With the semester over, my last responsibility as a teacher is to grade the final exams of 60 or so students. I did some grading as a TA back at University, so this is the part of the job I've always warmed to. The part that struck me as the hardest was the teacher-student rapport I've been expected to maintain all year. Now that it's all more or less over with, I'm glad to just be able to relax, spend some time grading tests, and start planning my return to Maine.
Spending a year as someone else is tough. I tried to really guide the kids, and in some cases I may have been successful but a lot of the time this year I've just felt so overwhelmed and exhausted. It's gotten better -- I let my temper get the better of me quite a bit early in the year, which is definitely a no-no, but in the last few months my frustration has only manifested itself in quiet resignation. Teaching, as I thought when this whole thing began, isn't really my area.
I spent some time today with Cliff. After her last post, I got in touch with her, and we arranged a meet-up, our first in a while. It's a shame we've had to go so long between visits, but it simply hasn't been convenient for either of us. As nice as it is to be able to hash things out with the only person around who knows your secret, sometimes the various threads of life get in the way.
We had drinks out on a patio, and I asked her how she was taking the whole turn of events. She took a deep sip and mulled it over. She told me it was one of those "expected surprises," and that part of her has always suspected it was possible she wouldn't go back. I agree with her there. Paranoia is one of those nagging feelings you have to live with in our situation. But, she said, she was beyond crying about it. Another year or a whole lifetime as Tori couldn't be any harder than that first year. Now that she's in it, it's not the worst thing in the world to stay. I understand that, but I know that if it were me, I'd still be in the "freakout phase."
I have to admit, she's taking it well, a week later. After this whole year, Cliff-Tori has changed, at least from my perspective. When I first met her, she was quiet and afraid of everything about this little curse of ours. I remember the long, fearful drive to Philly from Maine where she droned on and on about the horrors of her new body... maybe just a little oblivious to the fact that she was riding with a woman who happened to like being one, but I forgave her. She was tightly wound and needed to get it off her chest. I get it.
Now? The girl across from me was serene, relaxed, at peace. The adjustment period is long over, being a girl seems to work for her as much as anything else. She says she's done freaking out about it and ready to just move on -- and if she never goes back, so be it, I guess.
It's out of our hands, like so much of ours lives. And now here I am, looking forward to my return to Maine, getting to be myself again, returning to Toronto and putting Philadelphia/Rob Garcia in my past. I can't help but feel a certain level of guilt about that.
I have confidence in her, though. She's smart enough by now to know how to make this work for her, I think.