Life Part Two: Jace – The Journey Continues

Today. Today was supposed to be so normal, so typical. Just another Monday.
I woke up, stood up; put on my music, picked out some clothes, and stepped into the shower. I fed the rabbits, the dog, and filled up my water bottle; grabbed a granola bar for lunch, slipped on my black leather jacket (and, over it, the world’s coolest backpack) and then dipped into my ’99 Neon.
I drove to work.
On a Monday.
I love Mondays.
I was in a meeting for 2 hours; I love meetings. I watched through the windows as, for the first time this year, the wind rustled the trees outside of the corporate office and their leaves fell majestically to the ground. The first real day of fall.
The meeting ended.
I walked down a hallway, into the front of a classroom, and greeted each of my new hires (who I’ll be training for the next 2 weeks). We moved around the room, vocally… laughing and introducing ourselves; each of them was spectacular, stellar. I introduced myself as Rose — cringing a little as the name left my mouth, swallowing the bitter taste of bile, and ignoring the gentle petitioning of my lonely, injured soul. I smiled on the outside and whispered – on the inside – “Soon. It’s okay. You’re okay. Wait.” 
It was a great day.
I clocked out at 5:07 and paused in the parking lot for a solid 30 minutes, listening to my best friend recount her first day working in her new position. I felt so happy for her; I was so proud of her. I smiled. She left, and I dipped back into the Neon. I stopped, on the way home, to fill the car up with gas. I arrived home ten minutes later, and as I closed the driver’s seat door, my eyes moved across my skateboard (lying on its side in the backseat). I jotted down a quick mental note to go skate after work one night this week.
So normal, so typical.
I took a few steps forward, my backpack hanging off of my left shoulder, and tugged on the mailbox, feeling – like every other day for the last 17 days – hopeful but not expectant. A thick envelope from Judge Alan King was sitting on top of the regular round of rubbish (credit card application invites, ‘competitive’ insurance offerings, and coupons for merchants whose stores I would never, ever shop at). My heart stopped. The world stopped. My heart started. The world resumed spinning. I gingerly removed the envelope from the mailbox — pulling it towards me, and pressing it close to my chest — and then I closed the lid to the mailbox. Breathe in, breathe out.
I climbed the driveway, unlocked the front door, and entered the house, feeling numb, and feeling tingly. I placed the envelope on the table. Not ready yet.
I walked upstairs slowly, removing my work clothes as I moved from the hallway into the bedroom. I slipped my favorite NASA t-shirt on over my head and relished, once again, in how ridiculously comfortable men’s boxers are, thinking: This really won’t ever get old.
I let the dog outside. I threw the sheets and the comforter into the dryer; 80 minutes, tumble dry high.
I returned to the table. I picked up the envelope. I opened it carefully, making sure to not tear the edges (usually, I wouldn’t care if that happened). There was a letter encircling other letters. This packet is so thick. My heart raced. I felt like vomiting. I felt like running into the street and screaming. I thought about fainting and pictured falling suddenly, abruptly, onto the cold tile floor.
I held the letter with both hands. I found my answer in less than 10 seconds.
The first line:
“We’ve received your written request for your name to be changed. After careful review of the file and all documents presented, Judge Friday has granted your name change.”
I couldn’t breathe. No hearing? I was gasping. Is this really happening? I was wailing. IS THIS REAL? Hot tears streamed down my face. I was heaving; I still couldn’t breathe. My arms, and my chest, were trembling; my hands and my wrists were shaking; my legs felt truly weak. I braced myself against the table with my right hand, struggling to continue reading through the tears.
“As of the date the order is signed, your name has been permanently changed.”
“Permanently.” “The date signed” (eyes racing across the sheet of paper).. September 17th. Last week? Oh my god.
“Upon hearing of the petition, the court is of the opinion that the petition should be granted and the petitioner is entitled to the relief therein prayed for.”
RELIEF. Yes; they KNOW. They understand!
“It is hereby ORDERED and DECREED by the court that Amber Rose Yarbrough be hereafter known by the name of Jace Yarbrough.”
Oh my heart. Oh, my soul.
Relief.
When dreams meet reality.
Relief.
When you finally accept yourself, after 23 years, 11 months, and 26 days, only to find that it took the world a mere 6 days to recognize, accept, and validate you. Is it irony?
Relief.
When, in passing, you see your soul in the mirror, and you reach into the glass, and you catch him, or her, or IT, and you’re able to pull it out — softly, quickly.. gently, closer; it’s scared, and then it’s relaxing — it’s hysterical and so vulnerable, but after constant coaxing, and quiet reassurances, and genuine, trusted whispers of love, you pull it into you. And now it’s inside of you. And now it is you. You are you. You did it, and you’re here. You’re whole, and you’re still here. And you’re okay.
Happy Monday.
Aun Aqui
(Still Here)
Aka: Jace
2015-09-28 19.10.02

But then

I’m an open book. I think most of you know that.. unless you just so happened to stumble across this blog and are now thinking “Ummmmm, you’re actually just some random stranger on the internet.” But I am — an open book, that is — not “some random stranger on the internet.” Unless I am?

