I grew up on the East Coast and it was a disjointing experience when my wife and I moved to a rural area in Walla Walla. With the loss of my old patterns came new joy. One of those was a re-connection with nature.
I now love to go on trips throughout National Parks and one of my favorite places to go is Glacier National Park. It is there that you can truly see the east and west side of the continents pushed together. It is a mixture of contrasts. On the west there are rocks that are smooth and rounded, a beautiful collage of colors like green, burgundy, gray, black, and amber. On the east, the color scheme is the same but the rocks feel different – they have turned brittle and sharp, you can snap them in your hands. Because the plates smashed together they are now within yards of each other – different but overlapping. It’s a metaphor I’ve thought about from time to time.
It reminds me of how we interact in the world. People are constantly pushing each other – a clash of difference and commonalities. Oftentimes we focus on the difficulty in these interactions but I see this tension as an amazing gift. By recognizing there is no one monolithic pathway, we can become better people. It opens our eyes to the wisdom and history of others and allows us to grow from it.
I’ve had to take the advice of embracing uncertainty throughout my life. I had to relearn what my life looked like when my wife and I moved from a fast paced city to a rural community in Walla Walla. I had to sit with discomfort in order to find my voice through writing. And I had to battle my self doubt during my gender transition – opening myself up to the fear that I was somehow doing it wrong, that I wasn’t a real Velvetine rabbit, without letting my concerns overtake me.
I look back and realize it was one of the hardest things I will ever go through. When something as basic as your gender is out of sync, it is all you can think about. When the face in the mirror doesn’t serve as such a dissonant reminder of what you’re not, the world opens up.
I am no longer constantly reminded about how different I am and it has given me new found freedom. I can focus on other pursuits. From working on my second science fiction novel to teaching myself Lebanese recipes I never got a chance to learn from my own family. Most importantly, I get to fully focus on the growth of my own young children – seeing them build elaborate pillow fort worlds in our living room, explore with a curiosity that can’t be satiated.
While I am confident in my hard fought knowledge, I know that thousands of people helped shape who I am through intense love. It makes me want to give back and help with others’ struggles – whatever that struggle is.
While there is no silver bullet to finding yourself, I hope people know: You can be happy but not know all the answers. You can be brave but never feel sure of yourself. You can be strong and embrace people who are different than you, learning more about yourself than you ever would from being isolated with those that are the same as you.