10 Year Challenge - A New Years Message
As we get ready to close out another year, and with it another decade, I’ve noticed an interesting trend that has been going around the internet. People are posting side-by-side comparisons of themselves from ten years ago (or approximately) and themselves today. While for most of us, ten years makes a decent amount of difference in appearance anyway, the most jarringly different ones are the ones from my trans friends. This is for seemingly obvious reasons: as the majority of them have not been presenting as their true gender for more than ten years. There are some exceptions, of course, but even some of the people who have been on this earth longer are just barely starting to fully live their lives as their true selves. We as a society have made enough progress that more people are starting to feel safe enough to be honest with the world.
This is not without risks, though. We did lose a large number of our siblings to violence once again. But societal change is a very messy process. And it’s because of these risks that people who have very good intentions will tell us that we are very brave.
For me personally, it was never a matter of bravery. I had already waited for over ten years since finding out that transitioning was even an option, since seeing people around me take that option, before taking the step into this new chapter of my life. It was not a decade of complete inactivity, though there were long stretches of stagnation, and even steps backward. However, it was a decade of research, and exploration, and self reflection, and healing. A decade of mistakes and lessons, of connections forged and broken. It was a decade of my twenties, with all the crises and stumbling that comes standard of that age. The fumbling through life trying to discern what it means to be an adult, and what it means to be me.
At the cusp of 2020, I feel a staggering distance between my current self and the person I was in 2009. The person I would evolve into over the following years would not always be someone who I would want to be friends with today. But I grew beyond that person, and adopted a name that I hope will inspire me to continue to grow into the best version of myself. I named myself ‘gentle’. When I first told a specific person that I’d chosen this name, after three years of careful research, he laughed. He said that didn’t describe me at all. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe it still doesn’t. But if it can help focus me into trying to embody that idea, then I think that’s what’s important.
I would like to think that everyone is capable of amazing growth. We are not static. We are not fixed points in history. Our destinies are not a single line, but a sprawling web, ever branching with decisions that help shape who we are over our lives. Who you are at twenty is not who you will be at forty, and that is not who you will be at sixty, and that is not who you will be at eighty. It is never too late in your life to grow, though the practice of growth never gets easier. The trick is to never stop growing. Always challenge yourself, your beliefs, your perspective. No one person knows everything, so always be willing to be a student, even if you are a teacher.
If we can keep learning, keep teaching, keep loving, and keep growing, then nothing can stand in our way. This decade, next decade, or any other going forward.
So please keep growing, and remember that I’m proud of you.