I read a reflection on transformation recently. The author Hannah Simpson described the process of converting to Judaism. She writes:
“…we teach that Jews who are converts were actually Jews all along, having awakened a dormant holy element already present within their souls.”
I loved this! The dormant parts of myself have been waiting, ready to be acknowledged and brought forth at the right time.
Recently I left my job as a Spanish teacher and started writing and life coaching.
When I tell former colleagues that I left the classroom, they are surprised. I loved teaching. I was a natural fit and very successful as a K-12 educator.
I mention that I am writing now and many are surprised. Cool! You write?
Someone who wasn’t surprised: my mom. She talked to me about the stories I wrote when I was little. She mentioned how my 4th and 5th grade teachers encouraged me to publish my work.
Talking with her, I thought about how I used lie on the couch and read and write while my siblings were outside playing sports. I thought of the speeches and curricula and poems and research papers I have written over the years.
This is also me. This is true, another part of who I am.
When I catch up with people these days, I find out pretty quickly who has never heard of life coaching. (I explain it here.)
Last week I was talking about it with two of my best friends from college on the phone.
They said, “Oh, that’s called life coaching? You’ve been doing that for years. Neat! You’re super good at that!”
Again, a reminder: this was already there. This is true, another part of who I am.
I transform as a part of me is seen and respected. It is allowed to come out.
I came out as a writer, as a life coach, roles considered “outside of the box.” It took courage to step off the professional track I was on and begin to forge another.
Hannah did something much more difficult: she came out as a different gender.
She and I played in high school band together and I knew her by a different gender and name. We reconnected on Facebook recently. I was surprised and happy to see a vibrant new her.
Hannah teaches others what it is like to realize you are a different gender than the one assigned at birth. She connects her own transformation to that of someone joining the Jewish faith:
“…we teach that Jews who are converts were actually Jews all along, having awakened a dormant holy element already present within their souls.
Not every Jew starts out one from birth, nor do all people develop into a body that immediately matches their innate being.”
What is visible at any given point does not give the whole picture. We need time to develop and express different parts of ourselves.
Talking with Hannah has helped me connect my own life experiences to those of transgender individuals. For me this means family and students as well as people I hear about in the news.
While we walk different paths, we share some common experiences along the way - like change, and transformation, and self-actualization.
With those comes bravery and openness. I feel awe thinking of the courage needed to share an awakening like Hannah's.
I have learned that we are not stuck in a role or identity, no matter how long we have inhabited it. We can always choose to move forward and begin again.
A layer, an identity, a part that was buried underneath can rise to the surface and have its time in the sun.
It could be a new role, a new look, a new perspective, a new gender.
As this kind of change happens in your own life, it might surprise you and those who know you.
Or perhaps not: you might recognize this part of you. Others might also see that this has been there all along.
Either way, it’s true.
Food for thought:
Hannah's reflection on Esther
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Watch as she shares her transgender experience: