I’ve lived in New Jersey my whole life. BORING! Don’t get me wrong, I have an intense love for this state for a thousand different reasons, but there’s more to the world than just New Jersey. I didn’t exactly plan to be here forever, it just happened.
After college, I thought a lot about moving to Chicago. I had been there once with a few friends and had one of the best times of my life. I can still easily say it’s my favorite city ever. At the time, I was in a long term relationship and we both had jobs here. When we broke up, I was pretty close to going for it and making the move. I didn’t feel as though there was much for me here. My family and friends are here in New Jersey, but something was still missing.
What held me back from moving wasn’t my friends, family, or job. I was afraid to leave my comfort zone. New Jersey is safe. I know New Jersey. I know where things are. I know what there is to do. I know people. I have a job. There is no risk by staying here in New Jersey.
I was terrified of moving somewhere new and not knowing anyone. What if I didn’t make any new friends? This was something I couldn’t shake. It’s the same fear I felt went I went off to college. Sure, I was a mere hour away from home, but I’m not good at making new friends out of nowhere. I’m weird and awkward. I’m also terribly shy around people I don’t know well. I take some time to warm up and get comfortable.
The thing is, I made a lot of friends in college. I shouldn’t have still had this fear. I’d made friends before, I could do it again. Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t shake the fear so I never followed through on my dreams to move to Chicago.
In a way, being afraid to leave the safety of my comfort zone has plagued me my whole life. When I first thought about transition, more than ten years ago, I was too afraid I couldn’t do it. I came up with excuse after excuse to push it all down. No one would want to be friends with me anymore. I’d spend my life alone. I would never be the woman I imagined myself to be. I wouldn’t be pretty or pass and I’d always be an outcast. Life outside of my comfort zone was too scary. I couldn’t follow through with transitioning. I ran into this fear again when I changed careers to software development. I didn’t have the educational background. I would make a fool of myself. I’d somehow get hired and they’d find me to be incompetent within weeks and fire me. I wanted to do it…I was just afraid. If I hadn’t had a friend of mine push me until I finally gave in to apply for the company he worked at, I don’t think I ever would have made the move. This career move has been a 100% success, more than I could have hoped, but it still didn’t do anything to cure me.
I don’t like always being comfortable. I like to be challenged. I like new things. I just struggle through the fear of failure. And even more than that, I struggle with the idea of people seeing me fail. The only time I ever willingly pushed myself way out of my comfort zone was my first trip to Europe. Being in another country always scared me, I never understood how people could just go and not be afraid. Non-English speaking countries were even worse. I just…I couldn’t fathom not speaking the language. Just thinking about it gave me anxiety. Still, somehow, I bought a plane ticket to London and booked a train ride to Paris for the second half of the trip. I don’t know what pushed me to do it, I was pee-my-pants-level scared. I guess I was single at the time and felt like I needed to challenge myself in some way. London wasn’t so bad of an idea, there are no language issues. Paris messed me up mentally for a while though. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but I had spent a lot of money on the trip and had to go through with it. When I first got to Paris, I had trouble finding the hotel and started to freak out (I eventually found it!). The rest of the trip ended up being amazing and it did wonders for my fear of being in a new country. Last year, when I booked a Berlin, Copenhagen, and Stockholm trip for my wife and myself, I had zero reservations and didn’t think twice about it.
Over the last year and a half of transition, I’ve radically changed. The decision to transition thrust my life into uncomfortable and uncharted territory for me. So many fears to face, the same fears I succumbed to ten years ago. This time, I decided to face them and not back down. I quickly realized it wasn’t about “passing,” it was just about being me. At first I hoped I’d eventually be able to go stealth, but the further along I get, the more visible I want to be. I want to be openly trans, I don’t want to hide myself anymore.
This was terrifying at first. I remember saying that a lot in therapy and to the friends I came out to early on. I didn’t know how my friends would react, I expected to lose a bunch of them. I trembled when I told them. I was so far out of my comfort zone for this, but it felt good. I’m at a point where being in “guy mode” is horribly uncomfortable for me now. I’ve been using the name Amelia 100% of the time outside of work for months and months, no matter how I’m presenting myself otherwise. I stopped caring if people thought it was weird. I also stopped care if people looked at me weird in public.
The scary and uncomfortable stuff became my new comfort zone. It became my home.
I still think about leaving New Jersey and I would love to do it. I don’t see myself still being here a year from now. I’m lucky to be in a position where, if I really want, I should have no problems just leaving while keeping my job and working remotely. Now, it’s not just Chicago that I’d like to move to, the list has grown to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Copenhagen, and Berlin. Yes, two international cities!
I used to be scared of not knowing anyone and not being able to make friends. Oddly, that excites me now. I kind of love the idea of being in a whole new place with all new people. It’s ironic though, you’d think I’d be more scared of being alone in a new city now. After all, who wants to befriend the weird trans girl? I mean, there’s no way making friends as a trans person is easier than when you’re not openly trans, right? But I don’t know, I’m not afraid of it. It’s all just so exciting to me now.
Being in a new place and knowing no one also means that no one knows me. No one knows my previous life pretending to be a man. No one knows my birth name. They only know me as Amelia. My past can stay in New Jersey. It’s a fresh start as the real me without any baggage of my old self to hold me down.
Transition has made me want to challenge myself more. I want to be outside of my comfort zone and try new and very scary things. I want to be in a new place. I love my friends here in Jersey so much, but I also want to be among strangers and try something and somewhere entirely new.