Here we are two months into 2024, which marks my sixth year of writing for Watermark, and I could not be prouder. I have written about the new year frequently over the years because I love the idea of a fresh start while reflecting on the past.
I am 46 now, single but looking to mingle, and certainly without a full plan on how life should be at this stage. I buy the crystals, I read all the books about mindfulness and self-love, I exercise, and I try to be a good person. But like so many of us, I wonder if I am getting it right.
Over the last few years, and I believe I am not alone in this, my life has changed dramatically. Many of us think of our lives as before the pandemic, during it and at its end — or wherever we find ourselves now — and I am no exception. There’s been so much change in our daily lives in the last three years.
Politics here in Florida for the LGBTQ+ community became a national topic of discussion and I personally know folks who left our state for fear of simply existing here. It would be wildly inappropriate to not mention the fear and pain that this caused for myself and for so many whom I love.
Recently a friend and I were discussing happiness after they asked what it looked like to me. It was a great topic and our responses were quite different, but I always enjoy a different perspective from my own. For me, learning how others think and feel helps me understand things outside my own comfort zone and perspective. My answers were mostly centered around love: loving others, being loved in this world and loving your life.
As someone who feels deeply for others and has empathic qualities, the last few years have been devastating for me. The current state of the world leaves a lot to be desired, but as a parent I feel responsible for being positive for my kids.
That’s because I did not grow up feeling safe or loved a lot of the time. I felt scared and unsure. I did not feel supported by my family most of the time. These hard truths have come from a lot of self-refection, therapy and even writing this column. To understand who you are and why you are the way you are eludes many for their entire lives, but I am lucky to have this insight now even though it took decades.
We tend to focus on what we don’t have. It seems easier to complain than praise. I am not endorsing toxic positivity here at all, I’m just saying that my life is happier when I am grateful, humble and focused on what’s next instead of what is behind me.
We are all different, but we all deserve love, respect, support and a seat at the table of life. So in the downward slide to 50 (I said what I said), I would love to share with you some of what has brought happiness to my life in this challenging world we live in.
Authenticity in everything you do is hard and terrifying, but it is the best thing for feeling strong and confident. I have learned this from my family at PFLAG, my magical LGBTQ+ friends and from my youngest son, Jake. Being a parent is so hard because we care for our child’s happiness so much, and this is amplified being the parent of a transgender child. Happiness is loving yourself exactly how you are — and from the age of six, my baby boy has inspired our entire circle to do just that.
Loving others is something else that brings me great happiness. In my journey to find who I am professionally, this is what resonates the most. If I can make someone feel good or feel like they have support, I feel like I am doing what I need to. This is how I discovered what I feel is my purpose. The years I was unsure about it were some of my darkest.
Being loved in this world is the big one. I do not have a partner or romantic interest (now accepting applications, however) and I have been single for over five years. My darkest moments have been manageable thanks to my amazing friends. Find the people who are honest with you even when it is uncomfortable. A tribe who knows you through all the weird hairstyles, bad relationship choices and devastating life changes like the death of a parent. I am so lucky in this area and I have had the same best friend since the age of five. The love my friends give me, and that I try to reciprocate, is the foundation of my life outside of my children.
I wish you love and happiness and authenticity in 2024. I hope you feel safe, free and loved. In the moments that you do not, I wish you a tribe to lift you back up, dust you off and remind you who you are. This column is dedicated to Liz, established in 1984.
Sylvie Trevena is passionate about inclusivity, diversity, mental health and acts of service. She loves food, horror movies, her pets and the moon. Outside of “mom,” she is most proud of being called a writer.