Ego sum. ego existo

My very first post, was around the purpose of why I started this whole blog in the first place. I had set out to create a guidebook for trans professionals. Which I would hope is evident from the name of the blog.

What I didn’t know at the time, was how difficult it was going to be to get the life experience necessary to begin to write that guidebook.

Transitioning is hard. It takes all of your courage, and it takes all of your strength. I know I spent my entire life dreaming of a day like today, where I’m sitting at my desk, in my own office, with some time to think on my hands, and a little bit of reflection in my heart. Whether I particularly dreamed of the office is irrelevent, what I’m intending is that I had some comfort and space to just exist.

That’s ultimately what it comes down to, ego sum, ego existo. I am, I exist. The original writing of Descartes, I think therefore I am. I think the original speaks more broadly to my truth. Because I thought long before I was.

Let me explain that better. I spent most of my life in the shadow of myself, trying desperately to unwind myself from the shell that surrounded me. To confuse matters more, we’re more then just ourselves in the single context of our mind. Though the mind is the source of our reason, and thus our self. It is within a social world, a physical interactive world that the self is actualized and realized.

So my own thinking mind was never enough, could never be enough to realize my entire person. It is only within the context of it’s expression truthfully could I begin to know myself and just be.

It’s difficult to explain but the last year has been the process of introducing myself to me and learning to express myself to others, for the first time, openly and honestly. Learning how to understand my emotions, feeling them with the richness and endless possibility that exists, not just repressing and suffering under their load.

Now I feel like I am, and therefore I exist.

 

 

 

On Feeling Good

I had a conversation with someone recently, and I mentioned the volunteering and community work that I do, she responded with something¬† I wasn’t really expecting.

“That must make you feel good.”

I didn’t know how to respond so I said no, because it doesn’t. I can’t really think of anything I’ve done that made me feel good. Which got me thinking, what doesn’t feeling good even mean?

I can think of a handful of times in my life that I felt joy, happiness, anything like that. Getting married, I felt happy, not as happy as I wanted to. At the time I wasn’t really great at feeling things. I felt somewhat proud when I graduated from college. I felt happy to the point of tears when I held my new birth certificate, and the first time I looked in the mirror and saw a woman.

So in almost thirty years of life, those are the memories I have of feeling good, of feeling happy, of feeling joy. That probably sounds bad, but I’m not generally miserable. I just don’t feel good a lot.

Which raises a couple of questions for me, do people go through life feeling good and bad, and hunting for that good feeling? Is that the motivation for people, to create instances where things just feel good? Maybe I’m somewhat broken from the fact that things have generally not been good. Chasing those highs seems somewhat unreliable.

This also raises the question to me, do people only volunteer, do they give back because they want to chase that good feeling? Does helping someone else make you feel good?

Is it really altruistic if you’re doing it because of how you’ll feel. I don’t volunteer out of altruism, my purpose is rather selfish. I work with certain groups with causes that benefit people like me, including me. I spend my time supporting a community that supports me, I don’t think that’s altruism. That’s fairly self-concerned.

I don’t have a lot of answers here, I’m just working through some questions.

I think there needs to be more of a reason to do things then how you’ll feel about them, you need to think that they are good. That they matter, that they’re helpful or important to someone else. Relying on your feelings on the matter is irrelevant. I think this is where the ‘white saviour’ trope comes from. If all I’m concerned about is my feelings toward something then the most good I can create is for myself.

I’m going to keep thinking on this one because it’s stuck with me and is bothering me. What is feeling good, what does it feel like? What does happiness feel like. My goal has often been contentment. I have a friend who has a saying, there are bad times and worse times. I’ve always liked it.

On Anxiety

I’ve talked before about how I’ve started studying Stoicism. I want to take a moment and discuss how and why it helps me.

The word stoic usually invokes the idea of someone unfeeling, disconnected from their emotions. Which isn’t really what Stoicism is about. What I’ve come to understand is that it’s really the study of impressions, and understanding how that affects what you can and cannot control.

You can not control anything except your mind. You can direct your body, but you can’t control what happens to it. You don’t choose whether or not to get sick, as an example. So if you’re only able to control your own thoughts, then the goal of life is to find acceptance of that fact.

You can’t control what others do, nor what they do to you, you can’t control the world around you in any meaningful way. You can attempt to change things, and it is indeed good to try and do good things, but ultimately you can not control how other people react to you.

Anxiety is an internal state generally caused by externals. It’s something I have had to come to live with. What I’ve had to learn to contend with is that ultimately. that anxiety is something that I’ve created.

