Finding a New Normal
Cheryl – Honolulu, HI
Metastate: You recently made some life changing discoveries about your past. What led you to these revelations and can you tell us a little about your journey?
Cheryl: Almost 2 years ago I discovered I was transgender. Although I have always felt that I was a girl and later a woman, I have spent a lifetime trying to deny these feelings. The denial has resulted in a lifetime of depression, unhappiness and loneliness. But I could never link my depression with my true feelings of gender. Then, two years ago, I had a chance encounter with a former friend, Daniella.
Daniella is transgender and I asked her about her life. The more she talked about herself, the more I felt she was talking about me. I told her that I thought I might also be transgender, but I was unsure. (The truth is, I did not want to be – anything but that!) She gave me an estrogen patch and thought it might be helpful to try it. She said maybe something would happen, maybe nothing. At home that evening I applied the patch to my stomach and felt absolutely nothing. I left it in place, but forgot about it the next day.
Then as I sat watching TV the next evening, I felt a delicious sense of calm and peace settle over me. Serenity is the only word I know to describe the feeling. I felt I had been fighting a war all of my life, and the war was suddenly over and I had won. For the first time in my life I felt normal.
Metastate: What is the best idea you ever had?
Cheryl: Spending a summer in Europe with my friend after our sophomore year in college. This was a time when few young people traveled to other countries. I worked during the previous school year to finance the trip and persuaded my parents to lend me the rest of the money. It changed the course of my life. I lost my fear of living in a foreign country and quickly realized that these people were no different than I. During the trip I dropped my physics major (and the scholarship that came with it – bye bye rocket science!). I decided I wanted to travel the world the see what it was like. So after college I joined the Peace Corps during which time I fell in love with the Pacific and Asia.
Traveling gave me the courage to be adventurous in my outer life and eventually in my inner life as well. Had I not taken that first trip, I believe my life would have turned out differently. I might have had more money and security, but I would have given up all chances for happiness.
Metastate: What is your ambition in life?
Cheryl: Ambition? It changes over time. What you want in your twenties will be different than what you want in your thirties, and that will be different from what you want later in life. There is a tendency to think that once you achieve your ambitions, you can sit back and enjoy life. It doesn’t work that way. I found that when I achieved my goals, they didn’t bring me the happiness I thought they would, so I created more goals. At one time or another I wanted to be a rocket scientist, an archaeologist, a novel writer, a Foreign Service officer, a travel photographer, a website developer, and others which I can’t remember.
Metastate: What things did you envision yourself doing as a child?
Cheryl: From the age of 10, I wanted to be a rocket scientist. I grew up at a time when the idea of space travel was completely science fictional. This all changed when the former Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite. We suddenly felt that the Russians were a threat to our national security and the “space race” was born. I wanted to build rockets to go to the moon and save our country.
Metastate: Did you ever find something that you wanted to stick with?
Cheryl: My problem was that I fantasized about how wonderful these professions seemed and never took the time to examine the reality of working in these jobs. Gradually I realized that what I truly wanted was happiness and love. That sounds like such a cliché, but I feel this is the ultimate truth about life. You find love by first learning to love yourself. Then, and only then, can you love everyone around you. Loving others requires eliminating hatred and anger and fear. When that happens, the love you give will be returned to you many times over. Happiness is impossible until your life is filled with love. Happiness comes from using your talents (and we are all born with talents) to help others. That sounds so goody-goody, but we are all made in such a way that nothing else will make us happy.
Metastate: How do you define success?
Cheryl: I’m working towards financial security, but money is not an end in itself. It is an important means to achieving other goals. Ultimately, I want to spend less time working to pay the bills and more time pursuing activities that are meaningful to me. Success is a measure of happiness and right now I am more focused on cultivating my personal relationships than getting ahead in a material way.
Metastate: If your life was a book, what would be the moral of your story?
Cheryl: Dogs do not like bones. Dogs like steak; they settle for bones. So why should we settle for a bone when we can have steak? Many of us are taught that we don’t deserve a steak, that a bone is good enough. We think that we are not smart enough, not pretty enough, and not strong enough. And guess what? If we believe this, then it’s true. I try to look at my life and ask myself if what I have is a steak or a bone. If it’s a bone, then I ask, “Why am I settling for this?” If you learn to love yourself, everything will fall into place.
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