Photo by Amber Marlowe

Photo by Amber Marlowe

Hi. I'm Amanda Hirsch. That's me on the right, looking like I'm having a conversation with someone. 

I'm not, really, but I can't stand pictures where you just stand there and smile, as if we aren't always in motion.

I believe that we can and should write our own script in this life, and that it's damn hard to do so; it requires radical mindfulness and an ability to swim against the cultural tide. This blog is about my experiences trying to create a life that expresses who I truly am, and my reactions to (and ideas for reshaping) a culture that makes authenticity and originality very difficult. My deep hope is that you'll read something here that will make you feel less alone in your own journey to craft the life you want, and/or that will inspire you to live the story of your choosing.

I also share snippets of inspiration from other sources — people and projects and quotes that provoke me to think and understand the world in new ways. 

The Longer Backstory

It all started when I left college for a semester. I had spent my young life up to that point playing by the rules — a straight-A student who got her homework done ahead of time, never bucking convention. Now, away from home, with a few sociology courses under my belt, I was obsessed with knowing the purpose of everything, and if I didn't know the purpose, I couldn't play along. (I was also clinically depressed, something it would take me almost a decade to realize.)

Me in college, getting ready to go rogue

Me in college, getting ready to go rogue

I left school in the middle of a weekday, when I could no longer bear the effort of going through the motions.  "You need to get on a train and go home," my friend Kate counseled, and I did. When I came back the next semester, it was on my own terms. A teacher assigned a standard essay; I asked if I could write a play, instead. I began an independent study, which resulted in a proposal for a new freshman course encouraging students to define what they hoped to achieve in college, and to design a course of study accordingly.

I was reaching towards mindfulness, years before my first yoga class. I was making things up as I went, long before I found the art of improv comedy.

I was carving my own path, for the first time. 

I have continued to carve my own path, shaping a life that expresses my values and passions, rather than conforming to a pre-determined script.

From the outside, things might look pretty conventional: I'm married, and my husband and I have a 4-year-old daughter. We live in Brooklyn, and are both gainfully (and gratefully) employed in the world of digital content and strategy. We grew up in Rockville, Maryland, where we were high school sweethearts. We cram as much creative expression as possible into our spare time: writing for me, music-making for him, improv comedy for both of us. We have good relationships with our families. We floss. (Well, ok, he flosses — I think about flossing.)

But carving your own path doesn't just mean living in a yurt, or out of the back of a pickup truck. It's less about what the outside looks like, than what the inside feels like. Are you making choices that are true to who you are, and what you want? You could cover yourself in tattoos and sleep with someone different every night of the week and still be tangled up in living out other people's expectations.

I do not hold myself up as an example of perfect authenticity. Far from it. I am not immune to the pressures of other people's expectations, or to media, which bombards me daily with messages about who I'm supposed to be, and what I'm supposed to want: Tight abs, 30-minute weeknight suppers, a loving husband, a thriving career, and babies with Pinterest-worthy bedrooms. Amidst that noise, carving out the space to tune into what I really want frankly feels like a radical act, or at the very least, a difficult one. When I manage to do it, I'm proud of myself. When I don't, I try to find my way back, because I truly believe that each of us is meant to shine in our own way...and that the world needs us to do so.

These are my words to live by:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.
— Howard Thurman

I hope it helps you to read Having it Alt; I know it helps me to write it.

Breadcrumbs to my blogging past:

- Having a Ball Having it All
- Melody Bell (my comedic alterego)
- Creative DC