Live as if you were living a second time and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.
- Viktor Frankl, in 'Man's Search for Meaning'
Last week I was excited to celebrate my birthday. On the record it was number 68. Off the record, I like to think that 68 is the new 28, but perhaps I'm just fooling myself. Even though I transitioned at the age of 64 I don't believe anything I've done in my life was a mistake and I am in deep gratitude that I now have a second chance to live my life in a manner that is true to how I see myself. Before I transitioned, I seemingly traveled through my life in a cloud and the lens I viewed the world through was always out of focus. Perhaps that might be a definition of dysphoria for some. I know it was for me
Second chances can mean lots of different things to different people. I love the way Victor Frankel talks about living your life as if you get to correct mistakes -- or as he says, "acting wrongly," that you've made before. To me this is the ultimate second chance. However finding one's true meaning of life and actually living it does not necessarily mean that you've made a mistake before you reach this point. I am aware of people in and out of the transgender community that may feel that their lives before they chose to live authentically, was living in error or a mistake. I am not one of them, as I treasure each moment in my life, whether it was full of pleasure or full of challenge. I own it all; the good -- the bad -- the consequences and the rewards. Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out all of ones life's puzzle pieces and get the picture right! There is no need to judge the past, present or future. This is true for ourselves and for others.
It's not often that you get a second chance!
I suspect that not many people have heard of Viktor Frankl and his classic book, Man's Search for Meaning. The book that was birthed out of the horrors of WWII German concentration camps, as a young Frankl learned the power of hope and love, and that each person has their unique mission. However, I also suspect that almost all of us, will ask the question of what is the meaning of our life? I know I have, and I have learned from Frankl, when he states:
..the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.
About a month ago, it was late evening as I watched Jimmy Fallon return from his finger injury. As he discussed his experience I must admit that I almost fell off of my couch when Fallon discussed reading Frankl's book as he was in the hospital for 10 days recovering. The always-smiling Fallon said that almost losing his finger allowed his self-reflective parts to ask himself what his life is about, and his answer was that his mission was to entertain people. I wonder if anyone in his audience decided to get the book.
I first read Man's Search for Meaning in 2006. I was divorced, struggling with my own gender dysphoria and desperately searching for meaning and hope wherever I could find it. It is not an easy read but it planted many seeds of understanding in me -- some that took me a few years to digest and actually act on to find and live my truth and find my mission to help teach people to discover their own authentic life, whatever that may look like for each person.
I talk about living in the present and be aware that change happens in every moment. I have learned much from Viktor Frankl, and perhaps you may too. Life changes in each moment. Frankl eloquently sums it up:
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize that is is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and only he can answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
Frankl teaches us the power of love and hope. I believe I have made the most of my second chance. I have learned from Frankl -- I am responsible for me and my choices. No one else! Perhaps 68 really is the new 28, but I know that last week, as I celebrated my birthday with most of my kids and grandkids, that love and hope is forever present in my life. You know, in this moment, that is certainly meaning enough for me.
It's not often that you get a second chance!
Treasure your second chances when they come, or even be responsible and make them yourself!
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. Grace is available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .