What would I tell my younger self?
As part of a transgender support group, we had a recent creative challenge, “What would you say to your younger self?”. Yikes! What do I say? At what age do I impart my vast insight to my younger self? There are few ages where she encountered a crossroad or two, but do I even have any insight to impart? Well I certainly have some opinions for her, not sure how insightful they may be.
I suppose I could talk to the 11 year me that lined up early from recess because she was tried of being bullied and left-out. While I waited there for the bell to ring, the less than empathetic Mrs. Darby saw the sniffling, puffy eyed child and said, “Why are you such a crybaby?”. I tried to deny the accusation, but she was technically right. I did cry often. I was scared and confused, feeling very inadequate as I tried to live up to what I looked like. I stood there numbly after our little exchange wondering, “What was the point?”. Was she trying to toughen me up? Thicken my skin? Prepare me for the assumed inevitable manhood that would be coming? I don’t know, it just felt mean. Then the bell rang and life moved on as it does. Though, I do wonder what she would of said if she knew I was a girl?
Perhaps, I need to talk with the 59 year old me, right after hearing my youngest child tell me they are transgender. We were sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner on a spring day in 2013, I said what most supportive parents say in such situations, “Are you sure?, Have you talked to any counselors?”. They answered, “Yes and Yes”. Then I said “I love you and support you unconditionally.” There were hugs and encouragement and quite a few happy tears both theirs and mine. What I was thinking was “Holy fuck, what did I do?, Did I pass this to them? Do they know about me?”. My mind raced, I really did mean the unconditional love and support, that has always been Vanessa (my wife) and my mantra for our kids. There was something else, though, Vanessa noticed, but didn’t understand until later. I was jealous. How could my youngest child do this brave thing when I could not?
Though I think the person I most need to talk to is the 20 year old me that took a creative writing class and wrote this poem for an assignment on lost love.
I am lost
Yet I look not for me
There was a time when I could laugh
We ran through oceans of daisies
As the wind sang sweetly for us
We laughed and screamed
of Life and Liberty
I search the endless days and nights
I am lost
Yet I search not for me
While that poem is far from literary brilliance, it is an honest recollection of emotion. Even though the poem talks of lost love, I had no experience with love. At the surface for the assignment, I imagined what it might feel like to have lost love. In reality in my head, she is me and I had decided I had no choice but to move on as him.
To answer the question for this assignment, at each stop along life’s journey, my best insight is “It going to be Okay!”. You will overcome the ups and downs life gives. For the 11 year old, Mrs. Darby is not the worst teacher you’ll encounter, but she is in the running. Her opinion is irrelevant. For Jane, my transgender child we love and support each other, unconditionally.
For the 20 year old me, the saddest of the group, love will come. Vanessa will be there in a year, she (the real me) will be back here and there.
While it took 43+ years she will be out to meet everyone, eventually.
The creative writing class I took in 1974 evolved into a place where the assignments stopped and each member of the class just presented what they had written that week. This is my favorite contribution:
there is a rock up in our woods,
The biggest rock you’ve ever seen.
You find it sitting there against
The biggest tree.
Now when I was very small,
The rock was my castle, ohso tall.
The tree was so high, tower
I climbed and looked and laughed with
At all the tiny people and
Dreamed with glee.
I was their Queen so big , so tall,
So tough way up in my tree.
My servants thought of me as great,
Majestic, and of course Divine.
I was their lord, their savior,
the ruler of their lives,
At least till suppertime.