We know our experience of the past. We know what hurt us, know what we desired, know what we put up with, know what we feel we lost.
Imagining a future, then, becomes imagining how to rectify and recompense our past.
The future, though, is a new world. The reality it offers comes with new requirements, new challenges and new awareness. Our old dreams can never come true exactly as we imagined them, rather only as they can manifested by a new you in a new body with new situations and new strings. Holding onto the past only weighs us down, chancing us missing new, unexpected and marvellous possibilities.
Transpeople who attempt to carry their old baggage, their old assumptions, expectations and habits, into a new life usually delight for a moment as their fantasies seem to come true but quickly find themselves stuck when their imagination and their reality collide. New challenges pop up, questions that can only be answered with the willingness to be new, to let go and learn new ways of being in a new world.
One definition of insanity, it has been said, is making the same choices over and over and expecting different results. The miracle of a new way of seeing is required, looking beyond our cherished and limiting expectations to engage what is, the possibilities of the present moment. We need not to reveal our true self but rather to discover it, making choices, learning and choosing again to discover what is authentic beyond fantasy.
Chasing down recompense for past slights and abuses is a strategy doomed to fail because only the future can be changed, not the past. The past can only be lived with and hopefully learned from, including lessons of forgiveness, of letting go, of serenity. God, grant me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference. The past, though, fits into only the second category.
Building a future out of better choices means moving beyond petulance and posturing. The world doesn’t care about the way you think other people should be, about fulfilling your old expectations, it only delivers the results of your actual choices. The world isn’t to blame for your failures and foibles, only you are, a statement of personal responsibility that many people want to deflect.
The vehemence with which many attempt to defend their dreams, their cherished fantasies of the way they believe things should be in the face of real evidence that contradicts their assertions can be terrifying. They seek aspirational voices that tell them what they want to hear while striving to silence those who offer a frank and realistic description of their own real world experience. Their fantasies are cherished and must be clung onto even in the face of incontrovertible truths.
If there is divergence between their desires and the world then the world must be wrong, or at least not really the way pragmatists explain it. They fight to defend their dreams with perceived glory instead of doing the hard work of finding real, useful, considered and gracious solutions that acknowledge the views of others, even views that poke holes in our thin beliefs.
Since the future is unknown and unknowable, entering it always takes a leap. We need to believe that we have the skills, understandings, endurance, wherewithal and support to take a risk, jump into different and thrive. Many raise fears, suggesting prudence, but one of the few things more difficult than leaping a chasm is to try and take it in two steps.
Balancing the desires for better that fuel our willingness to leap and listening to the tales of people who have been forward, seeing the challenges, is difficult. Every demand can seem daunting and off-putting until we have engaged it, just as every unengaged spectre seems larger and more terrifying than it does up close.
Dreams do come true, but not as if they popped out of some polished Disney ride. Manifesting our dreams takes work and compromise, the willingness to find ways to balance visions and realities to create a future that will be better than what you used to imagine because now it is real, palpable and shareable full of surprises beyond anything you understood back then.
History is real, not just the sensational moments that stick in memory and form dramatic anecdotes but also the intricate stories of how people came together to shape new realities, engaging conflict, working through trial and error to find better solutions. It’s easy to believe that it was always thus but the historical characters who get reduced to thumbnail images always turn out to be real, flesh and blood humans who fumbled and struggled before a few of their choices became canon.
Understanding the processes that created our past and present can help inform our quest for a better tomorrow but just holding on to the selection bias driven anecdotes that affirm our own world view, our own divisions of us versus them, our own anger, frustration and pain does not open possibilities of change and growth. Fundamentalist views create blinders, not just keeping our eyes on the cultural truths we hold but allowing us to erase or villainize those who hold a different view of our shared world, building barriers rather than connections.
Trying to create a future that offers retribution for the experiences of our past, a future so sanitized & correct that challenge and conflict are all pushed onto others, demanding that they change to meet our long held desires is letting the past poison our possibilities.
We need a new and better future, no doubt, with more opportunity, more respect for individuals and less stratification based on stereotyping. Holding people down because of fear or cultural tropes is bad.
That future, though, will demand that each one of us be willing to become new, finding new ways to work together and honour those around us. We each have to take personal responsibility for letting go of past pain to find future community and connection.
If we don’t do that, well, we probably will just get the same results as before.