shrug motivation 101: persist, overcome, burn it down

my “new year’s resolution” a year ago, if you want to call it that, was #persist. i had just endured a rejection of my athletic ability and i was certain that the best way to beat being told i wasn’t good enough was to get better.

one of the the important tenets of #persist is being concerned with process, not goals. that seems backwards, i know. if you’re like me and get discouraged or defeatist, it makes sense. when you’re ready to give up, remember that a very smart person (you at your best) composed your training plan and you should trust that they knew what they were talking about. work hard, and good things will come. set yourself up for success and let go of the big picture, because too much focus on the big picture can lead to self sabotage.

#persist is a way to cope with the inherent uncertainty of having to place your outcome in the hands of others. i wanted to make a team, but i had no control over whether i was “good enough” for them. #persist acknowledges you need to be lucky, so work harder and your luck gets better. improving your luck is still an intangible thing, however, and even when the odds are in your favor, you can still lose.

i lost big. i persisted, but a glass ceiling reinforced by systemic transmisogyny does not shatter from merit alone.

that adversity led to an amendment to #persist – #overcome, for when you played a full house and lost to a four of a kind. there are things that are out of your control. #overcome turns that adversity into fuel. it’s taking down the names of everyone who doubted you.

#overcome says you can’t punch your way through a mountain – you need the tools to scale it. no mistakes, only missteps. if the system is failing you, take on the system. work within it, or work against it, but don’t ignore it.

bureaucracies are resilient, however. they’re built to stay stable when confronted with challenges from motivated minor actors. it was not long before i truly began to grasp the entrenchment of the bureaucracy i confronted, and that #overcome wasn’t a viable solution to the coded transmisogyny that kept me from succeeding. perhaps i knew in my heart all along that the writing was on the wall, because i don’t think #overcome resonated with me as deeply as #persist had.

whatever the case, i adopted the final step in my upward spiral of success.


2015 was a hard year. my personal achievement was exceptional, but the application of that achievement was stymied by bigotry. in june, something happened that revealed the institutional rot i faced. it also revealed the degree to which the actors within that institution turned a blind eye to that institutional bigotry. it wasn’t some big transgression or act of hate. there are relatively few villains in this story, if only because our societal bigotry rarely shows up like that. it shows up as disenfranchisement and gossip. if the measure of goodness is what you do when no one’s watching, there was a deficit of goodness.

flagrant transmisogyny can be easily dispatched: asserting my hormones make me more reckless, asserting that i’m less of a woman from my height and build, the mythological “weekend trans” bogeyman that trans-exclusionary individuals use to protect the many from the few. cis privilege showed up in ways that were harder to verbalize. a different standard that went unacknowledged by people convinced of their own goodness. passive-aggressive othering. a dismissal of my own concerns, because the system can’t possibly be rigged against me. a hopeless situation engineered so that the buck without accountability, where the only option to prove to myself that the system was failing me, not the converse, was by completely withdrawing from the system. every skater with a chip on her shoulder is gonna get self-righteous if she feels like she’s been screwed out of a roster spot, so why should i be any different? but i believed so firmly in the systemic corruptness of the process that i burnt it all down. straight up: i transferred to a better league.

as completely contrary as it seems to the spirit of #persist, the most important thing i did this year was quit. that’s not giving up. “giving up” is succumbing to internal pressures, abandoning myself. “quitting” is succumbing to external pressures. the abrasiveness of my environment was an external pressure. i quit, and i still persist. i’ve learned that what you do is as important as where you do it.

i bought my first workout groupon last year, during #persist, when i was externally motivated. my routine fell apart when things got hopeless, when i found out how few people put faith in me. to some extent i have always skated for others, but the alienation of the last year forced me to start skating for me. so i bought a new groupon this week for my own goals, for my own success. there’s no slight i’m looking to avenge. cosmic justice won’t be served. this is just me, at my best, in an environment that will permit me to thrive. for the first time in a long time, it’s actually up to me. hopefully, that will be enough.