19 January 2011

Along The Way

The strange thing about goals is that, so often, when you reach them, they turn out not to be goals after all.  You realize that they were just landmarks or mileage markers.  Or they were just check-points in which you had to get some imprimatur or another before proceeding.

I'm thinking now about the stages of my transition, and my early life.  I mean what most people would call my current or post-transition life.  Before I came here, taking hormones, getting my name changed, and various other events leading up to my surgery, seemed like destinations at which I'd arrived.  Of course, I always had a longer-term vision of how I wanted to live, as a woman.  But each of those events and accomplishments seemed, at least for the moment, to be like grand train or bus terminals.  Of course, for some people, they mark the end of their trips.  But, for many others, it's just a station on the way to someplace else.

One of the office assistants at work--at the college in which I'd been moonlighting last semester--helped me to realize what I've just said.  The surgery and the events leading up to it were just preludes or prerequisites to what I would do next.  They were not goals unto themselves.  

In talking to that office assistant, I realized that if I'm not at a goal or destination, I'm at least on the road I hoped to take.  Or, at least, it bears a strong resemblance to what I hoped to have.  

I asked her whether the department chair would think I was doing something shady when I talked to a young woman who'd come for an interview.  She was in the office; I asked if I could help.  I forgot what she asked, but I sensed that she just wanted to talk to someone who's encouraging, or at least friendly.  The assistant and the department chair both saw me talking to this young woman.  "I hope she doesn't think I was coaching her or doing something I shouldn't be?"

The assistant's looked at me with a touch of pity.  "We're not like that around here," she assured me.  I wondered if she knows about some of the experiences I've had at my other school.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't worry.  You'll get used to this.  Besides, I think what you did was nice.  And she seemed happy about it," referring to the young woman.

But something in that assistant's tone told me so much more.  I hadn't heard anything like it at work in a long time.  I realized, then, the real reason why I like this new school:  I don't have to explain or defend myself.  To her, to the department chair, to my colleagues and students, I'm just a middle-aged woman who's teaching there.   There aren't any qualifiers, from me or them. And, best of all, I haven't encountered the sort of people who wants me to talk about my history and share it with my students precisely so they can use it against me.  

Just a woman going to work.  Maybe this isn't the goal or destination.  But I'd hoped to come this way.  Even so, every once in a while I need someone to remind me of where I've come.