“Cool, original, authentic. Evening creativity on Kudle beach…” by Miran Rijavec is licensed under CC BY 2.0
When I was in high school, I interviewed for a college scholarship in a plaid shirt, Yankees hat, blue jeans, and sneakers. And I won it.
I wasn’t trying to make a statement; I was just ignorant, and unpolished. I was about to be a first-generation college student, so my parents had no advice to give me when it came to the proper dress for an event with which they had no familiarity (now that I think about it, I don’t believe I even told them). And the me now probably wouldn’t have dared let the me back then dress like for a scholarship interview. Are you out of your mind?!
But I got it. And I believe I know why.
When I interviewed, there was absolutely no pretense. I was ignorant, but I was genuine. And it came through in my answers, even the gimme ones. I remember being asked to name someone who I admired and why. I didn’t name Mother Theresa or MLK Jr…I named my friend Barry, who had a healthy amount of respect for (still do) and for possessing qualities of character I didn’t have but really admired. And so it went: the interviewers asked questions, I told them my truth – no practice, no rehearsal – and I left. Weeks later I was sitting in the audience at the end of the conference with the other participants, hoping (but not expecting) to win one of the scholarships. I don’t remember what happened after they called my name, other than a feeling of bewilderment and pride. But mostly bewilderment: me?
Everything about the interview should have not landed me the scholarship by any conventional standards. But it was by being unconventional but authentic that allowed me to win. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it’s something that the adult me needs to dwell in from time to time. We don’t wake up in the morning desiring to fit in, but, after a time, we take on the same posture as everyone else. It’s burdensome at best, crushing at worst. But there are those times…those times when we are so authentically ourselves that it’s like the light of the divine shines on us. And we don’t have to win anything to experience it, don’t have to obtain the approval of others. But, in our non-ignorant selves, it now takes a lot of courage.
Sometimes it’s better to not know what you don’t know, and act from that place. Give it a try.