A couple days ago I had an amazing day.
There was nothing particular special about it. I didn’t find out I’d won a bunch of money; there was no cute guy revealing his ardent love for me; I didn’t even find money on the ground. All that happened was that people called me by my name.
That’s it. Not even my parents, or the friends who have had trouble doing so, just… strangers. People I couldn’t really care much less about.
As the last year has gone on I’ve been misgendered less and less, to the point where I sometimes go a week or two without a single person using the wrong pronouns. For whatever reason, on this one day it just…. mattered to me again.
It was weird. I called a restaurant to order my lunch, and despite me not affecting my voice to sound feminine in any way, I was still ma’am ‘ed consistently throughout the call. I got off the call and did a happy dance in the middle of the courtyard at work. It took all my self control not to start shouting out in joy, though I did spend the next hour with a huuuuuge grin on my face.
I call that place for lunch everyday. I have not been misgendered a single time. Even so, huuuuuuge grin.
The day kept going that way. I went to the bathroom and nearly ran into a girl walking in. I apologised, and she immediately went “no, tranquila!” and I got that same thrill of joy as before, my smile growing without me really noticing.
About a year and a half ago while on holiday, I went scuba diving for the first time. I’d never taken a scuba course, but I saw a place offering a spot in a dive, and me being me, I decided on the spot to go that same day.
In retrospect, it was super shady. I watched a 5-minute video, was given some basic instructions by a guy at the scuba shop, and off I went. No one else had signed up, so it was just me, the guy, and his girlfriend. We drove through a lonely mountain pass to get to a private beach, and then we just went straight to the water.
It started off well. I remembered to descend slowly, and got the hang of the flippers relatively quickly. I saw a school of fish below, and started making my way down. Then it happened. I started feeling the water pressure.
I knew there was such a thing as water pressure, but I’d never given any thought to what it felt like to experience. The best way I can explain it is suddenly realising that you are about six metres underwater, and that those six metres in the ocean mean there is a HUGE amount of water over you. It’s not exactly pushing you down, but you almost feel like it is.
I started panicking, and as my breathing grew shallower I got less air from the tank on my back. I was painfully aware I was far too far underwater, and that if I tried to just swim to the surface before I drowned, I could hurt myself very, very badly. I was freaking out. The scuba instructor was a couple feet away, but he hadn’t noticed anything wrong with me.
I felt like crying, and as I started to feel the lack of oxygen from my hysteric breathing, I grew even more scared.
Then I… just stopped. I’d started meditating around that time, and some part of me took me into meditation mode. I closed my eyes, went inside of myself, and forced my body to take deeper, calmer breaths, despite how impossible it felt to breathe.
It took me a few seconds, and then I got over it. I could still ‘feel’ the water above me weighing me down, but it no longer made me panic.
I continued swimming, and I had a wonderful time looking around at the underwater life. By the time the instructor tapped my shoulder to let me know our time was nearly up and that we should start our ascent, I’d completely forgotten to feel any anxiety about being so far underwater. Despite the fact I’d been losing my mind a few minutes earlier, I’d eventually grown used to it.
That’s how I feel about my name and pronouns on most days.
For so many years, I desperately wanted, needed, to hear someone call me a woman, validate who I am. Then I finally got what I wanted, and after a year I have grown used to it. Now someone calls me Lily and I forget it wasn’t always this way. I step into the women’s bathroom, go shopping at stores that only sell women’s clothing, go out in a dress, and it all feels normal.
There are so many parts of my life that would have felt like heaven to younger versions of myself, and I just can’t appreciate them properly anymore.
As you might guess, I’ve been feeling very guilty about it.
It’s not rational, but it feels like I’m disrespecting my past self by not loving every single second of my life, by not throwing a party every time someone calls me by my name.
Obviously, it’s not practical to get so excited about something that happens up to a couple dozen times a day. Still. When I think of younger me crying because they thought no one would ever see them as a woman, it’s tempting to feel bad about taking it for granted now.
I wonder if there’s a reasonable middle point between not noticing something as kickass as people respecting who I am, and forcing myself to feel happy about something that happens all the time.
I’ll try to figure it out. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the occasional moments when I realise I’m six metres underwater and my life is more than I ever dared to hope it would be.