That’s not to say it’s not from unfounded fears. There are people in this world who want me dead, there are people who want to see my life destroyed. There are people who hate that I exist and feel so strongly that I am ruining their life just by existing. So feeling anxious doesn’t inherently sound like a stretch.

What I have to hold on to is that whether or not those people think that, or even if they act on that. If I’m beaten and broken, or even killed. Those are all external to me. I can’t change their feelings, I can only live, and I can only find solace in my own rational mind.

Being anxious and nervous, letting that fear build up, limits all of the moments that I could have been enjoying. One of the weaknesses that I’ve discovered about myself is that I have a hard time with vulnerability. I have put a substantial amount of effort into independence and limiting the way in which that which is outside of my power can hurt me. Rather then bringing me peace, it only magnifies the vulnerability I feel from what’s outside of my control.

The net result being that the more control I feel I have in my life, the more anxious and concerned I am with what’s out of my control. Which explains why I’m bad at keeping my thoughts in order, and my mind clear. I put so much stock in becoming independent that the thought of being dependent or even having another’s decisions affect me scares me. For no other reason then the fact that I have grown up so afraid of what the world would do to me when they found out I was trans, I’m almost waiting for the riot in the streets.

So I’m really only hurting myself, and I think I have to come to terms with the fact that the world just doesn’t care that much. I need to live my life, and I need to do it accepting that the world can hurt me, I can’t prevent that pain, and I might even be surprised when it isn’t that bad after all.

 

Finding Motivation

Let’s talk about motivation, not specifically in the workplace, but generally. The desire to accomplish things.

One of the things I’ve had to give up since transitioning is any sort of recognition or material rewards.

My first full time job out of college five years ago, adjusted for inflation, paid better then what I make now. I’ve taken on bigger and better jobs, but that hasn’t turned into any sort of financial benefit.

So I’ve had to rethink my entire motivation system. I’m an out trans woman, I might as well have a tattoo across my forehead that says exploit me. Because the general sentiment I’ve experienced is that I’m lucky to have a job. Which is backed up with statistics. only 1/3 of trans folk work full time, I’m in the top quartile for earnings with my 40 odd thousand dollars a year salary. Compared to my straight cis peers I’m not doing great, but compared to other trans folk, I’ve experienced some substantial financial success.

So context is important, I have a full time job, I have a career I like, and I help people while doing it. On top of it I’m not close to the poverty line, so by most metrics of trans folk I’m incredibly successful. That took awhile to internalize. It’s hard not to compare yourself to your peers. it’s hard not to feel slighted by people you should trust, and it’s hard to not take it personally when people exploit you.

At the end of the day though, wallowing in that will only hurt you. I’ve felt so much hurt in the last year. So much pain. I’m trying to move past it all, and hold in my heart that in so many ways things are better then I’d ever imagined them being.

That is what you have to hold in your heart. That is what I try and focus on, and I’m generally not successful at it, but I keep trying. I have time to give back to my community, I have time to spend with my wife, I have time to give to friends and I still have time to mow my lawn. Which is my lawn that I’m paying for. So for me financial success is unreliable, and that’s a fact I’ve had to accept.

Motivation based on passion, motivation based on internal strength, motivation based on people, and most importantly, motivation based on a desire to make things better. That’s what drives me now, and it’s so much harder to hold on to, but it runs cleaner and feels healthier. Besides I’ve got to be able to keep myself motivated to build a world where I and those like me belong. We didn’t have the luxury of being born into one.

Having a Clear Goal

I’ve had loosely defined goals most of my career, I’ve wanted to help tackle financial illiteracy, I’ve wanted to help people out of avoidable situations, I’ve wanted to help make people better off and enjoy the lifestyle they currently have.

but I’ve never been able to concrete say, this is what I want to be doing, every day. This is what I want my career to be about.

Those loosely defined goals are still there, but I’ve been thinking about it, and in the last six months I feel like I’ve done more good then in the last ten years. What was the main difference? I had passion, because I’ve finally found a community that I feel a part of and that I want to serve.

I’ve volunteered since I was a teenager, and I’ve been agreeable while doing it, but I’ve never had that spark that propels you to something greater.

Which comes back to my career. I’m a financial planner. I want to do what I’m best at, and I want to serve my community. My most rewarding and effective meetings are with other members of my community. I want to help my community overcome that avoidance of the financial system. Because it’s historically disadvantaged us.

The concept of competency towards dealing with the LGBTQ+ community is in it’s infancy and is still largely centered around winning over business from well to do gay men. Not about improving the lives of the community.

I’m not sure what form this will all take, but I want to help make gay, and bi, and trans and any other folk under the rainbow realize their goals and dreams. I want to help us enrich ourselves, to better our community. To progress past the systemic discrimination and to achieve what we’re capable of, not just what we’re able to scrounge together.

