Graduate school is tiring. Graduate school is all encompassing in a way that undergraduate never was. I go to bed and have dreams of experiments failing, to wake up and have to repeat the endeavor for real. Despite the annoyance of such dreams, at times these episodes can be enlightening.
Opening my eyes in the dim light of my bedroom, I have woken from my dreams with an idea uniquely my own generated while I was sleeping. In this case, the idea regards using a piece of laboratory equipment in an unconventional way. These moments of creativity make those other abrasive moments of graduate school seem inconsequential. Upon testing this new idea in the laboratory, it fails completely, however, to consider this experience a failure would be a gross mistake. Creating new ideas, thinking in a way one never has before, expands our thoughts and creativity, making the next academic leap all the easier. One must wait for the next spark.
Dysphoria is tiring. Dysphoria (for me) was all encompassing in a way that makes graduate school seem like a summer vacation. For me, it was a feeling that includes so many emotions and personal reactions that attempting to describe it would end in my just rambling on for a while. It would be like trying to describe love in words. People try, maybe some get close, but in the end it’s just not worth it.
A key thought in my life occurred in an entirely innocuous fashion. I was on a flight departing Savannah en route to a layover in Charlotte before my flight back to DTW. I had just spent the weekend with one of my best friends from high school. On the surface, it was an incredible weekend, with beautiful weather and historic sites. Still, I was unhappy.
The plane is stuck on the tarmac for nearly 45 minutes since boarding. Fortunately, the plane is not particularly crowded. The lights are dim, except for a few reading lights. My aisle is entirely empty. I hope to sleep as the weekend of Savannah heat and the relaxed nature of the alcohol laws (You are allowed to buy road beers?!) has left me even more worn out then when I left for this vacation. I close my eyes, meditating first on my breathing. Feeling more relaxed, I recognize that I am not looking forward to returning to Ann Arbor. I recognize that despite all the fun the weekend was, it only highlighted the dysphoria I have been feeling for years. I sit quietly in silence realizing I am unhappy because I am holding so much back from other people. This seems like an appropriate time to mention I am very extroverted and my happiness is very much dependent upon my interaction with other humans. To feel like I was not being honest with these people left a hole.
What I have described thus far was nothing new. I came to the conclusion that I was a Trans woman about 3 years before, in a separate eye-opening moment. However, since then, I have had multiple conversations with myself weighing the pros and cons of transition, always choosing what seemed like the safer, albeit sadder option of the status quo. However, this time was different. My thoughts went through what I could only call a mental coin flip. Where I imagined a coin suspended in air, falling, choosing my destiny. Like any coin flip, there is always a subconscious choice of the desired outcome. I knew what I wanted for my life though I saw so many attachments burdening me from getting there. Somehow, this total unremarkable moment became the most important moment of my life. The point where I thought I would give up everything to be the person I truly was. This was a new thought for me, and it has been incredibly transformative.
After my layover, I was seated on a flight next to a middle aged women with beautiful, long blonde hair. She turned out to be an anti-vaccine Christian Science life coach. Despite this, our conversation was very pleasant, and she was very bright (though horribly ill-informed). When the conversation drifted to religion, I initially cringed, but her views were actually not that far removed from my personal beliefs, which lie somewhere on the spectrum near Buddhism. In all of this, she kept speaking about doing things for oneself and letting go of everything that is transient (that is to say everything). I’m not really sure how she would feel if she knew that her advice was validating my personal decision to transition.
Since that point, I have never looked back and am so happy with my decision. In the end, I feel like have given up very little and gained so much. My girlfriend of 2 ½ years and I are still happily together nine months into my transition. My family has supported me. My friends have supported me. Everyone in my graduate program has supported me including faculty, staff, and my fellow students. I am still a leader among my peers. My graduate work is continuing steadily. It continues to be tiresome, however, dysphoria is largely a thing of the past. Every once in a while these new ideas pay off.