One of the biggest issues I had to overcome in being authentic and true to myself was learning to stop lying to myself. As a trans woman, society certainly gave me good reason to, and continues to show me why, at times, I feared and worried about being myself. But I rarely worried about the economic disadvantages I might face or the fact that I be attacked just for walking down the street as myself. No, I worried whether I’d be laughed at, whether or not I’d fit in, whether I’d be pretty to be honest. And came to the conclusion I would be, I wouldn’t, and I definitely wouldn’t. I turned out to be wrong and they were vain things to worry about, foolish in retrospect. There are usually bigger concerns than wondering whether that dress looks good on you if you’re trans, though sometimes that matters to, and it feels good when it does. I have a hard time thinking of it as internalized misogyny even if it was as I didn’t really think of myself as a woman then, but certainly my idea of who I was or could be was influenced by a misogynistic construct of who or what a woman could be in our society. And whatever that was, I didn’t fit the definition.
Once I stopped lying to myself about who I was in that sense, I realized the other problems in my life were still there. Which perhaps sounds obvious to you and even me now, but at the time, the process of coming out was pretty consuming and I was fairly focused on it. I was lying to myself in lots of ways though. I’d like to think I’m a generally honest person, but who doesn’t? They may have felt necessary at the time, and probably were as I was trying to navigate my identity as a woman and not necessarily ready to share it, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t lies. Perhaps the other ways didn’t get to the core of my identity, but they still mattered. Coming out gave me the tools, but I still had to use those tools to tackle the other issues in my life. I still had to stop lying to myself about the false constraints that I put on myself, about the worship of busy-ness, about “not having time”. After all people with “less time” than me still seem to get a hell of a lot more done. I had to stop lying to myself about what was possible.
Sometimes it wasn’t necessarily outright lying as much as it was framing. I still spend a lot of time thinking about how I think about my life. I’m not that different than I used to be, believe it or not. Or perhaps I am, but the changes have much more to do with what I think is possible, trying to making those things happen, and how I choose to use the time I have in terms of what I do. There are inextricably other factors tied into it that I cannot deny, like where I live or how much I get paid, but they are difficult to separate out at this point. Some I earned; some I did not. I can and should acknowledge them, but like many things in life that I cannot change in the sense that they are what currently exists, they are just factors. I can work to change them in the future, for myself and hopefully for others, and likely they’ll change in ways that are beyond my control, but I try not to worry too much about that. I stay in my lane and try to take care of what I can because there’s so much that I cannot that I’d really rather not spend my energy on. Though you really can get quite a bit done if you think about it.
But back to the framing business. I really do think how we think about the circumstances of things has an impact along with all those other factors. I don’t mean this in a power of positive thinking kind of way, though. You can do all the right things and still fail, still not get your opportunity. Life might not work out and it might be because of circumstances outside of your direct control. Which is shitty when you think about it. I’d like to think we can move toward a world that gives everyone a fair chances, but it’s pretty obvious that’s not the world we currently live in. As an example, consider creative endeavors. There’s a lot more that goes into being a successful musician than writing a few good songs. Lots of people write good songs. There’s some luck in getting them played in the right places. Sometimes tenacity can create that luck; sometimes you just start off with better connections and resources through nothing you did or earned; sometimes you never even get that chance. Sometimes you squander all those resources and it still works out somehow. Which isn’t to say hard work isn’t a factor. It is to say that I think framing something as “if you work hard and put in your best effort, it will work out for you” isn’t any necessarily true, and is possibly a damaging way of looking at things. Though I guess that depends on how you think of things working out. There’s so much we can’t control. You might feel like the deck is stacked against you. And you could be right.
I’ll admit, thinking about things like this occasionally makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and say what’s the fucking point? But as I talked about previously, I try not to look at it in a pessimistic fashion. Of course it gets to me sometimes. But the last several years have taught me that my definition of possible sometimes needs some work. Not in a grandiloquent bullshit “you can do anything” kind of way, though. More in the sense that each day I work harder to be a better person, the person I want to be, and plenty of days I still fuck up at that. The definition constantly shifts. But I know I’m a person who no longer lies to herself about who she is, and philosophically, that filters into the ways I think about everything else. And it’s very easy to look back and realize what you thought was impossible even a few short years ago is something you’ve suddenly done. And while it’s good to have goals, it’s also amazing how much things can change in a year, let alone several.
Of course you still have to try, and of course it’s still good to have goals, tangible goals that are neither impossible nor too easy. Sometimes that means breaking the seemingly impossible ones down into more doable steps. Sometimes it just means taking the time. Sometimes that time is years. That’s how long it’s taken me to get truly comfortable with who I am, both in terms of how I think of myself and who I see in the mirror each morning. There were a lot of false starts, and simply coming to terms with my womanhood definitely did not magically solve them. Some of them have been influenced by the relative fortune I’ve experienced. Some of them have just been influenced by a change in how I think of myself. Some of them have been influenced by taking better care of myself. We all have to find the things that make us who we are, and I am still working to find those aspects. I probably always will be. I may naturally be a competitive person, it may be something I use to drive me. I may get piqued because of it from time to time, but we are all on our own journey and in a lot of ways it’s futile to compare myself to other people. Because I’m me.
For my part, I had to stop saying to myself I don’t have the time. I had to stop saying I wanted to do something in an unqualified manner. I do have the time, I just might not choose to use it. I do want to do that, but not as much as all these other things. Perhaps that isn’t a beneficial way for you to think about life, but I think it’s disingenuous how often many of us say we don’t have the time. They may be little white lies to get out of things, but I also feel that influences how we think about our lives. It’s agency, after all. Choosing not to do something is an active decision; saying you don’t have the time is a passive one. Of course we have to take care of things, we have to make sure we eat and the rent gets paid, and I get that some people have less agency in regard to how they take care of that. I get that a lot of people have to use the time they have to do a lot of things they don’t want to, more so than I do at least, and that there are some people who truly probably do not have time in the sense that they are already using all of it to try and take care of those things. Even a few years ago I don’t think I would have truly been cognizant of that. But that is not something I can say, and I do not feel it is something I should say because I don’t think it’s true of my life. It doesn’t mean I’m always making the right choices, or even using my time all that well. But I’m not this person that things just happen to. I’m this person who makes choices about how she lives her life. I am a person with agency who decides to do these things. Or who decides not to. Some of those decisions work out; some do not. And again, while some of those things are influenced by things I didn’t necessarily do a whole lot to get, some of those things are influenced by things I very much did do something to earn. And I plan to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m going to use that agency to keep trying every day to be the best version of me. Whoever I end up being.