And it’s good and bad, being an open book. It’s good because being honest and transparent – with yourself and to others – is freeing, and validating, and liberating. On the flip side, it’s bad because of this: when you allow people to look inside of you, so closely and so very deeply, they see things that they don’t like. Things that you ALSO do not like. It’s inevitable, really. And sometimes, they just end up not liking you.

I’ve lost friends since coming out. But I’ve also – unexpectedly – forged new friendships with people (people who surprised me) and have been able to deepen relationships with existing friends, and they have all been such a comfort to me. I have, without a doubt, sustained serious damages to relationships with family members, and that is what has inflicted the most poignant pain — what has caused the worst kind of mental and emotional conflict. I honestly worry about how coworkers view me, and I lie awake every single night, defeatedly wishing that I could go back to being normal (it was so incredibly easy) and then immediately feeling my chest constrict with terror, only to repeatedly – night after night – finally find sleep only after assenting to the fact that I’m unutterably relieved to have finally made contact with my soul. My true self. Through being honest with myself and by making myself vulnerable around others, I’ve been able to combat fears and regrets, acknowledge damages and wrongs, and open myself up to understanding, accepting, and loving myself even more deeply than I ever thought was possible. It’s honestly like I didn’t even realize that I didn’t know or like myself until I started searching and questioning… months ago. It’s been a real quest; an absolute adventure. For years, I was looking and talking and reaching out all of the time and never once thought to gaze (or even glance) in.  Very recently, I developed a new life theory, and it’s pretty simple: No one can possibly know or understand “you” as well as you can, and no one could possibly love you more either. I think that that’s where a lot – perhaps even the majority – of hurt and disappointment comes rushing in: we look to “something” or someone else to make us right, whole, happy, entertained or fulfilled. A special person; the perfect person. A certain place — the most magical place. A particular thing. An engrossing activity. But it’s when you’re sitting in a room by yourself, in the dark, sobbing and leaning up against the wall that you turn and face your biggest fear: you. Just you. At the end of each day, and first thing every morning, it’s just you. You. That’s it! Are you happy, being around yourself? Are you enough? Do you like yourself? Do you hate yourself? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you even trying (or remembering) to? Quit decorating your heart. Why quit? Because. It’s made to look lovely, or at least okay, on the outside, and then it is completely neglected. So quit. Instead, strip its walls bare and then venture inside of it. Disclaimer: It hurts, more than any kind of hurt you’ve probably ever experienced, but it’s so healing. There is such peace. It is so worth it.

I wrote a poem earlier this week (a challenge posed to me by a friend), and it felt very awkward — settling into a chair, opening my journal and re-entering that frame of mind. It had been years. But after a few apprehensive moments, I began writing, and this is what I wrote. It’s simple and unremarkable, but I think that – for those listening – it’ll make sense.

“But then”

My muscles ache from holding back
They tense, they move; they halt, retract
I’m gazing in the mirror at
A broken woman, a bashful man

He’s just a boy
He doesn’t know
Which laugh to use
Whose hand to hold

He comes alive
And it feels like home
He’s grounded while weightless..
In love with his soul

But now everyone is watching
And their eyes are like a spell
So he’s running back to darkness
To ghosts who know him well

But no one’s REALLY seeing
Because EVERYONE is high
While he blazes like a wildfire
On the deepest, darkest night

And when he’s simply gone
Like a cool and whispered goodbye
You thought you might have felt it
But then something caught your eye

That’s a pretty sad note to end on, isn’t it? At 9:47 PM on a Thursday. I’m not sad. Not today. Things are looking up. Life is changing; my being is in a constant state of flux, of movement, and I am walking (and, sometimes, limping — at other times, jogging) across an endless track of sights, sounds, scenes and situations, where I’m ceaselessly transitioning, evaluating, adjusting, presenting, reacting, retracting, evolving, deciding, and growing. Every second, each step. Even when I’m standing still, I’m submitting to revelation after revelation and easing – curving – into the perfect ebb and flow that’s guiding me home. It’s time for bed. It’s time to store these thoughts away until tomorrow, when I wake up, happy, and everything is okay and the routine starts all over again. So, as a harmless, hopeful and chipper night cap, here are some things that make me happy.

Burritos.

Good songs.

The rabbits enjoying their sesame stick treat in the morning.

The idea of a sharp, custom-fit tux and me, wearing it.

Fall.

Skateboarding through a breeze.

A worn journal, lined with soft, cottony, fabric and fiber pages.

Coasting down a hill, on my bike, in first gear, with the clutch pulled in. Perfect.

A clean house with real, live, green plants breathing life up into its ceiling, bedrooms and hallways. A German Shepherd, lying contentedly beside a crackling fire. A blanket. A shoulder to lean on. Crickets.

Spending the night in an open field; lying in the grass, flat on my back, and gazing up into outer space. Alone. Quiet. Unafraid.

And me. Finding, clutching, crying with, comforting, laughing at, caring for, staring at, fighting for, knowing, and loving.. me.

Aun Aqui