasted effort…

I understand without accepting that my experience is likely more normal than not. Countless conversations about code-switching and being multi-dimensional people have left me with this distinct impression. And while both concepts are valid and have their place in our lives, I’m not convinced that they should be the norm. Let me rephrase that: I’m not convinced that I want them to be my norm.

My shoulds and woulds notwithstanding, the reality is that our society is one in which our genuine selves are not welcome or safe. Scaredy cat though I may be, my genuine self has reason to be leery. Genuine selves are either ridiculed or avoided because, being genuine, none is quite the same as another. We fear and distrust unknowns and others leading us to avoid being the feared and distrusted other ourselves.

I could accept this, as most sane, intelligent people have. But I keep returning to those words: wasted effort.

Have you seen the AEP “Wasted Energy” commercials? I really like them. Big, bright yellow styrofoam lightning bolts are piled in attics where lights have been left on and around TVs that were left on for dogs to visually represent the loss of an invisible commodity. Perhaps I’m easily influenced, but I’ve definitely been more diligent about my energy consumption lately. The Wonderpets are pissed about missing Ellen, but they’ll live.

So what do you think would happen if we could visualize the effort we put into not being the other, something less than genuine? What if we could quantify and measure the effort it takes to accomplish our most precious goals? Then plot this data, graph it, and compare. Would we transformed into effort conservationists? Could we be convinced to open a window to the natural breeze or would we insist upon the artificially cool air to which we’ve become so accustomed?

Or would that be an exercise in futility, a wasted effort in itself? Do we already know, without acknowledging, what we sacrifice for the comfort of not being the other?

I can’t say that I haven’t done the same. And having thought through these questions, I can’t say that my genuine days will be any more frequent or that my box of personas will be put into storage. The reality is that living life as an other, even with full knowledge of what you save by doing so, isn’t as easy as flipping a light switch. It requires a mental fortitude that is not easily acquired and that I, frankly, do not yet have.

Does wanting it get me an A for effort?


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