Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough. Mind you, it’s a bit tenebrous what enough means most of the time, it’s just a worry I have periodically. Should I write more? Should I read more? Should I see check out this band? Should I try to get in another run? Should I make it down to the SF LGBT Center for this event? I definitely haven’t been writing much recently, though the amount of reading I’ve done recently has ticked back up again recently. Even if I go to a lot of shows, there are always ones I have circled on the calendar that I still don’t make. As much as I make a concerted effort, I really haven’t maintained much of a running schedule. And as much as I want to be more involved at times with trans causes, sometimes I find it all a bit overwhelming. I don’t know if other people feel this way, but I have this strange feeling in my day-to-day life where I’m surrounded by cis people that I am too trans and the feeling I am not trans enough whenever I am with a lot of trans people. Not that there’s a way to be trans, or that it’s true or anything. To me, it’s just that reminder that I’m always getting over the idea of how to be that was instilled by a cisnormative society, no matter how long I’ve been living authentically. Even being trans, it can still be easy to judge things with a cisnormative lens. Society inculcates us to view the world in such a way. That’s why it’s incumbent to break down those views, to instill new ones. Perhaps, to some degree, that feeling is a reminder that I feel like I should do more, whether more is taking a minute to have a discussion with someone or giving more time and money to worthy causes.
There’s a line between challenging yourself to do more and doing too much in an unhealthy manner, though. And with trans stuff, there’s also a balance between trying to do more to help improve the world (in whatever ways big or small one might) and still doing all the other things one might want to, which is the point of trying to stake those advances anyway. I don’t want to use that as an excuse, it’s just that no one can always be on, and there are lots of things I want to do. And while we live in a society that still worships the cult of busy), it’s important to figure out how to take care of oneself when surrounded by that. Sometimes, taking care of myself means not doing very much at all. Other times, it does mean a pretty full schedule. But there’s always going to be too much to do and there’s nothing special about working too much and not leaving time for the things we might want to. Of course, not everyone has that luxury. I get that. But I do have that time. What should I do with it?
We have a dishwasher in my office. Offices are a curious environment. There are numerous people who leave dishes in the sink. While I do that at home, I don’t share my sink with anyone, so I don’t feel like it’s an issue. It’s always going to be my problem. In the work kitchen? You are making that everyone’s problem. In addition, I run the dishwasher, but the only other person I know who ran it regularly is no longer in our office. Which means that even though several other people contribute to the dishes, I feel like I’m the one who’s always running it or emptying it. Classically, it’s game theory in action, and I appreciate that. Why do the work someone else will? In reality, that’s a pretty shitty way to act. One of my coworkers has staked out a middle ground where he washes his own dishes and leaves them to dry on top of the microwave. When I expressed a little frustration no one else seemed to be running or emptying the dishwasher, he stated he was not part of the problem. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make him a part of the solution.
Recently, I feel like I’ve been firmly ensconced in a life where I’m not a part of the problem. Which is good. It’s nice to not be a part of the problem. But there’s an important distinction between I am not a part of the problem and I am a part of the solution. They both reflexively answer whether you are a problem, or actively causing harm, but only one is actually represents doing something to try and change that. Or at least doing that beyond the sphere of yourself. I feel like I’ve done a good job of moving in my lifetime from being a part of the problem in terms of many of my attitudes and actions. But occasionally, I feel stuck there. How do I move past that?
I’m no proselytizer, but I am definitely willing to talk about my ideas and experiences. I don’t feel like that’s an area where I need to do more because it’s up to you what you think about something. All I can do is say my piece and I feel like I do. I can’t think for you anymore than you can for me. I do act by passive means; whether that’s cutting a check as events come up or dropping off a few items when the roll out whatever collection bin they have set up at the office, I definitely am trying to direct a bit more that way. But again, that’s just a passive thing. It’s still something, and it’s still a good thing to do, but I don’t feel an active role in checking a box, picking a number, and sending the funds on their merry way or finding a few stray cans of soup in my cupboards.
Perhaps it was inchoate at the time, but I feel that’s what’s driving a lot of the decisions I’ve made recently, little individual things like getting back to biking, going vegan, etc. I still feel like a lot of those things are more not being a part of the problem than actively doing anything. It is, perhaps, just a frame of reference. They are things I can do (and have done). Perhaps what I need, or at least what I want, is something more tangible, something I can see the results of. No matter what I do, there’s always something more to do. I don’t say this in a negative way. There’s always going to be too much to do as well, but I still have the agency to decide what things I want to do (within reason of course). Just because of that doesn’t mean I should get overwhelmed by it. If I want to do different things than what I currently am doing, the questions remain the same: what’s important to me? What should I do?
As a record collector I understand the desire for more, but it becomes a battle of whether I own my records or my records own me at times. Do I really need Lolita Nation? Or that copy of Snowball I just missed out on up on eBay? I don’t even listen to my records all that much these days. Part of that is just not being home that much. Part is being a good neighbor. Part is that it’s hockey season so a lot of my nights at home I’ve got different media on. It’s hard to say I need my records in a real tangible way. But they are important to me. They are a part of who I am. They say something about me. What I choose to own, what I choose to keep around, what I chose to keep when I moved, those things are reflections of who I am, whether they are reflections of taste, fortune, or whatever else you may see.
I don’t see demands on our time as that different. There’s always going to be too much to do, see, consume; there is always going to be more to do to support what you are passionate about, in my case, trans issues, music, biking, etc. Some of those I can choose to engage more, some come up more often. If we’re lucky, we have the time, energy, and facility to do the things we are passionate about. And what we do is a reflection of who we are. There is always too much. I just have to decide what to do with my time, and some of that may well be sitting in my couch catching up on the latest episode of Arrow, and there is nothing wrong with that. I can’t always be an advocate; I can’t always fight. Maybe you can, but I just don’t have that kind of energy. It’s too taxing. I need mindless nights making guacamole and fiddling with my bike and doing things that don’t require me to think (that still need to be done). Those things are important too. Perhaps I can do more to actively make more of my time when it comes to helping and supporting people, but I am at least confident I have reached a point where what I do with my time, how I act, how I interact with the world around me is not actively causing harm. Now, it’s just the matter of taking that next step, of continuing to moving forward.
It’s important not to judge yourself too much by the pace of others. Of course seeing other people excel and do more can give any of us inspiration. The converse, though, is that we can get discouraged when our progress does not happen at the same pace. We all get there at our own pace. Running more frequently has taught me it’s paramount to run my pace, not get caught up trying to catch the person on the path in front of me or the person who just jetted by. Of course it’s important to drive yourself sometimes, to try a little harder, to try to do more. But the important part is that we keep going. Some people do seem to have gotten there sooner, wherever there is. They seem more actualized, more together, more whatever. But that’s just a different facet of modern life, of how social media affects our perceptions of what we do, who we are, and how we spend our time. And maybe they really are, but they’re not you. You’re you. Trust me, it’s a lot of work to figure out how to be yourself sometimes. That’s okay. I’m still figuring it out too.