08 July 2010

Another Day After: Bumping Into A Former Student

One year and one day after my surgery...All right, I'll stop counting, at least on this blog.  Still, it's hard not to think about the first anniversary of my surgery, which passed yesterday.

Tonight I was riding my bike home from my class.  I was in Jackson Heights, about two and a half miles from my place, when someone called out, "Hello, Professor!"

I recognized the voice, which I hadn't heard in a couple of years.  It belonged to Navendra, who'd been a student of mine.  He did well, and he was one of those students who always seemed happy to see me.  And the feeling has always been mutual.

He's working on his master's degree in accounting in Queens College.  He took a class with me on the recommendation of his friend Sajid, who took three and sent me a "Happy Birthday" e-mail.  Now Sajid is at the Harvard School of Public Policy.  He and Navendra are both the kinds of people who could do anything they set out to do.   I have written letters of reference for both of them and do the same for either of them.  

It's funny that yesterday I was reflecting on how I have changed, and am changing, since my surgery.  But seeing Navendra again, I felt that in some way I hadn't changed at all--and I felt good about it.  Somehow, neither he nor Sajid seemed consigned to my past, as some people with whom I was living, working and simply spending time with not much more than a year ago now seem--not to mention those who decided, for whatever reasons, they wanted no part of me after I  started my transition.

Perhaps my perception of Navendra and Sajid has to do with the fact that they're progressing with their lives. Of course, it hasn't always been a steady progression:  About a year after he graduated (three years ago), Sajid was having a tough time:  Something hadn't worked out as he'd hoped, and he had to re-evaluate some choices he'd made.  But I always have had confidence in him, and I think he knew that.  I'm sure other people did, too. Sometimes I think he was worried that he was letting us down.  Actually, I don't feel let down by anyone who's progressing in whatever way he or she needs to--even if that means taking a step back and re-thinking something.  

And, when I see someone growing and changing, I do not have a stagnant image of him or her.  On the other hand, some people are still in the same places, spiritually and even physically, as they were when I first met them.  I realized that about one former friend of mine, with whom I reunited (albeit briefly) after a long absence.  We were having exactly the same conversations as we'd had when we were college undergraduates--or, more precisely, I was listening to the same monologue as I was listening to back in those days.  I was simply hearing it again in a cafe on the other side of the world.  (It sounds like a dystopian version of Casablanca, if such a thing is possible.)  After that, I was really glad I've never gone to a reunion of any school I ever attended.

I remember telling Marci, only half-jokingly, that I want to be her when I grow up.  I'm starting to think that what you become when you grow up isn't as important as simply growing up--or just growing, period, and surrounding yourself with people who are.