Thriving vs. Surviving

Maya Angelou, writer, speaker and general all-around incredible person said: "Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant."


For most of my young life, I was merely surviving. I was not thriving. I would read these words, printed on a card I had and I would think, "yeah. That would be nice. Someday."

I had a lot of days where surviving was my best. It was all I could do, but I still did it, day after day.

When I experienced my first break-up at the age of 23, I was totally devastated. Totally. It was my first love, my first relationship, first sexual relationship and first domestic partner. It was the first time I had really loved someone with all my heart and my soul. When she left, I felt like I couldn't breathe. My guts went to shit. I cried and cried day after day.

But I still woke up every morning, swung my legs over the side of the bed and put my feet on the floor. I showered, got dressed, drove to work and was early every single morning. I don't think I ever took a day off. I was teaching eighth grade at the time and my students never suspected a thing. That went on for years. Years. I wasn't grieving the end of one relationship. I was grieving everything that relationship had opened up inside of me--stuff that had been buried down deep for years.

Last year was different. I was struggling with an experience that was just as difficult as the end of a relationship, if not more. I was grieving the end of something as I was living in it--my old self, my body, my identity, my name, my voice. This experience was really different from the past because I had that old experience to draw on. What had I learned from all that suffering and grief? What had I learned about myself? What had I learned about my own resiliency, tenacity and coping skills? What new skills and self-love tools had I now acquired? There were many days that I remembered Maya Angelou's words about thriving versus surviving.

I was determined to not just survive through my experience but to thrive in it.

So I made a plan.

I surrounded myself with tools to thrive, not just survive.

I know that's why I feel so amazing today, as I approach my year anniversary of deciding to physically transition to male. That anniversary is coming up in March. That was the month I decided to take intentional steps toward making a change that would alter my experience in this life forever. It was the month I decided to stop surviving and start thriving.

Before I made that decision, I was struggling. I felt hopeless, helpless and depressed.

I remember being so afraid to make a move but also feeling that deep down, this was not a way I wanted to feel for the rest of my life. I knew if I didn't make some big choices and take some big chances things wouldn't improve for the better. I saw myself reflected back to me in my clients: people on the edge of greatness and afraid to take the steps and make the moves they needed to make to change their lives. I wanted to walk my talk and I saw the big shift I was avoiding in my own life. So I decided I'd seek out whatever I needed to improve my situation--so I could move from surviving to thriving.

Some times, all we can do is survive. Our best is getting up, throwing our legs over the side of the bed and making it through another day.

But with the right tools, the right motivation and the right amount of self-love, self-determination and courage, we can move from surviving to thriving.

My tools were:

  • good, whole, healthy foods every single day

  • plenty of sugar and foods that didn't serve me (because perfection isn't realistic)

  • a consistent bedtime every night. At least 7 hours.

  • lots of water

  • good friends and mentors who are good listeners

  • my own health coach

  • a great specialized and experienced therapist

  • a deep spiritual practice that I nurtured every single day

  • exercise. Even when I didn't do it every day.

  • crying. Sometimes daily.

  • days off when I needed them

  • lots of movie-watching

Those are a just a few. This was my list.

This was how I moved from surviving to thriving.


Surviving was the least I could do. Thriving was a choice I made. 

And one I make from moment to moment each day.