Authenticity. What does it mean to be authentic? I could look up the Webster Dictionary definition of the word, but I already know it wouldn’t give me the answer I’m looking for. What does it mean to write with an authentic voice, and how does one find it?

I’ve struggled with this for some time now. The minute I start trying too hard, start thinking about the people whom I want to reach and who will read my work, I get stuck. Or worse, I write something that I think sounds fake. And that’s the last thing I want. I want the reader to be able to hear me speak as they read my words, as if we were having a conversation. But how do I find that?

I’m questioning a lot of things these days. Who am I? What am I passionate about? What do I pretend to be passionate about for the sake of other people? Why do I do the things I do? What is most important to me, the things I’m not willing to compromise on? How do I build a life around these things? I’ve become quite good at giving people the answers I know they want, but in the process I’ve lost sight of what I truly want. I’m good at giving advice to those struggling, at making it look like I’ve got it all figured out, but in reality, I don’t. I’m just as lost as the next person.

Things are not going the way I originally planned. In the process of being told no, of ending up on my knees and coming to the end of the person I thought I wanted to be, I’ve figured out that maybe that life is not what I wanted after all. There was a dream somewhere deep inside me, far beneath the surface, one that I was not admitting to myself. Because it’s not the “traditional” path, it’s not the safe path or the one I’d been told I should take. But ultimately I know there are things that are so deeply important to me that my life needs to be built around these things, or I’ll never be truly satisfied – I’ll always be waiting for the next weekend, vacation or travel opportunity.

Curveballs are painful, but in that moment when I’m down on my knees sobbing, I know what’s most important to me, the core of what I want and need going forward.

Relationships, for one thing. I want to spend my precious time on earth doing the things I love with the people I love most. Even two years away from that, for me, is too long. I longed for the freedom to go where my people would go. Now I have that – I’m in a position to build my life in whichever way I choose. Choices are terrifying, but they are also liberating.

I am a writer, a poet, a storyteller. I’ve been asking myself, why do I write? What makes me think I have something valuable to say? I write because stories are powerful. I write to give a voice to the voices we don’t hear and the faces we don’t see, because I identify with what they’re feeling. I’ve been there. I am a subtle human; I’ve never been the most charismatic personality in the room. Countless times, I’ve found myself desperately wanting to contribute to a conversation but never having the chance. We live in a loud world, and quiet voices get lost in the chaos. But I believe every person was put on earth for a reason – every life is important. Why do I write? I write to remind people that they matter. I write to make people feel less alone.

I have so many questions and so few answers. How do I find my authentic voice? I guess I try, but not too hard. I search. I read. I write. I write because it’s the thing I can’t not do, because I am incomplete without it.