Seeking the Authentic
A while ago, Lil and I went to a new Columbus city space with friends, one touted as a great community center. I left unbelievably uncomfortable. Weed-like annoyances including the lack of shade, long lines, crowds, and poor food options covered up what I wished was growing instead but I couldn't quite put my finger on it right away.
A few days of introspection made me realize what was missing: authenticity. I and so many others headed to the area seeking community and engagement but left hot and bothered.
So What is Authentic?
Everyone's version of authenticity may be different. For me, a genuine experience is:
- Comfortable - everyone has space, there are areas of shade in summer and warmth in winter
- Engaging - all ages can enjoy aspects of the experience
- Open to Emotions - The Disney "Happiness Factor" isn't real. Guests must have the emotional space to feel moved, shocked, thrilled, saddened, and hopeful.
- Close to Nature - Real enterprises recognize that humans are part of nature, not a force above it, and provide avenues to interact and witness nature if only through windows and natural light.
- Open Ended - An authentic experience is made by the people who attend, have conversations, and create community.
When Faced With Fake
What do you do when you find yourself in a less-than-bona-fide situation?
If you can, transform the experience into something with more meaning and feeling. Play an inclusive game on an open lawn. Make a mental word search in a 'don't touch' museum. Position yourself in the most comfortable place you can find.
It's also OK to say "no thanks" to an un-authentic experience. Advertising cleverly leads many of us to think that the new amusement park or traveling circus or characters on ice show is something everyone will love. If you know that your family doesn't like being packed in crowds for manufactured happiness, skip the temptation. We often stay far away from such events.
Plan for the Real Deal
We're about to leave for a lengthy vacation with fourteen relatives. We could fill our days with tours and tourist traps but we will seek authenticity instead. Whether at home or away, we search out genuine experiences like:
- Nature Parks and Wildlife Refuges
- Farmers' Markets
- Local Restaurants, Brew pubs, and Groceries
- Non-Profit Museums (some are much more 'real' than others)
- Ethnic Eats
- Community Festivals and Fairs
- Pick-Your-Own Operations and Farm Tours
Do you seek the authentic? How do you find it?