I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.
One of my favourite things is thinking back to the really stupid things I’ve said or done years and years in the past. For example, there’s the stupid fight I picked up with a friend two years ago on Valentine’s Day. Or the really awkward way I asked someone out some four years ago or so. A particularly great example is the humiliating dance I went through in 4th Grade, that ended with everyone in my class laughing at me, and me sitting in the foetal position in a fireplace, trying to hide from them so I could cry.
Yeah, ‘favourite’ might not be quite the best word for it.
We all have wonderful memories like those. Some of them are more serious, though.
When I started my transition, I made a lot of difficult decisions. Some were mistakes, some were painful but necessary. Not just for me, but also for people I cared about. Some days, instead of remembering that suuuuper embarrassing thing that happened in high school, I’ll think of a certain person whose heart I broke, or something terrible I did, and I’ll feel this huge, huge wave of guilt come over me.
There are days when I have to struggle not to think back and consider all the decisions I could’ve changed, things I might have done differently. That’s a terrible idea, though. You can’t allow yourself to get stuck in the past, to be constantly second-doubting yourself. Not just because so much regret is unhealthy, but also because it’s going to affect your decision making in a negative way.
There’s a beautiful passage by Sylvia Plath that talks about this. It’s a little depressing and a little haunting, but it’s absolutely true. It talks about indecision, and how you can look at your future and be excited to see so many possibilities. However, when you start thinking about them, you see that all the possibilities are like branches, and every decision you make will bring you closer to a future, but will take away your chances of achieving a different future. In the passage, which you can read here in the beautiful style pictured above, someone sits pondering their future for so long, paralysed by the fear of choosing one branch over another, of choosing one future over all the others, that in the end, the tree shrivels up and the narrator is left without a future.
That person can be any of us. Every single choice we make, from who we surround ourselves with, the college we go to, the jobs we take, everything will move us closer to some futures, and away from others. There might be some choices that will turn out better than others, but the one choice that will always end bad, is deciding not to do anything, to try to escape the responsibility you have to yourself to choose.
I keep thinking back to last November.
It was my birthday. It was my first birthday presenting as a woman, actually. I guess it was a big deal. I don’t know. I’ve been getting used to lots of “firsts” in the last few months. My first time signing up for medical insurance all by myself. My first time paying all my own bills and rent. My first time wearing makeup, getting my ears pierced. My first time being entirely truthful about who I am.
My first birthday spent completely alone, celebrating without any friends for the first time in years.
My first time being truly happy, without any reservations.
The last year has been one of huge change for me. I’ve had a lot of firsts and lasts. I will never again present male, or pretend to be a ‘good little Christian boy’. I will never again live with my parents, there are old friends I will never be friends with again.
I keep thinking of all the things that have changed. I haven’t seen a few of those friends in a good few weeks or months. I haven’t spoken to some of them for even longer. My life has changed completely, and sometimes I still don’t feel as if I understand what’s happened.
I’ve hurt many people, and I’ve had many difficult decisions to go through.
Does this post sound disjointed? That’s how my life has felt lately. Lots of snapshots, lots of little comparisons. I don’t really have a narrative to understand the my life by anymore. I was unhappy, I decided to change things and hope for the best, and so far, they seem to be going well. Yeah, that works.
Still odd. I’ve had a phrase run in my head everytime I start to worry I might regret my transition: “If I look back, I am lost”.
It’s from the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) books, and the way I’ve always interpreted it is that you can’t allow yourself to regret or second-guess some difficult decisions. You have to face the future fearlessly and bravely, otherwise the weight of ‘what might be’ and ‘what once was’ will crush you. (I know, one of my mantras is a quote from a freaking fantasy book. What a nerd, eh?)
Change is good. Change is exciting. Change is necessary.
That is one of my core values.
I live with the certainty that the regret of not doing something is nearly always worse than doing something you wish you hadn’t. That life philosophy has led to very embarrassing and humiliating circumstances. It can be directly blamed for many of the uncomfortable memories that I get in the middle of the night, that make me want to just hide under the covers in shame.
However, I’m still proud of myself for those decisions, even the worst ones. Taking charge of your life is admirable, and even if it leads to mistakes, it’s better to learn from that negative experience than to die old and miserable, wondering what would have happened if you had done this or that.
Make mistakes! Do things you might regret. Flip your tidy little life upside down, take control of your destiny! Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe vitam. ‘Carpe‘ whatever the hell you want.
It’s terrifying, it’s lonely, but it’s worth it. That’s been my experience so far, anyways.
Is there anything you’ve gone through with even though it seemed crazy? Do you regret it now? Are you proud of it? Is there something you wish you could do, or be? What’s keeping you from doing it?
These aren’t rhetorical questions by the way, I’d really love to hear your answers to these 🙂