When Life Goals Change

On The Unforeseen Costs Of Transitioning

For the longest time, I thought I wanted to be famous. It was what kept me going, kept me writing, kept me playing music and comforted me whenever things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to. Sometimes things would get bad: I would fail at turning in homework on time, or I would fail to justify doing it at all. I wondered why I had this lack of drive, but my dream of being famous continued to comfort me. My mental health began to get worse and I began to descend into psychotic behavior, and I wondered why, but still my dream kept me alive.

Then it didn’t. Everything changed: I had a mental breakdown in college. The reason was harder to nail down than I anticipated, but in the end I realized that in the environment I had placed myself — a private, Christian college — I was suffocating because I was transgender.

Cue two long years of pain, depression, and eventual self-discovery, during which much of who I was changed inevitably and for the better. Still, I retained the idea, however smaller it had become, that my purpose in life lay in gaining recognition for something, anything, so long as people knew who I was.

Then I started to transition from male to female. The hormones did something I never thought possible: they changed what I wanted in life, or rather they let me recognize why the thing I had pursued for so long had not kept me healthy and sane. Instead of fame, I began to realize that what I truly wanted was a family. It’s odd to say, even now, but it’s truer than ever.

This unexpected realization freed me up to actually pursue a career in writing without the pressure of needing to obtain fame from it. I found myself actually enjoying my chosen career for the first time in a long while. Just in time, it turns out, because as I began to obtain some measure of success from my writing, I was thrown out of my parents’ house over mounting pressures because of my transgender identity.

I have managed to stay afloat through the kindness of others and my own determination to actually live a life true to who I am, and on the way I learned the following lessons.

Who You Are Is Not An Inconvenience

Those who view your choices about who you are as a personal affront are projecting their own image of who they want you to be onto your life. When those people are close to you, any deviation from the image they’ve chosen for you seems like at best an inconvenience, and at worst a betrayal.

Remember to value your own self-image, that idea of yourself that comes from inside of you and not from those around you. You don’t owe anyone a life of conformity, so make sure that what you are doing is what you want.

Goals Change

Don’t feel like changing your mind is a failure. It’s not. It is a natural part of being human, and especially now with the world feeling so uncertain and dangerous, it can seem like staying true to yourself means to stick to one thing for the rest of your life. But people change: relationships begin and end, marriages fall apart, jobs are lost and new opportunities present themselves in unexpected places. The career you chose when you were starting out in college might be something you lose interest in halfway through, or you find something new and exciting that you fall in love with, even though both events can make you feel like you’ve wasted precious time and resources during those early years.

Being devoted to your own sense of who you are is wonderful, but remember that you can only live a day at a time. Don’t try to live your whole life before it has passed.

Learn From People

I had the misfortune of being clueless when it came to how I treated people in the immediate weeks following my eviction. There were a number of reasons for this, partly having to do with depression, partly having to do with my being emotionally immature and naive when it came to personal responsibilities.

I learned how to make a budget, how to plan for upcoming expenses, and most importantly I learned how to shop for a full week. These were all things my friends taught me, and I don’t know where I’d be if they hadn’t been kind enough to teach me those things. I learned quickly that neglecting friendships has an impact, and that actions have consequences. Remember to treat your friends well, and hopefully they will do the same; but even if they don’t, you have done your part and all that’s left is to continue to be a good person as best you can.

These are the things I learned as my life goals changed. Things are still in quite a bit of upheaval for me, but I have learned a great deal in a very short span of time, and I am open to learning a lot more in the years to come. When all is said and done, at the end of the day we all perish, and what we leave behind is the memory of how we lived held close in the hearts of those we have loved. I hope to leave behind wonderful memories through a life devoted to the goals that I have chosen, and I hope that will be said of you as well.

Charley Reid runs the culture blog The Owl Girl (www.theowlgirl.com). Her work has appeared in places like Ravishly, The Establishment, and The Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter: @theindiewriter

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