living your authentic life. an interview with cindy underhill.

I am fortunate that in my line of work, in education, I come across many incredible and inspiring people. One such person is my friend, Cindy Underhill. Cindy works at UBC and every time I see her at a conference I am always thrilled for the opportunity to re connect. Cindy is an artist, an educator, a community member, a mother, wife, and community builder. Read about the way she maintains her authenticity.

Can you share a bit about yourself?

Likes: philosophical conversation (and the occasional good argument), off-beat places, people and perspectives (often accompanied by a great meal and some good wine)

Dislikes: whitewashing of any sort, the term brain-based learning,  and…(I’ll stop there)
My dark sense of humor keeps my optimism in check. I work as a Learning Resource Design Strategist. I play with my garden, collage making, my dusty keyboard and the occasional poem.

How do you define authenticity?

Knowing who you are and having the courage to live it.

Can you describe the path you took to get to the place where you are today? As in, how did you find your calling?

I’m not sure that I have found my calling – but I think I’m getting close. I have always been interested in how people learn, grow, change and adapt and this has shaped my decisions about what I wanted to learn, how I wanted to learn it and what I wanted to do with it.  I’ve pieced together my own “education” through formal and informal means:  by taking classes from people whose work or ideas I admire, taking on challenges – occassionally beyond my capacity- and finding ways to work with people who I can learn from.  I make a lot of mistakes and have weathered enough storms (personal and professional) that I have a perspective about what’s important. Outside of a few waitressing gigs and a temporary stint as an office worker, I’m usually pretty passionate (sometimes obsessive?) about the work I take on.  When the passion fades, I take it as a sign to find a new home for it.

How does your current career and soulful journey reflect your authentic self?

I am lucky enough to work with diverse groups of people who always have an interesting perspective to share and whom I have learned a great deal from.  When I can draw out a potential learning path, from a complex set of challenges and work with others to make that drawing come to life, I know I am in the right place. When I am my most authentic self, there is flow, and an ease about my work – I get excited about complexity.

Who inspires and motivates you to continue your path to being your authentic self?
My family. We support each other and (given that we share some of the same neurotic, obsessive tendencies), we appreciate them in each other. We’re talking authentic, not perfect.

How do you ensure that you maintain your own authenticity, when often it can be a struggle?

I ask myself regularly: does what I am doing reflect my values and beliefs? If the answer is no, I make a shift or take an action to bring my actions into alignment.  I take mental health days. Sometimes, I need to intentionally carve out time to reflect on what I am doing, why and (if I am struggling), what needs to shift. I need time alone for this sort of reflection.

For people struggling to find their own authenticity, what advice can you offer?

Forgive yourself, recognize when there is flow in your life and arrange your life so that those occasions happen more often. If there’s fear, walk with it, don’t let it lead.

If you had to use one word to sum up your year, what word would that be and why?

on the verge… Sorry, that’s three words but it pretty much sums up my life these days. On the verge of tears, on the verge of change, on the verge of a meltdown, on the verge of something big, on the verge of an idea, on the verge of understanding, on the verge of falling apart… Not sure how it will turn out…stay tuned.

Lastly, where can we find you in the web-o-sphere?

My blog (Potentially Coherent 2):
Twitter: @cindyu

Cindy, thanks so much for participating in the series. If YOU would like to take part in the interview series or know someone who you believe truly lives an authentic life, please send me an email: amanda[dot]coolidge[at]gmail[dot]com.


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