Not the Same River

I had my first University alumni reunion yesterday, and I was very, very nervous. It was the first time everyone I met there would meet me as Lily rather than [redacted], and it would be the first time some of them even found out I’m trans.

It was also my first time stepping foot there since graduation. To be totally honest, I don’t know which made me feel the most gut-wretchingly anxious.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we change with time. My gender transition provides stark and dramatic contrast to compare present me with past versions of myself, but of course it’s not the only thing that’s changed.

Since I hurt my arm and got forced vacation I’ve been taking the time to meet with people I haven’t seen in a while, and to visit places I haven’t been to in a long time.

I’ve been noticing two things happen when you go back someplace you once knew well: one, everything feels so much smaller; and two, it’s hard to create new memories, as you end up being consumed by old ones.

The second is very depressing. Earlier this week I walked by the former apartment of a former friend and ended up crying for half an hour. I sat down in a park bench and remembered a difficult talk I had with a different friend another time. I went to a coffee shop and was reminded of the time… well, perhaps I shouldn’t talk about it. I suppose some memories should remain private.


I’m getting beside the point.

All these melancholy thoughts and memories have been rattling in my head all week, and it all came to a fore as I walked up the University gates.

I nearly fainted.

I could barely breathe. Almost couldn’t think straight. I was having a panic attack. I took a deep breath and went to the bathroom to calm down.

Quick aside—there are very few things that feel as good to transgender people (or at least to this trans girl) than going somewhere they went to pre-transition and finally going into the right bathroom. It’s like showing a victorious middle finger right into life’s face: I won. Ha!

Anyways. I’m sitting at the stall trying not to scream or laugh like a maniac or something, when I see this on the stall wall:


Please excuse the awful picture quality… I was not exactly in the best state of mind to be taking pictures

What the blurry Spanish translates to is “Don’t lose the courage to be yourself – please.”
Obviously that applies to the whole transgender thing. It did help, by the way. I left the bathroom and the reunion was uneventful but nice. However, the phrase also applies in the larger context of all I’ve been thinking about growing and changing.

There’s a very famous phrase that goes:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

In my case the man isn’t even a man anymore 😛

In all seriousness though, here’s what I’ve come to after all my thinking:

I’m afraid of change. Sure, I like a little bit of new things here and there, and I was only all too happy to flip my life upside down to live as a woman. It’s not the “he’s not the same man” part of the phrase that gets to me, it’s the “not the same river” bit.

I can be strong. I can face a lot of hardship and difficulty (as indeed I have), but I need to feel like everything around me is the same. I have trouble letting go of people, letting go of friendships. Sometimes I get so caught up in thinking of how things used to be that I stop being able to appreciate how things are now.

I knew this friend this well and saw them this often, I went to this place every day, I knew this once… and after they move on from my life, or I’m forced to leave them behind it hurts me to go back because… well, I’m reminded that my memories are false. Things aren’t like that anymore. Places change, people grow, the river is not the same river.

Yesterday I promised myself to step back and look at things as they really are, without fear or hesitation. It hurts, and it’s scary… but I just don’t think I can afford to live anywhere but the ‘now’ anymore.

I suppose this is something of a downer to end on, eh? Ah well, c’est la vie.

Hope this post isn’t all over the place. I am very tired (physically and emotionally). What have some of your experiences been going back to someone or someplace you once knew well? What helps you deal with the melancholy of knowing neither you or them/it are the same anymore?





4 thoughts on “Not the Same River

  1. Helen Smith says:

    I recently came back to my uni after doing an exchange. I think in this case it was more the river was the same but I wasn’t quite, but it still created that slight disjointedness between memories of a place and what it felt like in the present… for example I went back to something I had used to do and it felt like going back in time but in a really odd way! So I didn’t carry on with that and decided to try new things instead this semester. 🙂
    Also that’s a good kind of message to randomly find in a bathroom! 😛


    • Liliana says:

      That’s also weird! It feels a bit like you don’t belong anymore…

      That sounds like a good plan! I might try that 🙂

      And yeah haha a really good thing. I went to another bathroom later on and saw the same thing, so I guess someone wanted to make sure people saw it 😛


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