I want us to have a bright future.

The Value of Stories

I’ve always had an interest in history. One of the greatest joys, and heartaches I’ve found over the last six months is discovering queer and trans history.

The stories are empowering and give me life. The fortitude and endurance that has been required to move our community to this point is astounding to me. It gives me hope, and it supports me when I’m feeling down.

I want to talk about a profoundly moving moment I had a few weeks ago. Even though it’s not based on a real story, the relevance of it spoke to me. I was watching the new Tales of the City, and we got to a certain episode set in the sixties.

The episode centers around Compton’s Cafeteria, and what happened that fateful night. What struck me, and it struck me hard. Was to see this dramatization of these deep rooted fears, and to see presented, and then validated, those deep deep, to the core of my being fears around being an out trans woman.

I’m not that old, but I still grew up thinking that the best I could hope for, was to not hope for anything at all. To be able to see, just a sliver of the faceless amorphous terror that still haunts me, gave me an opportunity to deal with it. To see it for what it was, I knew it was fear, but it was the fear of an isolated little girl living in a world that didn’t make any sense, forced into a life that didn’t fit. All of the years of running and hiding away, trying to build a life that I could call my own. It all made sense why I’d felt that incredible pressure, why I’d felt like I didn’t belong in the world.

So it was also so powerful to see that turned on its head, and see that there was still a future and that I’m part of something bigger then myself, and to feel it, and to feel connected to this whole history, as rough and bloody and awful as it might be. I belong in this world, and that I’m made of some pretty tough stuff.

On those days that I just wanted to scream ‘why don’t you love me world! Why don’t you want me!’ I understand now, Not in a thinking rational way, I’ve had that for awhile. On an emotional level, to the core of my being there’s now a sliver of light because I know that I’m not alone in feeling that, and if I’m not alone then there’s love in this world, and if there’s love and acceptance somewhere, then I need to keep that light for the next, and the next, and the next. Until we all feel welcome.

In and among the whole sobbing mess that I’d made of myself, and I cried for a solid hour. The pain and anger, and then the realization, and then the laughter and joy. All at once at times. Just letting that all pour out of me.

I walked down my hall and looked in the mirror. In the mirror looking back at me was this hysterical, sobbing, snotty woman.

It was the first time I’d looked in the mirror and seen a woman. Known that the woman I was looking at was me. Not a woman that needed to be looked through a lens, or squinted to see, not a woman with conditions or explanations. I saw myself, the woman I always knew that I was looking back to me. The messy crying disaster of a woman that I am. Smiling like an idiot back at myself.

and I laughed, and I felt changed in that moment. I felt a wholeness of spirit that I hadn’t felt before. I felt good, and felt good about myself. I’ve had other fulfilling moments before that, but that was so powerful. To just feel at peace with myself and what I am.

I am a woman, and I’m going to be okay.

 

Trying not to Wallow

I have always been one to wallow in self pity.

Not usually openly. In my own head.

I often times find myself thinking, “well what if they knew the whole story.” “If only they knew what they were doing,” and many others. The point is, I am often the victim in my own story. Internally, in my own head, I think of myself as the underdog. I have a hard time appreciating the good things, I have an easy time focusing on negativity.

The last six months have exposed that. I have come to openly pity myself. I have become the source of my own woe. Things have happened that are unfortunate. Things have been done to me by others that are incredibly damaging and hurtful. I’ve had my worldview rocked, a lot in the last year. There are certain lessons I’ve learned that will have consequences for a long time.

Those are all facts though, those events happened. You can’t choose if someone will doing something negative to you. You choose to perceive it negatively.

I was trying to claw back my innocence. I was trying to undo the damage that had been done to my perception of reality. It is one thing to know how the world works, it’s another to experience a world that doesn’t want you.

You can’t undo pain, you can’t undo hate. You can’t undo the shitty and awful things that people will do to you. You can only refuse to accept it as a negative or a positive. It is merely something that happens.

It is incredibly hard for me to look at any of the events I’ve talked about here, and not feel the sadness, and loss that each of those caused me. The isolation, and differentiation. We are social creatures, we crave acceptance and love. Being denied it, feels negative. I can’t afford the luxury of continuing to feel sorry for myself.

there is no transgression that will ever teach the perpetrator their lesson. Nor is their a final accounting of any wrong. Not everything is balanced, not everything works the way we wish it did. Ultimately, the only thing we are responsible for is yourself, and how we perceive the world.

So I’m going to do my damnedest to act positively for my own sake. While also accepting that which I can’t control can’t control me. I will be free in my own soul.