That's part of being your authentic self in work and in life.
I was reminded of this, yet again, the other day. I walked out of my workshop for perinatal health providers at a conference where I'd been invited back three years in a row. Three years in a row! That's pretty impressive considering the first year I ended up there practically by accident.
One of the committee members, who hadn't met me or seen my presentation before yesterday said to me, "Dillan, that was wonderful. You are changing the world 25 people at a time."
She was referring to my workshop titled, Safe Spaces: Five Ways to Provide Welcoming Care for LGBTQ Individuals. It's a workshop I created largely from my own experiences navigating the health sector as a transgender/queer person. I also include stories I hear from my friends in the LGBTQIA communities and the little research that exists about health disparities.
My workshop was the only one of its kind on the roster at this event celebrating its 26th year. It gave me great pleasure to have been invited back for the third year in a row and to be told by the committee organizers that my workshop is a crowd favorite.
It was particularly meaningful because, as I sat down to rest after my presentation, I received an email rejecting my application to be a teacher this summer. Despite my fear of rejection based on my identity as a trans* person, I had applied anyway. My experience as a certified teacher and youth programs director made me well-qualified for the position; it matched all my skills and areas of expertise. I was excited to get back into teaching and working with youth again, having done it for 15 years of my life. And, to be true to myself and walk my own talk, I openly shared my identity as a transgender person as a possible asset to the community. As I sat down and read the email saying I wasn't offered the position, I was struck the irony of the moment. I had just walked out of an incredibly successful professional moment being fully out and proud about who I am, and here I was experiencing the other end of the spectrum.
Do I know for a fact it was due to my trans* identity? No, I don't. But my gut told me it might happen long before I received the email. I had considered who or what I would lose when I decided to transition, including professional opportunities, so it really came as no surprise. I know some people aren't ready to accept and embrace a transgender person and all it entails. I know some people don't like me or value me, both personally or professionally.
But life is like that, right? You win some, you lose some.
The sting of the email lasted mere hours due, in part, to the Buddhist retreat I attended this past weekend in the wilds of Vermont. Coming off that experience, I just wasn't able to hold onto the suffering of that rejection for very long because I know it is there to teach me a lesson about attachment. When we attach to how things "should" be or how we "want" them to be, we suffer. When we surrender to the reality of what "is", we experience freedom in our hearts, minds and spirits.
I have two choices in life. We all do. We can hold tight to our version of things, in this case the injustice inherent in being rejected based on my identity, or we can accept the NOW. The "now" of this experience revealed that some people are ready, willing and able to embrace learning about LGBTQ people from a member of those communities. Some people are not. Some things will be available to us when we share who we really are, and some will not.
In that moment, I became so clear about how much time I've spent suffering over people or opportunities or experiences never meant for me. I've spent precious moments agonizing over why I wasn't good enough or smart enough or (fill in the blank) enough. I've spent minutes and hours and days and weeks being a victim and complaining about things over which I have no control. We do this when we fix our focus on outcomes or results based on our short-sighted view of right and wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair. We do this when we get really attached to something or, as Pema Chodron said this past weekend, "when we get attached to a different "NOW".
The truth is, we will win some and lose some. We can't make everyone like us or want us or need us or value us. We can't control every outcome. When we focus on the wrong ones, the ones who don't choose us, we waste precious time. When we focus on the right ones, the ones who easily see our value and worth, we free up energy for where it is most needed and appreciated.
The email I received came at exactly the precise moment I was celebrating another success for myself as an out transgender professional. I thought of it later, as I sat doing the coaching work I LOVE for a company and with other people I greatly admire and respect. I've worked very long and very hard to seek out opportunities where I can be my most authentic self to do work I am exceptionally good at, because I truly love it. My life is so fulfilling, that I don't have time to spend worked up over people or opportunities that pass me up. I believe I will experience more success like this, in my career and in my personal life, as long as I remember that I will win some and I will lose some. It's all part of life.
We will lose or miss out on things. People will fear what we represent or who we are. People will reject us for too many reasons to count. We will not be able to reach everyone.
But you don't need them all. You just need the right ones.