It's been real, NYCTF.

Last week, I trekked up to the Bronx for my last class meeting of grad school. I was scheduled to present my thesis to my classmates, but when I got to the classroom, I found that class had been canceled. Myself and two of my classmates were the only ones to not get the message in time -- it was an anticlimactic end to a hard two years.
We were slightly miffed - this is really it? No last meeting with our peers, who we've been with since 2009? No high-five moment of triumph? We lingered in the hall for a while, not sure what to do with ourselves. Eventually, we headed home.

Later that night, I went out to eat with S. "What now," she asked? "What are you going to do with your new freedom?" There's a whole part of my life I've neglected for almost two years now: every piece and every person that's not tied to my daily existence. I've been living on an emotional subsistence level. Working constantly for a long period of time is detrimental to relationships, and so is high stress. Since coming to New York, I've moved three times. I've lost friends. My parents got divorced. I've been cursed out by students and broken up fights. I've been so tired I ached in my bones. I've thought about quitting several times. I've burst into tears the second I entered my apartment at the end of a long day more times than I want to remember.

For every terrible day I've experienced in the city, though, I've been bolstered by an extraordinary one. I have met inspiring people, tried new foods, and seen beauty in many, many forms. I have been equally blessed and humbled.

So, now what? "You look different," S said. "You already look happier." The stress of the endless juggling act that had become my life - teaching, writing my thesis, compiling a portfolio, attending classes, playing derby - felt far away. The spinning plates for once could be lain aside. I was already thinking about what I hadn't had much time to think about recently. I was a few days away from a game with a team I love and admire. I've been learning some great new skating skills. Summer break is rapidly and blissfully approaching. And some part of me is already looking forward to next school year.

When I first moved here, someone told me that living here would change me. She meant it as an ominous pronouncement, that the city would slowly leech my optimism and warmth, leaving me as cynical and jaded as everyone else perceives New Yorkers to be. In a way, she was right. I've lost some of my patience and meekness. I'm a little more loud and a lot less sensitive. I have a more solid, and unwavering, sense of who I am, what I believe, and what I want. So yes, the last few years have changed me. The city has changed me, teaching has changed me, and my students have changed me, but the change has been undoubtedly for the better.

NYCTF sent out a survey this week for our final feedback upon exiting the program. It turns out I have a lot to say about ways in which the program was helpful, and ways in which it could be improved. As for my own experience, though, I can say that I'm so glad I did it. I'm not really the same person I was at the start of all of this, and I'm so glad for that. I'm excited about that. Also, although I don't regret a thing, I would never do it again.

I'm ready for a break. Happy summer, all.

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