19 December 2010

In The Book: Yesterday, And Before

Last night I got six hours of sleep. That's about as much as I'd gotten during the whole week before.  Really.

I think now of what I told my brother:  This time of year (and May) are to college instructors (especially those of us in English) what tax season is to accountants.  We find out how much work we can get done on how little sleep.  And we discover forms of caffeine and refined sugar we never knew existed.  Some of us, of course, partake of substances with more mysterious provenances.  I haven't done anything like that in almost half of my life.  I guess that's something of an accomplishment.

Yesterday I got a little surprise in the mail.  No, it wasn't a Christmas present from a mysterious admirer.  At first I didn't recognize the address or the name of the company from which it came.  All I could tell, by the shape and feel of the envelope, was that it was a large paperbound book of some sort.

That book contains something I wrote a few years ago.  It had been rejected by a site that was regularly publishing my stuff.  The editor said it was "too controversial" and "too advanced" for his readership.  That meant, of course, that some of his donors would stop writing checks.  So I could understand why he rejected the piece, even if I wasn't happy about  it.  

Now I wonder how many people will read and buy that book.  Probably few, if any, of my colleagues, either in the schools in which I work or in the academic world generally, will see it.  The opinions expressed in some of the pieces in the book would absolutely appall almost anybody in an English Department and in other parts of academia.  Hey, some of the things I wrote in it would break up a friendship or two.

I stand by what I said in the essay.  However, in reading that piece again--which, frankly, I hadn't since the editor of the book accepted it four years ago-- I was reminded of the things in my life that have changed, and how I've changed.  In fact, in reading that piece again, I felt almost as distant from it as I feel from some things I did before I started my gender transition.   I wrote that essay from the perspective--which was mine at the time I wrote it--of someone who had been living in her "new" gender and taking hormones for a couple of years, and who was preparing herself for surgery that, truthfully, she had no idea of when she would experience. 

It's really strange to prepare yourself for something when you have no idea of when or whether it will come to pass.  People do it all the time: Much of the practice of organized religion has to do with it.  That makes it no less strange.  I could say the same for people in other areas of life who prepare for things that may or may not happen.   How odd a thing it is to do did not occupy my mind, even momentarily, before I re-read my old essay.

If nothing else, seeing that old piece made something make sense for me:  Why do some of us want to change one thing or another after undergoing transitions (whether or not they have to do with gender identity)?   In my case, the person who came into those things no longer exists, any more than did the guy named Nick who left me his life.  If the person I was during the early days of my transition belongs to yesterday, the man in whose identity I lived belongs to a time before yesterday.  In that sense, the recent and distant past are the same:  They're both gone.  All I can do now is read and look at what they've left me.