“Transition” is far too mild a word to do justice to the extremes of inner turmoil, fear, and exhilaration that have accompanied major turning points in my life. I’ve made a number of decisions that have radically and permanently altered my path. I chose to take on inconceivable financial debt, to pursue higher education and become a social worker. I chose to remain in the hometown I’d always thought I’d leave, to become a wife and a stepmother in the family I fell in love with. I chose to acknowledge my own womanhood to myself and to all others, when everything and everyone in my environment denied it to me.

These kinds of choices require asking myself questions that can feel impossible. Which path will be the most moral? Which will save me the most suffering? Which will enrich my life the most in the limited time I have on this Earth? Which will be best for those I hold dearest? At times, I can’t answer these questions, especially when the answers seem in conflict with one another. Sometimes I freeze up with the fear of answering incorrectly. If I cross the threshold, will the gate lock behind me?

I have often felt the urge to examine every option from every angle, to ask every self-proclaimed expert I can find, to ensure I don’t screw it up. This is why I waited a decade to make the hardest transition I ever have: to admit to myself or to any other person that I suffered being understood as a man and that I yearned deeply to live as a woman. For many years I searched for external validation that this was possible and ethical, that it was for someone like me, that I would not regret it, and that I would finally be happy. Even after devouring every “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” I could find, I felt no closer to knowing.

I eventually came to a surprisingly simple conclusion: that I might transition and regret it, or I might transition and finally be at peace. However, if I did not transition, I would continue to suffer and would always regret not doing so. Remembering this has helped me be at peace with a new life journey that has given me both immense joy and immense suffering.

Every transition is likely to hold both joy and suffering; that is why choosing it is so difficult. What I have come to understand is that there is never one correct answer that exists independently of you, and no one else can give you that answer. A mentor once told me: “We all made the best decisions we could have made at the time we made them.”

There is no right choice. There is only the choice that you alone make, and the peace that you make with it.