I saw a beautiful car the other day – I don’t know what make it was, but it definitely looked expensive. It was sleek, and purring, with tinted windows, and I felt like one of those little ragged street-urchins you see in black and white films, staring at it with undisguised envy. My immediate thought was “I’ll never be successful enough to drive something like that”.

The thing is, I don’t have a car because a) I can’t afford to buy, insure and run one, but also b) I believe in trying to lead an ethical life, and have deliberately adapted my life to not include a car. So really, with all this in mind, I shouldn’t envy Mr Tinted Windows.

The trouble is, if you lay all the ethical stuff aside, there’s a big chip on my shoulder about my lack of success. I am very-nearly-40, and I live in a rented house, buy the majority of my clothing 2nd hand, walk everywhere, haven’t been on holiday for over 3 years, take so many pills and potions that the pharmacist treats me like an old friend, have made a giant mess of being a parent, and have a Curriculum Vitae that reads like a shopping receipt.

The chances of me ever having enough money to pay a deposit on a house are laughable. And I KNOW that things like that aren’t a measure of success, but actually, when people I know are doing ‘normal’ things like buying houses, upgrading their cars, planning holidays, etc., I feel really, really small.

But what has any of this to do with transitioning, I hear you cry? Well, I used to have a “good” job, with quite a high wage. Not so monumentally high that I didn’t have to be careful with my pennies, but high enough not to have to worry so much about getting by day-to-day. Unfortunately, that job made me miserable, and ill, and ultimately there is no way I could have transitioned in that role. Well, not and retain any of my fast-depleting sanity, anyway. So I left, and hit the job market. I got by on temping, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was tramping round every single recruitment agency in the City, dressed smartly, with my biggest smile on, trying to persuade people to look at my CV. I felt like a whore, and not in a good way.

I now have a job that I love doing, but I bring home less than half what I used to. Some time ago, my daughter complained that I’m always worrying about money, and said “But it was YOU who decided to give up a perfectly good, well-paid job”. She’s young, and will hopefully one day understand why I did that, but at the back of my mind, there’s a little part of me that’s terrified that what she said is what other people think as well.

I can’t blame being transgender for my lack of visible success. There’s some very successful trans guys around – I’m just not one of them! However, as well as the immediate financial impact of giving up the job I used to do, it is also possible to look back at the last…ooohh….let’s say 30 years of my life, and see that success is unlikely to come to someone who is deeply unhappy with themselves, beating themselves up on a daily basis about their inability to fit in, and feeling like the body they have been born with is made of clay. None of these, in my mind, are likely to lead to success.

It’s easy to say “Yes, but success isn’t about jobs and houses and cars and holidays…” and I know that is true. Success is also about people, and I have many lovely people in my life. But what else is success? You know, at the moment, I am really not sure. So I am looking back at today’s successes. Small they may be, but you’ve got to start somewhere:

Today, I:

  • Woke up  at 6, realised it’s a Saturday, and rolled over with a smile on my face.
  • Got changed at the gym without going beetroot-coloured around all the nakedness in the changing room.
  • Did my first yoga class since surgery. Believe it or not, it’s much easier to do Uddiyana bandha when not wearing a skin-tight lycra binder.
  • Bumped into two of my friends, who are all loved-up and lovely.
  • Went to the first Norwich Veggie Fair, and was recognised by someone I know online, without me having to go up and introduce myself.
  • Went to an art exhibition that was showing a friend’s work, and decided that I much preferred his stuff over anyone else’s.
  • Treated myself to a takeout from Norwich’s absolute best Vegan Chinese Takeaway. Ok, Norwich’s ONLY Vegan Chinese Takeaway. Where the lady recognised me. No, NOT because I go there a lot…
  • Popped into a shop to buy a drink to go with the Chinese, then decided to try another shop a short walk down the road…and saved nearly £3 in the process.

Small, small successes. I need to focus on them, really, because I’m pretty sure the other sort has eluded me!