At a recent get-together, I was talking to a person I’ve known for several years. We were chatting about careers and what we wanted to do when we grew up. My friend is going to nursing school and considering a focus in functional medicine, but he is open to whatever comes along. I told him that I was apparently taking the scenic route to adulthood, because I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I had noticed through social media that my friend was beginning the process of transitioning from a she to a he. Or perhaps I should say, he is in the process of becoming who he really is. I’ve know a few transgendered people in my life, but I’ve always known them as who they identified as, not as who they were before, so I was very interested to talk to him about how he felt at the beginning of the process.
My friend is a talented musician as well. He talked about taking things one day at a time and being present in every moment of the process. He even mentioned perhaps recording the same song over and over as his voice changes, to find out how all this will affect his singing. How cool is that?
As we talked, I couldn’t help but notice how happy he was. I can’t imagine how hard it must be when your outsides don’t match who you are on the inside, but it seems that once the decision is made to become who you truly are, the relief and joy you feel can’t be contained.
As I traveled along the Interstate at 80 mph, I thought about how brave my friend is. It takes a lot of courage to become who you truly are and it occurred to me that, although the majority of us are cisgendered, we still aren’t being who we are on the inside. In fact, I think that is the very reason our society is so unhappy.
We play the game. For all intents and purposes, we appear have it all: the family, the house, the important job, the retirement fund. Everything looks great on the outside, yet a lot of us are drowning our sadness in alcohol or taking antidepressants to try to suppress the uneasy feeling of not being true to who we really are. We’re going through the motions of a successful life, but secretly, what we’d really like to do is write the novel we’ve had in our head for years or make beautiful furniture that people will cherish for generations or chuck it all and travel the world to experience the kindness of the people our government and its followers tell us to fear.
When I was a kid, my family traveled a little bit, but we always went straight from here to there. Dad wouldn’t stop for anything except a pee break in some dingy, smelly gas station bathroom or a quick pitstop at the McDonald’s drive-thru. We never stopped to enjoy a meal or wander off the well beaten highway to see the world’s largest ball of twine. I always said that when I grew up, I’d slow down and see the sights. Instead, I find myself roaring past all those historic markers, still vowing to take the scenic route one day.
I’ve been on the Interstate of life, trying to get from here to there as quickly as possible. “Here” being wherever I was at the moment, which was never where I wanted to be and “there” being a place that never ended up being what I thought it would be. The funny thing is that there is no “there.” Once I get “there,” there’s yet another “there” that I want to get to.
And like my friend, my outside life doesn’t match who I truly am on the inside. I’ve pretended to be an office worker, while not so secretly loathing being trapped in a gray cubicle for eight hours a day. I’ve pretended to be a scientist, while outwardly hating every boring, repetitive minute of it. Right now, I’m pretending to be a gardener, which most would say is a good match for me, but it’s not what I truly want to be doing. It doesn’t match who I am on the inside.
My heart and soul wants to be creative, but I’ve kept that desire locked up tight, because I convinced myself long ago that I wasn’t any good at art or writing or music. I was and still am afraid that people will laugh at me if I tried to be creative and that I will never succeed, especially now, because I’m old and it’s too late. But what else is there to do? I’ve got another 30 or 40 years of life to live. I’ve wasted my life so far trying to get to a there I really didn’t even want.
Life is the only “here to there” there is. It’s a one way road from birth to death. We can either race by at 80 mph, missing all the good and bad along the way, trying to get to a there that isn’t really there. Or we can take all the scenic routes and stop to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and take a photo of a mountain valley in the perfect golden light and taste the best meal we’ve ever had at that small mom and pop restaurant in some small town in the middle of nowhere.
This is the only time we’ll take this particular journey, so we might as well slow down, be brave enough to be who we truly are, and feel the joy of taking our own scenic routes. What does your scenic route look like?