The 10 Year Challenge, A Birthday Gift to Myself

Image description: two images are divided by a white border. On the left is an image of Jae at their high school graduation. They are wearing a floral, knee length dress with tank-top sleeps. A medal of honor hangs from their neck. They have shoulder length blonde hair, and they are smiling with a blue graduation cap atop their head. The image on the right is of Jae from this past year. They are wearing an opened black vest with no shirt underneath, black dress pants, and a black and silver medallion. Their hair is bleach blonde and cut so it’s shorter on top and shaved on the sides. They hold a smirk on their face and a mug in their right hand that reads: World’s Greatest Me.

cw: mentions su*c*de and abusive relationships

There’s a trend going around where people are posting a picture of themselves from 2012 next to a picture of themselves from this year, 2022. So, I thought it’d be a fun reflection if I did this challenge today, on my birthday.

On the left I see a child in a graduation cap. I see someone who doesn’t know who she is and is tired of faking happy all the time. Sure, I had moments when I was truly happy. But nothing seemed to fit right. Not my clothes, not my body, not my friends, not my education, not my family, nothing. In fact the only things that made sense were music, nature, and animals because I truly didn’t know myself. Things would make sense one moment, and then come crashing down the next. I often wanted to unalive myself, even though I was so excited to start a new adventure off in Michigan for college. But college brought more strife, and I couldn’t make sense of why nothing was easy. Not one thing. Everything took so much effort; I was sick all the time, people abandoned me or stabbed me in the back, work was hell, classes were hell. Again, not saying that there weren’t good moments. But overall I was a lost child in a big, scary world, without much healthy guidance, self-awareness, or boundaries. That girl there had convictions, yes, but was constantly fawning to appease those around her and making foolish decisions. She got stuck in abusive relationship after abusive relationship. She got wrapped up in who people were telling her to be, instead of unapologetically existing in her full authenticity and finding the people who empower her to do just that.

That girl on the left had a lot of self-discovery to do, and a lot of self-compassion to develop. And then 10 years passed us by.

When I look to the right, I see a human who confidently embraces all that they are. I see someone who sees the possibilities life has to offer and isn’t afraid to reach out and receive what the universe is bringing to them. I see someone who knows they are inherently the world’s greatest “them” because they are the only one who can be them. I see someone who values their unique voice, quirks and all, and values when others share theirs. I see someone who knows life is a journey of growth and constant evolution, where it’s okay to make mistakes so long as you stay accountable and choose to do better.

I am grateful for the challenges and hardships I’ve had to endure these past 10 years to get to where I am now. Without them, I wouldn’t be this compassionate for myself and others. I wouldn’t pursue my passions with the fervor that I have now. I wouldn’t be the fierce advocate that I am now. I wouldn’t have the most amazing queer, dance, disabled, kink, polyamorous, and neurodivergent communities that I have now. I wouldn’t be in the healthy, stable, life-giving relationships that I’m in now.

Finally, I know myself. I know that I am transmasc nonbinary, pansexual, polyamorous, autistic, an ADHDer, disabled, and spiritual without religion. Finally I know, accept, and love these things about myself. No, I treasure these things. And finally I know that it is no one’s right or in anyone’s power to take the knowledge of who I am from me, or cover it up with their own toxicity. These past 10 years have taught me that knowing and loving myself is just as important, if not more important, than gracefully receiving and reciprocating love from others.

So here’s to growth, love, and the inclusive, equitable, compassion-first future ahead of us. If the last decade was setting the stage, I am so ready to take to that stage now and play my part in creating this future dream. Thanks for being here for the show and playing your own part too. 💜🌈💜


To everyone who has believed in me and seen me through these last 10 years, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I truly would not be here in the form that I am now without your patience, compassion, and support. It really does take a village…


I am shamelessly posting my gofundme here for continued growth through community support. Thank you 💜

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