I don’t know about you, but I care a lot what others think of me. Anyone else get dressed in the morning and sometimes end up going through two or three outfits before finding ‘the right one’? Good – glad I’m not the only one.

Recently, I was considering if that may be effecting other areas of my life as well. Perhaps my writing, as I haven’t written anything new in a while. The bottom line – I simply do not want to be a failure – whether that means writing something not worth reading, ending up never published, or expressing thought-patterns that do not line up perfectly with how I was raised, educated, the societal-norm.

The problem with being the person everyone else wants you to be, is that you end up losing yourself in the mix of things. So here I am – discovering myself – expressing thoughts and not really editing them (because let’s be honest, this is a BLOG, not an academic journal).

There’s something flavorful about being unfiltered. In fact, one of my favorite beers is Boulevard Brewing Company’s “Unfiltered Wheat” – more commonly referred to as “Boulevard Wheat”. I like my beer unfiltered and some people like the French Press style coffee that is basically unfiltered. And I think I like people more, that are unfiltered.

Alright, I think you get that the post is titled “Unfiltered”, I’ll give the word a rest.

In the rat-race of pleasing others and meeting their expectations, we drown ourselves in the agony of defeat. But we didn’t really have a chance to win, when we make it one man against the world.

What does a guy in his mid-twenties do when he’s trying to discover himself? Well, he starts dating.

Over the last few months, I’ve been on a handful or so dates. It’s interesting how this uncertainty of self comes into play. I now understand much more clearly how/why people end up adjusting their personalities/characteristics while dating. In order to become appealing to so-and-so, I recognize what appeals to them and try to become that. The problem is, I’m not really the rebel or bad-boy, but I’m also not the perfect, never-does-anything-wrong standard of the opposite.

In the spirit of being unfiltered – yes, I’ve tried online dating. And yes, I know what Tinder is. I have so many thoughts when it comes to online dating, but I’ll save most of them for a future post when I have more time. The gist of my position is that it’s difficult to learn enough about someone in order to make a rational decision based upon the 1-to-2 dates that usually allows for. Knowing someone in-person – at work, church, within your circle of friends, appears to be a much more natural way of understanding how others behave in various situations and discovering who they really are. The appealing side to the online dating culture is that you can be whoever you want to be (that day) and your date isn’t going to know the difference. Also, it circumvents all of the – what I feel to be – unnecessary red-tape that comes when dating within the church (once again, probably another post in the future. But I’m young, inexperienced, and just learning as I go, so don’t weigh my ‘insight’ too heavily).

Of all the things I’ve personally been learning and struggling through recently, one thing prevails above everything – life does not appear to be as cookie-cutter as I once thought. I’m overwhelmed with humility and compassion for others when I recognize how many mistakes I, myself, have made as well. As a young Christian, I grew up trying to be perfect, always doing everything right – following all the rules – and holding myself above everyone. It made me a ‘leader’, but you can’t really lead anyone when you’re looking down on them. You lead from the front-lines, in the trenches with everyone else.

You’re not always going to fit within the lines of everyone else’s expectations. Sometimes, you won’t even meet your own (usually unrealistic) expectations. Forgiveness and grace has always been much easier for me to give others, as opposed to giving it to myself. Learning to accept my own faults and diligently work towards growth has been hard. It turns out you can’t lose 30 lbs over night. But beating myself up everyday I look in the mirror doesn’t fix the problem. It’s adjusting my lifestyle and gradually becoming more disciplined with what I eat/drink and how active I am. I’m not going to become a manager in the workforce overnight – I have to do my part, work hard in my current position as a contract-employee, and earn my way up.

We all want to live life full-speed ahead. I know I do. I want to reach the finish-line, look back and say, “That was awesome!” But in order to be safe and healthy, we have to slow down for the speed-bumps (obstacles) along the road of life. But you can do it. I can do it.

Be real. Be you. Live unfiltered.

Above all things, remain hopeful. Do not allow the worries of the world, the stresses of the day, and the internal battles, to snuff out your light.

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