18 April 2010

Goodbye To All That? To What?

At this time last year, I was less than three months away from my surgery.  As you might expect, I was, in some ways, saying "good-bye" to being a man--even though for all intents and purposes, I had not lived as one for several years.  I had a very clear sense that  not just a phase, but a life I had once lived, was about to "become history," as people liked to say during my youth.  

I was excited though, surprisingly, not very nervous.  (When Marci Bowers called my mother just after my surgery, she remarked on how calm I was.)  In one way I was almost overprepared, as I had been going to support groups and therapy, and had lived full-time as a woman for almost six years.  But, at the same time, I had no idea of what to expect.  I recall that various women I knew--and I-- compared that time to the later stages of a pregnancy, for I was about to "give birth to myself."

Now more than nine months have passed since my surgery and I can't help but to think that some change or another is going to happen in my life.  I'm not sure of what it might be, but I get the sense that it will be major, or at least relatively so.  

I have talked about my job and workplace.  Perhaps one or both will change.  Sometimes I wish I had started a new job after my surgery,  but I realize that being in the place in which I'd worked the previous four years was probably good for me:  I'm not sure that making another major change at that time in my life would have been beneficial.  It's was probably good, in terms of my physical healing as well as my emotional state, that I didn't have to adjust to yet another transition.  

However, in one of my life's more perverse ironies, some of the people with whom I used to share lunch, and sometimes confidences, feel like strangers to me now.  I suppose that might have happened anyway; after all, most friendships (at least in my own life and those of people I know) have lifespans of their own.  Some simply stop working after a certain amount of time, or after whatever the friends had in common is no longer, for whatever reasons, a part of the relationship.   Or one friend simply "outgrows" the other:  I first  noticed that the only time I revisited my high school after I graduated. 

Julian, an adjunct instructor who's about ten years older than I am, even said--without my asking or prompting--that I have "outgrown" a lot of the people at the college, and possibly the college itself.  He became an instructor after technology rendered obsolete the business he used to own.  Like me, he earned a Master of Fine Arts, which is supposed to be a "terminal" degree.  However, he (also like me) doesn't want to pursue a PhD, for a variety of reasons, some of which are like mine.   Somehow I think he's outgrown more than a few people and situations along the way.

I'm thinking now of Belle, who was in charge of the office of academic advisement when I was an advisor.  She left, she said, because the college in which I work is a place where "people go to die."  I'm coming to see what she meant, and why she's urged me to get out of that college.  

Making a major change in your life can make a stagnant, stultifying place even more so.  I guess that's the lesson I'm supposed to learn from my current experience.

Then again, the change might not be in my workplace or job.  Could it be in my love life?  Or will I get my book published?   Or will it be something else wonderful or terrible or both?  I guess I'll find out in the coming months.


Herzog said...

Outgrowing friends? That's a good phrase -- I've never found a good way to talk about that before.

About six years ago (that long?!) I realized all of a sudden that I had outgrown my circle of friends. They were all very close, but none of them understood me and I don't think that they were the right people to accompany me through my "coming of age." The result was that I was completely friendless for two years. Was it worth it? Well, I don't regret it. It didn't make me happier, but I don't see how I could have followed any other route.

I don't believe in the idea of "true friends." There are only degrees of closeness. A lot of factors contribute to those and people drift near and away over time.

I've never been really good at this so it feels awkward for me to talk about it. What I do now is that I have a little list of people that I want to be closer to, and who at the same time I think might like to be closer to me. Then I work on better friend to the people on the list and accept that others won't be close to me forever.

Justine Valinotti said...


I'm sorry to take so long to respond to you! I hope all is well.

Sometimes it is painful to realize that you've "outgrown" friends. I've actually denied that it was so: I guess I felt guilty and selfish for having such thoughts. After all, how can one move away from someone who's been a friend?

But we all change. And sometimes that means that whatever you and the friend had in common is gone, and there is no new basis for your friendship. That has happened with just about everyone I've befriended in a workplace. And, as you can imagine, I "outgrew" a few people in my transition--not to mention that two one-time friends decided they wanted nothing more to do with me.

Plus, we have only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, and so many years in our lives. We simply can't be true friends to everyone whom we like or who likes us. We might do things with this person or that person, and may even confide something or another. But, like you, I'm not so sure that we can actually form very many lasting bonds: the kind that can grow and change as we grow and change.

I'd say that if you develop a few, or even one or two friends who reamain so for more than a few years, you are indeed fortunate. Count and celebrate those blessings!