Good morning, internet!
I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long. Life has been crazy, in ways both good and bad. The longer I waited to post, the more I had to say, and the more I had that “I don’t even know where to begin” reaction. At this point, I may not hit everything I have been meaning to blog about, but I have to begin somewhere. I would like to make more of a commitment to my writing. I’ve been thinking about this book I read in high school, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She suggests writing for at least thirty minutes a day, if I remember correctly. I would like to start doing that. And the best way to motivate myself will be to blog every day, so I’m going to give that a try, and see how well I can manage it.
Lamott has this great anecdote, for which she named the book, which holds a lot of lessons about life. She explains that her brother, when he was a kid, procrastinated quite impressively on a project about birds. The night before the project was due, he broke down, completely overwhelmed. It is a plight in which I have often found myself (including, for example, catching up on my blog), where the amount of work seems so momentous that I can’t even get myself to start.
So, Lamott’s brother is freaking out, sitting “at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then [Lamott’s] father sat down beside him, put his arm around [her] brother’s shoulders, and said ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird'” (Lamott, 19).
I just think that is some of the best advice that exists in the world. Honestly, no joke, no exaggeration. I strongly believe that it is the secret to life, to happiness, to success. My worst moments have been when I forgot to take things “bird by bird.” Obviously, it applies quite literally to schoolwork of any kind, but I think it has applications far beyond academia. Similar to the sentiment of “one day at a time,” I think “bird by bird” provides a reminder to take things as they come, to work through things step by step, and that even if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, the first step is just to…start chewing. You can’t just sit there and hold that bite of food in your mouth until the end of time.
I’m going a bit overboard on the analogies, so forgive me (in my defense, I am quite sleep deprived). But, cheesy idioms aside, the sentiment is an important one. The last couple of years have felt like one long lesson in taking things as they come. I’ve always been pretty good at it, if I do say so myself, but I’ve gotten a lot better. And I can improve further still. I believe very strongly in being adaptable. I don’t like to meditate, but I try to keep kind of a zen attitude about life. You do what you can – I don’t suggest just waiting for things to happen or being passive about life – but at some point you have to accept things for how they are.
I’m using the word “thing” a lot. I do not think Anne Lamott would approve. But who knows? The truth is, I don’t have one particular situation in mind. The sentiment applies so broadly. I try to minimize the regrets that I have about my actions and my life, but it is hard to live life without regrets. At some point, you have to take stock and say, “Hey, this didn’t turn out how I wanted, but I’m going to move on.”
On a similar vein, I have been learning not to think of my life as a series of stages. I have a tendency to think, “Hey, I messed up this stage, so I’d better wait until the next stage and do better once I have a fresh slate.” But there’s no need to wait until the next “stage” – and, truly, the stages don’t actually exist. There’s always room to turn your life around. That’s something I firmly believe. It’s so easy to forget that people can change, that circumstances can change. It’s so easy to say, “I fucked up. There’s no digging out of this hole.”
But that’s not how I see life. We should learn from our mistakes, and it’s important not to forget our mistakes, but it is equally important to make sure we do not allow ourselves to be defined by our mistakes.
I also think it’s important to make sure that you measure your own mistakes based on your own priorities. As a “young adult,” I have been thinking a lot about where my values and my priorities come from. I have also realized that some of what I used to consider a “mistake” was based on someone else’s world view. I have complicated feelings toward ideas like moral relativity and really anarchistic stuff. There are certain things I just believe are bad ideas. But I also recognize that there are people out there who don’t think those things are bad ideas. And though I believe that I am right, I recognize that I can’t necessarily know that for sure. But I have to live based on what I think is right, and not someone else’s checklist of ideals.
I’m going to try to write about all of this more coherently in the days to come. But I have been thinking a lot about who I am, and what I value in life. A lot of trans people talk about having to reassure their friends and families that they (the trans person) have not changed, that they are the same person they always were. I have spent plenty of time reassuring people of that fact about myself. But, over the last couple of weeks, I have realized that I actually am a different person. And it’s not necessarily that I’ve “changed,” per se, but that I have reverted to a person I kept locked away and hidden for so long, no one really knew he was there. Possibly not even me.
For almost twenty-three years, I pretended to be this fictional “Hannah,” this person who never felt right or real or stable. And a lot of aspects of that person were fictional, were fabricated to make sense of the life I was living and the body in which I was trapped. The real me, the real Isaac, was trapped, like in those horror stories where people keep a relative locked in the attic. I thought that he was the monster under my bed, and I ran from him for so long that I forgot who he was or what he wanted out of life.
But now I’ve stopped running, and once I stopped, I realized Isaac was not, in fact, the monster, but the warrior sent to slay the beast. Hah, all those years dreaming of being a knight, and maybe I was the one who needed to be saved. Amusing thought.
The first year of my official transition was very much about accepting my trans identity and learning kind of the bare necessities of functioning. This year has been more about exploring what I actually want my life to look like. I had done some thinking on that before my transition, but I have found that knowing I could truly be myself has changed what I want my life to look like. I think when I was still pretending, there was a certain amount of trying to compensate for the undercurrent of unhappiness that ran through my life. Now that it’s gone, and I don’t have to spend energy putting up a front, I have the time and the mental capacity to settle into the life I actually want.
It’s still an adjustment, don’t get me wrong. Once in a while, I hear Hannah’s voice in my head, telling me I’m settling, or that I’m rationalizing, that what I have and who I am isn’t good enough. But, for the most part, I’m able to tell her to shut the hell up, because, quite frankly, Isaac is much more awesome than Hannah ever was. And all those insecurities just stemmed from this fear that I could never be happy. And I couldn’t have been happy, as Hannah, not ever. No matter how perfect I made my life, she would have always been miserable. And I think that’s why her goals were so unreasonable.
But that shadow of a person, that semblance of reality, is gone for good, to the extent that something can be gone that never really existed. And my fears and anxieties are slowly leaving in the same direction. And my life looks nothing like I would have ever imagined, but it is so much better than anything I could have dreamed up.
“I’m back!” by https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/.