22 November 2008

Another Fall, Again?

Another cold, blustery day. Most of the trees are bare now; the remaining leaves swirl and rustle, echoing the last flickering of a flame.

And I wonder now about my job, as lots of people are, although my concern is different. I was observed by a senior prof three weeks ago. Two days earlier, I observed an adjunct prof. I--and I assume the other faculty members--received a notice saying that we had to submit our observation report within a week of the observation. That's what I did, but the prof who observed me hasn't.

But that, in and of itself, is not the problem. Here's what's bothering me: A few days after the observation, this prof told me my class was "really good" and he was "glad" that I was "teaching a basic skill" rather than "having them talk about their feelings." But when I saw him yesterday, he apologized, then said, "Well, I have to go back and look at my notes."

Cady Ann, the secretary, says not to "sweat it." She says I worry too much. But what am I supposed to think? Plus, I know I'm under all kinds of scrutiny this semsester, and if I were to get a poor, or even a mediocre or merely good observation, I might not be reappointed. Then what?

I know Cady Ann and other people think I'm a worrywart and try to pacify me. But they don't realize that I had one evaluator tell me to my face that my class was fine, then slam me on the report. That professor also took longer than normal to submit her report. And, after my transition, I went back to a former boss, looking for work. He said "there were problems" with my work; that I was "erratic." Well, for one thing, I'd had nothing but very good and excellent reports. (I guess I always had to be either excellent or very good. ) And, for another. he himself praised my work when I was working for him.

Unfortunately, the academic world is full of people who will tell you something one day, then its exact opposite, or something that simply contradicts it, the next day. Is it any wonder that so many of our students are put off? They live lives in which whatever worked today might not work tomorrow, and parents, guardians and other people who are in their lives today are gone tomorrow, for no apparent reason. They see the college as another place that has the dysfunction and is run by the seemingly fickle fate of the homes and neighborhoods from which they come.

All right. If Cady Ann wants to call me a worrywart and you want to call me something more clinical or vulgar, well, I won't protest. After all, I don't want anything that has even the slightest possibility of keeping me from getting my surgery, or that could cloud life after it. My original plan was to keep a low profile this year; things seem not to have worked that way. Of course, being visible makes you a target, which is what I didn't want. Then again, I haven't been trying to gain notice, except perhaps in a professional way.

Then again, I suppose everything I'm doing and experiencing could have positive outcomes; after all, knowing that you've accomplished something--which is a distinct possibility for this year--usually leaves a good feeling. And that wouldn't be a bad way to end this school year and come to my surgery, would it?

I hope for those things. But for now, there are waiting, worrying along with the hoping, if not believing. Hoping and believing don't come as naturally to me as worrying does, but, well, what else can I do?

And then there is the end of this fall. Or so it seems. One more season gone in my current life. It's been an intense, both in the best and worst senses, time. Which is good, even beautiful. I must admit, I am feeling a little sad because I know I won't hold on to as much of this as I would have tried to keep if I'd had times like these earlier in my life. Why? Well, because I've been busy, and moving forward. Of course both of those things are good, and good for me. But I also wonder whether I'm losing some part of myself.

Then again, being backward- rather than forward-looking has never left me saner, happier or in any other way better. But it's what I did for so much of my life. I'm still learning to live with hope, if not belief, if only because the past is less and less of an option for me. Somehow I think it has to do with my gender transition. I don't know why, but I think women don't have as much of an option of living in--or yearning for--the past as much as men do. It may have to do with the fact that many women give up their names--and lives that went along with them--when they get married. Even when they don't, there's still an unwritten, unspoken expectation that they will follow their husbands.

But I also think there's something more basic, possibly hormonal, that I can't explain. I mean, why is it that the audience for O'Reilly, Hannity and Colmes, Rush Limbaugh and Fox (Faux) News consists mainly of men, mostly past a certain age, but also younger ones who think they're entering a world in which women, blacks, gays, and whomever else you can think of, usurped some of the privileges they believe their fathers or grandfathers had at one time.

In other words, they see a fall coming and they don't want to give up their garden, whatever's growing in it. Do words like entitlement and perogative ring a bell?

Giving up whatever certainties one had in one's life is always difficult. I just wish I could do it more gracefully. And worry less, like everyone says I should.

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