persist

something that thomas jefferson said struck a chord with me today.

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

at some level i do not believe in myself. when faced with a potential athletic challenge, my gut instinct is to cower and defer. it has always been like this. i think of an upcoming practice and get discouraged at how much effort it will take. i survey my participation and wonder why it is i participate. there is another part of me that is able to continue on, to recognize that yes, i have done similar things before, yes, i can do them again, and it will be hard, but it is supposed to be hard. this part of me is very deliberate when trying to overcome pessimism, and i only get there through a lot of self-consciousness and effort.

upon facing staggering personal disappointment, i posted:

i failed.

i’m going to go cry, and then sleep, and then cry some more, and then persist, because i don’t know how to do anything else.

i worried that i would let this defeat me, even in the throes of motivation. i have made lofty goals before, and fallen apart in pursuit more than once. i have been thrown off track more than once this year, and i never rely on the coming month to be uneventful. i found a way to stay strong in pursuit of a goal i was determined not to let go – #persist.

persist is the guiding tenet behind a philosophy i follow but never put a name to. when i am faced with something unfathomable, i do not bother to fathom it. i put it out of mind and do it. persisting is not concerned with goals. persisting is concerned with process, and thereby eliminates pressure and fear from my mind when it stands in my way. don’t worry about the destination – keep your eyes on the road.

goals are important. i’m fully in support of goals. but when i set goals, i set them in such a way that i expect to succeed by accident. i separate the person who is setting the goals from the person who is doing the work, and in that way i am never tempted to self-sabotage by discouraging myself from doing work through fear of failure.

the reason this works well for me is because of my unsteady self-esteem. i plan where and when i’m going to do things. on days where i am terribly depressed, scared that i will fail, anxious about my ability to perform, and all the other things that i am anxious about, i do the work i have planned for myself. i design my habits, and i persist.

and so, when i am at my worst, i can have faith in my ability to persist. by separating the work from the plan, when things are darkest i can have implicit faith that someone smart came up with a solid plan and if i stick to that plan – if i don’t fall off, if i persist – that i will succeed. when i am depressed and feel like doing nothing, i persist, because it is just another appointment. when i am tempted to overdo it, go too hard and make myself sick, i persist, because rest and recovery is part of the plan. when i worry that i’m not keeping up, or that i’m embarrassing myself, or that i’m not enough, i persist. i accept that doubt and fear and depression are part of who i am, they come and i deal with them as best as i can, so i trust myself at my most motivated to make plans that do not affect those roadblocks. i know that mental turmoil is not going away, but does not have to be a handicap. i persist, because i don’t know how to do anything else.

kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight

1. jump rope

after my broken ankle healed and i was finally back to normal, i bought the jump rope. i had to keep my ankle strong, and i was never explosive enough, anyhow. the packaging recommended you jump rope for 15 minutes, and that didn’t seem like a very long time. i walked to my car and popped the trunk. i put down my phone and set a timer for 15 minutes. i could barely make it through 5 hops without tripping, and i was out of breath after thirty seconds. i posted something self-deprecating on facebook, hung up the jump rope, and didn’t touch it for about eighteen months.

2. adrenaline crash

in april of this year, we won our first bout since october, 2012. thirty minutes after the bout was over, i got deeply depressed. i was upset at myself for being so depressed. we had worked really hard to win, and all through the next day i couldn’t fathom why i even competed in team sports if i couldn’t take joy in victory. i learned about adrenaline crash and forgave myself. not long after that i sunk into a month of the deepest depression i’d ever been in. i couldn’t work, i couldn’t skate, i couldn’t communicate with most of the people who loved me. it crippled me.

3. june gloom

i had a cold at brewhaha. our roster was short and we lost two games that we thought we could win. i spent most of the weekend announcing and sucking on cough drops. after the second game, i sat in the locker room, feeling bad about myself, feeling like i could have worked harder. emotions were high, and i was blaming myself. i had several people whose opinions i respect come up to me and tell me how well i did, how i was possessed, playing on another level. this made me feel worse. if i’m operating at my best and my team still loses, what do i do? how do i move forward? the cloud of depression had lifted, but i found myself seething and hopeless at every practice i went to. at the end of each i would get into the car and fought with lauryn about what i didn’t like about practice.

it was on july 31 that i made the decision to try out for the windy city rollers, and not long after that that i chose the name june gloom, partially in honor of the depression that led me to make a change.

4. estrogen

at first, i only wanted to attend some WCR practices, if i could, so i could spread my wings a little more. then i decided to join, but just to pursue membership on a home team. i was worried about what my nonbinary gender identity would mean. i wanted to take it slowly. but it felt very right, and not long into my first month at windy city i thought about how nice it would be to succeed with a WCR travel team. too bad i can’t compete, though, because the WFTDA has a restrictive gender policy, and i didn’t take estrogen. soon after that i thought, well, why don’t i take estrogen?

i realized that joining WCR felt very right because that was my version of living as female, and all of a sudden the idea of taking hormones seemed very correct. i no longer felt i had to ask for permission to be transgender. i could control my body. i scheduled my first appointments at howard brown for hormones.

5. finger

one week before i was scheduled to make my first estrogen injection, i broke my finger so badly that i needed surgery. and surgery means anesthesia, and anesthesia and estrogen injections don’t play nicely together. that meant six weeks away from windy city, too, so in a flash the progress i had made with my gender identity slipped out of reach. i started hormone replacement therapy on october 14, 2014, with two physician’s assistants at howard brown demonstrating the process and then cheering me on as i stared down the needle aimed halfway down my right thigh. “i’m sorry this is taking awhile,” i said, “but it’s just my ENTIRE LIFE HAS BEEN LEADING UP TO THIS MOMENT.”

6. assault

i was told that a few weeks after you start hormones you start to notice changes in how your mind processes thoughts, but the only thing i noticed was that my nipples hurt. all the feelings i had seemed so unremarkable and mundane. i was stressed out and feeling hopeless, and it felt familiar. i was underwhelmed by my emerging femininity. so for the first time since starting hormones, on november 29, i went out en femme.

late that night i was in a back room, a room mostly full of strangers. i started getting touched in ways i wasn’t comfortable with. and then more happened.

18 hours later, i admitted to myself that i was sexually assaulted.

7. draft
my phone was dying when the texts started coming in. vague texts. then i got a voicemail.

“a call is bad, right?”

i borrowed a phone and called back. i didn’t get picked. the confidence drained from me, replaced with embarrassment. everyone else present (and as it turns out, everyone else eligible) had been picked, and when it was time for them to leave with their new teammates, i panicked and hid in the back of the bar. it’s only hubris if i fail, i had said, and i had failed. i didn’t feel female. i felt, like i had for most of my life, like i was alone on the outside looking in.

8. jump rope ii
i left my phone and my wallet on the dining room table, grabbed my jump rope, and walked to the cemetery. it was dark. i found a spot and started jumping. 15 hops in a row, 30. 60. i was sweating, i was shivering, i was almost crying. i stopped counting and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped. and when i couldn’t jump anymore i walked home. i kicked, but the darkness hadn’t yet bled daylight.