Live Deliberately

Maybe this time I’ll get it right. No, no, that’s not the right approach. There are plenty of things in life you will not get right the first time. Perhaps I shouldn’t foist that upon you, but I know there are plenty of things I didn’t, haven’t, and likely won’t get right the first time. It’s taken me a long time to come around on tenets that comprise the core of my being, whether that’s as a vegan, a non-driving city dweller who wants more city for everyone, or as a woman, to mention a few key ones. Each of those has taken me years to refine. It’s never about being the best. What’s best, anyway? It’s about being a better person than I was yesterday. Sometimes I don’t do a good job with that. We all have our bad days. Hell, some of us have had bad lives. Perhaps a younger version of me would have blamed a lot of people for that. The current version knows damn well a lot of us are doing the best with what we have and some of us don’t have nearly as much as we should.

As I become a more realized version of myself, though, I live in a world that does not seem prepared for it. I trundle through a city with laughable bike infrastructure, wondering about what the next pothole or trolley track or car might do to me, aware that the article would inevitably point out that I was not wearing a helmet like that excuses the body count of our car-first culture. I watch as your jaw drops a little when I say I don’t really miss bacon at all, because that’s a difficult world for so many to comprehend. I stand mortified, afraid to correct a co-worker who misgenders me because I hope against hope that no one else even noticed and then my heart drops when I realize they probably didn’t notice because that’s how they think of me too. I used to think they were all demonstrably different aspects of who I am, the cyclist, the vegan, the trans woman, and in some ways, they are but they aren’t really, inasmuch as they are all elements that very much set me apart from the mass of men who lead lives of quiet desperation,  trapped in their cars, trapped in their masculinity. Efforts to push against that will not be tolerated.

Of course, in some ways, they are demonstrably different. People give me strange looks when I say I bike to work, they look like they pity me when I say I’ll pass on the milk chocolate, but they give me downright hostile looks just for assert myself as a woman. There’s a slim chance I’ll get in an accident riding, and I might go hungry for a meal, but being trans is enough to put your life in danger. Less so for me than for many others, less by virtue and more by luck, but it is still a more real possibility than any other danger I face. Some days, I feel I am living less deliberately and more defiantly, though that is just a function of a society that treats any deviation from the norm as defiance. We may encompass vast ranges, but so much comes down to binary choices: yes/no, man/woman, black/white. Ours is not a culture of nuance. It is barely a culture of change. We stake to calcified opinions that we do not question. It’s hard to change your mind on something, and it’s even harder to share that with the world. It always requires an explanation, and even then, we still hold old versions of ourselves over each other. Even as I have changed so much, I still do it. I know this is something I have struggled with and continue to challenge myself on; I understand it is difficult. I know it’s easy to forget how everyone else’s life is in motion just like our own when everything appears static from the outside. I get that our realities complicate and compromise our best efforts to live deliberately. So many things outside of our control affect it. I get that we all have to make choices with the finite time we have. I get that what is right for me may not be right for you, as there are so many different ways of living. Or at least I get that now, though I doubt I understood that nearly as well even a few short years ago.

It’s not about getting there first. I want to live in a culture that celebrates trans realities, and if you are already there and realize that trans people are just that, people, cool. But there’s no special ribbon for getting there first. And it’s also worth remembering there was a time when perhaps you didn’t think of it that way. I don’t take that as a sign that some people are more evolved or anything like that. I take that as a reminder that there are areas that I probably don’t challenge myself on that I may come to realize in the future are absurd. I take as a reminder to be open to thinking another way. I may have once struggled to see myself as the woman I am, but now I can’t see myself as anything but. The act of living deliberately isn’t about questioning every little thing all the time. We still have to function on a daily basis and it can be paralyzing to always be like that. But it does mean we should engage those questions. Being trans is really great preparation for that. Perhaps you have a different teacher in that regard. We can’t change the past. But luckily, we aren’t those people anymore, even if we see ourselves and others that way sometimes. I know it’s hard. I know other people may not understand, perhaps now, perhaps ever. I know it’s a lot easier to look back and ascribe a purpose to all of it than it is to see in the moment. Maybe I will finally get it right this time. But if I don’t, then how am I going to be better tomorrow?

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