Several months ago I received a phone call from my cousin Steve, who I’ve spoken with only intermittently over the years. I’ve admired Steve as the stay-at-home-dad for his two daughters, who grew into successful, dynamic and authentic women. Steve is a talented writer with a great sense of humor. I always wondered why he never pursued a career as a writer, or anything else, even after his daughters went to college and moved out of the house. Steve and I grew up in the same city, almost like brother and sister, playing together often and having a joyful time whenever we were together. At least, I thought so.
In our call, he reminded me of a conversation we had when we were young, when I asked him if he had ever wished he weren’t a boy. I was quite the tomboy, who loved to climb trees, run and play sports – all things that boys did – and I frequently wished I had been a boy. Steve recalls fearing he had been “found out” during that conversation, as he did wish he had been a girl, and now knows he’s transgender.
We’ve had several long conversations since that first call when Steve revealed this news. We share the challenges we are having as we move into our new phase of life. She, as a woman, shedding her identity as a man named Steve and discovering a new identity as a woman named Eve. Me, as a physician coach, exploring what it will be like without my identity as a clinician. While the depth and reach of our change is quite different, as Eve says, “We are all in transition. Mine is just more obvious.”
It saddens me to think of all the years Eve spent feeling invisible and unable to be who she was. It explains why she never developed her talents and created a separate career. As she begins to explore life as a transgender woman, Eve is becoming more outgoing, is meeting and sharing her story and beliefs with others, and feels a sense of relief at being able to be herself. She says it feels like she’s broken out of a prison and is finally free.
How can we each become more of who we are so we can live with greater freedom and bring our gifts and passions to the world?
Eve’s lesson for all of us is…where do we feel we aren’t being ourselves? What is the cost in terms of withholding our talents, depriving ourselves of the joy of self-expression? What steps can we take towards being more authentic and honest about who we are and what we believe in? As we each transition into a fuller version of ourselves, greater possibilities unfold and we become a beacon for others to discover and contribute who they are as well. The world will reap tremendous benefit as we live a more joyful, exhilarating life.