September 30, 2009
For 3 years, ever since quitting my day job to edit and write full time, I’ve been contemplating whether I should get an MFA. Some days, I think yes. I love learning. Love reading and writing and explicating. I love sharing the energy and experences of other writers, and hearing/reading their stories. Most of all, I want to be a better writer and I want the opportunities to expand my craft and my horizons. Despite all of that desire, however, I could never pull the trigger. MFA programs are expensive, I told myself. I’m busy. In addition to my own reservations, detractors began to appear everywhere. I won’t rehash their complaints, but most seemed to decry the fact that an over-abundance of middle-aged women with expendable incomes had created a glut of cookie-cutter programs churning out cookie-cutter writers. Just what I’ve always wanted to be. I went back and forth, back and forth. Requesting information, shredding information; reading up on programs, ruling out programs. I’ll go. I won’t go. Maybe I’ll go. I’ll never go. Do it. Screw it. And on…
Finally, this spring, I made a decision. I would apply. So I said. Outloud even. To lots of people. Some I didn’t even know.
Did I apply? No. Why? Well, MFAs are expensive. And like most Americans – many of whom really are middle-aged white women! – my expendable income is no longer expendable. I hesitated. I was almost lost. But then, an epiphany!
A couple of months ago, a friend invited me on a rafting trip to Colorado. Even though such a trip has long been my dream, I had to say no. Why isn’t important, but that no was the culmination of a year’s worth of missed opportunities, failed communication and private disappointment. Following a week in Seattle, where everyone around me seemed to be rushing forward and greeting life while I was treading water in a mudhole. I fell into a dark and lonely funk exacerbated by too little sleep and too many games of FreeCell. Then came the epiphany.
I came home one day in September to see that my neighbor, a perfectly lovely woman with whom I’ve actually shared words (spoken), had had her front garden edged with tumbled stone. I’m a level-headed person. I don’t weep too often, rarely cause a scene and never yell. But this day, I threw a fit. I cursed the woman, her stones and my cat. I banged things, I threw things and I shouted at my husband when he asked what was wrong. Then I caught myself hurling vexations at her tree. I love trees. I name them, talk to them, pat them in passing. And there I was, telling this woman’s tree I hoped it would die. Soon. Encased in stone.
You see, I’ve been telling my husband for two years that I wanted to edge our front garden in stone. I knew it would look lovely, and it did. In her yard. I was pissed. And then I was enlightened.
I cannot stand still any longer. I will not stand still any longer. An MFA will be expensive, particularly if I get into Naropa – the school of my dreams. It will be tough, challenging, at times even frightening. It will require something all introverts hate – lifting my head and letting down that invisible shield. It may require travel – something I rarely do alone. But, it will be worth it.
The way I see it, I can either continue holding back and possible drown in the muck of my ordinary existance, or I can toss myself forward into the abyss, and see what wonders await me.