29 October 2008

Life Unfurling

You've heard about your life flashing in front of you? Lately, sometimes I feel like mine is unfurling like a film in very, very slow motion.

Early in my transition, I saw my early childhood. Later, after the hormones started to do their work on me and I was experiencing my "second adolescence," I also was reliving my first one, at least in my head. Now, as I've mentioned before, I find myself flashing back to my senior undergraduate year. I think it has to do with the waiting and anticipation. Then, I knew my life was going to be different in a few months, though I wasn't quite sure of how. And now, again, I am thinking ahead a few months ahead--although, I must say, this time I have a clearer and more realistic idea of what I might encounter. Still, I'm no more able to predict my life than I was in those days.

Another common thread: In a way I want these days, weeks, months to fly by. On the other hand, I don't want to miss anything, whatever that means. Back in my youth, I didn't think there was anything to miss in the place and time where I happened to be, mainly out of circumstance. The irony was that, in a lot of ways Rutgers, where I went to school, was a better fit for who I was then than York, where I now teach, is for who I am now.

A caveat: Yes, I am in a college full of religious people of one kind or another. Ironically, the Muslim students of Bengal and Paki heritage or birth are more secular and Americanized in their day-to-day lives than the US-born or Anglo-Carribean Christian fundamentalists. Even more ironically, I get along well with those students and faculty and staff members, and there are faculty and staff members with the John 3:16 verse emblazoned on their tote bags who treat me with compassion. And then there are Regina, the consummate Mom and a co-director of the Office of Disabled students, who is purely and simply the nicest person I've met in a long time. And Linda, the Women's Center director, who spoke up for me when a couple of staff members and students spread false rumors about me.

When I was Rutgers, I only interacted with other people when I had to or when I couldn't avoid it. The only close friend I had was Betsy, whom I mentioned earlier, and the only person from Rutgers days with whom I'm still in contact is Bruce, whom I met during my senior year but didn't get to know well until later.

More of that unfurling reel: Today I ran an errand at the World Financial Center. Tim, whose wife just gave birth to a boy, bought a pair of brake levers from me on eBay. He paid for the cost of the levers and my subway fare, and rounded it up a dollar.

After seeing him, I walked along the Hudson toward Battery Park and the Ferry terminal. I used to walk by the waterfront, which was much seedier in those days, and ride the Ferry to Staten Island and back. I think I set foot on the island only when passengers were ordered off the boat; otherwise I stayed on and waited for the return trip. Sometimes I'd stay on for another round trip. That would give me time to drink, get high, maybe write a bad poem or two. (Of course, I didn't think they were bad in those days.) On that boat, I could get lost in every possible way: on the water, among the lights and shadows of the Manhattan skyline and among the necklace of cables and beads of light on the Bayonne, Verrazano and Brooklyn Bridges as the sky darkened.

As I came to the terminal, I looked to my left, toward Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It had been overcast through most of the day, but by that time the veiled sun crowned the plume of clouds with a dusky orange corona. Men and women in suits and topcoats--and sneakers or sensible shoes--rushed for the soon-to-depart ferry. They have families, houses, cars and all of the things I was avoiding in my youth at the other end of the trip, in Staten Island.

I was tempted to take a ride. But I was feeling slightly under the weather, and was skipping a reception for new faculty members and a class tonight so I could get some sleep tonight. This semester, I haven't been getting more than four hours of sleep on Wednesday nights. When I get home, it's usually midnight or later, and I can't get to sleep right away. And I have to get up at 5 am for Thursday classes, which don't end until 8:35 pm. On top of that, tomorrow I'm being observed and evaluated during the most difficult of those classes. I'm nervous, to say the least.

Will the reel continue to unfurl? The last time I had an observation with as much at stake, it wasn't good. I had applied for a full-time faculty job at LaGuardia College and the department chair herself was observing me. The year before, I "came out" to the college community: in the spring, I was Mr. Nick; in the fall, I was Ms. Justine. And the department chair and others, I think, were pretending to be more accepting of it than they actually were. I knew that at the end of that class, when she grinned the "I told you so" grin. I admit it wasn't a great class, but I got--by far--the worst evaluation I'd ever had. And she kept me dangling until the beginning of the winter session.

I hope that part doesn't repeat itself. I do want to return to York next semester for a number of reasons--including the students in that difficult class.

And that's another reel unfurling.

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