One of the unique anthropological/cultural experiences I’ve had with the purchase of the chateau is meeting some aristocrats who live in the area. I met a few in Paris, of course, but the ones who’ve remained in the country, with their estates and way of life in tact, have been more accessible, and perhaps more interesting.
Of course, their personalities are unique and individual. They are not cliches: ascot-wearing characters who come from central casting when the director needs ‘an aristocrat’. They do have predictable characteristics in common, however.
They are all very well educated. Boarding schools are the norm, as is university. They have traveled and speak at least two languages. They are all straightforward. While polite and diplomatic, there is little ambiguity in their opinions. Judgments–or let’s say assessments–come quickly and sometimes sharply, unfiltered and often accurate. They possess energy and purpose for the most part, even if they are at a crossroads in their life, as one acquaintance is at present.
But the most marked and powerful characteristic I have sensed with these people is their sense of who they are. They have a very definite sense of identity. Some of it, one could argue, comes from their upbringing: a position of privilege, a prominent family, generational examples of how (and how not) to behave. All distinct advantages.
On the flip side, distant or absent parents are not uncommon. The rigorous and sometimes brutal experience of boarding school has left its distinct mark on their personalities, for better or worse. Serious responsibilities and high expectations from family and peers are par for the course.
Wardrobe choices run the gamut from Old Money Style to Savile Row Slumming to Couldn’t Care Less to Stuck in a Time Warp.
Taken as a whole, I do not envy their lives or their positions. But I do admire their rock-solid sense of who they are.
So how might we benefit from their example?
First, take a moment and think about who you are. And who you are not. Then, as best as you can, apply your sense of identity to your work, your daily choices, and your aspirations.
“That’s me. That lines up with my sense of who I am.”
“That’s not me. That’s not who I am. That doesn’t resonate with me.”
The more frequently and definitively we match up our identity with our choices, the better we’re going to feel and the more productive we’re going to be.
Second, set a task for yourself. Something challenging. Something that force you to dig deep, find your inner strength. Something that will burn off bad habits. Something that will instill confidence when completed. Run a 10k or a marathon. Commit to daily yoga. Learn a foreign language. (!)
It has been said that character is destiny. It’s never too late to reflect on our own. It’s never too late to shape it into something stronger, something more refined, something more noble, aristocratic title or no.