Yesterday, I was ready. If I had enough time, I probably would have put in my application.
Today, I woke up and immediately questioned my decisions from twelve hours prior.
What the hell am I doing thinking about going to graduate school?
I don’t have the money for graduate school. Not now. My husband isn’t a teacher, but his civil servant paying job doesn’t exactly rake in the money. We are doing fine, thank you very much. However, in three years, when the Boy is heading off to college, we won’t have the money to help him.
I have been looking up scholarships and grants for teachers to go to grad school. And they exist. For teachers to earn graduate degrees in education. I don’t want a graduate degree in education. I want to write. Because, I swear, I have more syllables and phonemes going through my veins than blood.
Biology made sense to me. Because I could create anagrams with the proteins in DNA or the first letters in the list of genus sub-species going from kingdom to phylum to species. I can’t remember it now. But I was able to do it then.
I don’t bleed. I leak ink which, when it falls onto a page, becomes letters and words and sentences that have meaning. Even if only to me.
I have to write.
And I really do want to go for this MFA program. I want to be in a community of writers who live for the written word, who obsess over specific types of pens because they just feel right (no pun intended) when they are used. I want to be with a group of people who will tell me exactly what they think about my writing and help me improve and will give me that extra shove into the literary world because, damn it, I’ve got a story to tell.
And I think I might be able to do a good job at telling it.
But I know that I’m not good enough. Not yet. Maybe not ever. But I am willing to learn.
So, this morning, as I was driving to school, all I could think about is how hard I have scraped and worked to earn some money for the Boy. And it’s not enough for even a semester. Nothing.
I have nothing.
Partly because I sucked financially when I was younger and didn’t save. And then, when I realized that saving really isn’t hard and it’s not such a bad thing, we didn’t have very much to help the Boy…and though I keep on trying to stretch dollars into tens and then into hundreds…
People don’t understand that my family is lucky to roll six hundred dollars over from month to month. And, in all honesty, that rarely happens. Because life happens which precludes me from being able to say, with ease, that I can pay for my son’s college expenses.
My parents are furious with me. I understand they are. They can’t understand why I have nothing really substantial set aside for my children to use for going to school. I have tired to explain to them, have spent hours going over my reasons and the words still do not compute. They are such frugal savers and I didn’t inherit an ounce of that lifestyle.
And now, grad school.
My son’s college years.
My daughter is three years behind him.
I could go and get a teaching assistantship. But, how in the world would I do this with a full time job with full time responsibilities?
Even if I were to cull out every extra responsibility of my life, I don’t know that I could pare it down to the point in which I will have the freedom to try for this degree.
At the same time, I want this so badly….
I am afraid. I am afraid of taking on a challenge I will fail at. I am afraid of being accepted not only into the creative writing program but also the teaching assistantship program (which would pay for my MFA) and then just feeling completely over my head. I am afraid of not fulfilling the needs of my high schoolers or my collegiate students. I am terrified of letting down my supervisors, my principal, my family.
I have been praying about this and still feel the urge to run for this dream, to cup it with both hands and throw caution to the wind and just run as hard as I can. Show my children that determination and love and faith will give the person the ability to succeed.
I also see my son’s shadow beside me as he prepares for his collegiate years. He’s wearing socks with holes in the toes because he keeps on wearing the same pair of socks day in and day out (in my defense, I yell at him to change his socks). And my drive and my determination and my motivation deflate and become soggy little dreams that mock me with their reality.
My son is looking at doing concurrent education/classes through a local community college in about a year and a half. Each dual enrollment class that isn’t offered at the high school will cost the family about five hundred dollars. I have enough money to pay for this. I can do this for him.
In about a year and a half, when I would start my MFA, my son would be driving. He could be the one taking my daughter to and from school…..
In about a year and a half…
I have to make the decision before next Christmas. I will need three letters of recommendation. I will have to write essays. Polish my writing. Show the professors that I have something which needs to be nurtured, given just a little more time and love and honest advice to take it to the point where I know it could be published.
I have confidence in myself.
I don’t have any confidence in myself.
I am a pendulum on a frayed string.
I am Justice’s mis-balanced scales.
I see clearly through this blindfold.
I see nothing more than the edges of these words.
But I am going to make a decision.
And then I’m going to stick with it.
Now, can anyone tell me how to edit poetry?
There are alternatives to an MFA, if the degree is not imperative. Week-long writers’ conferences, such as the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, can boost confidence, offer the beginnings of community (you have to work at it), and provide tips, feedback and contacts to help guide you. The various Tupelo Press conferences (usually over long weekends) are intense and inspiring. Life “happened” to me several times, and I never pursued the degree (choosing to direct the funds elsewhere), and instead have taken a meandering path, which seems to be working, albeit slowly. Everyone’s needs differ; my decisions were based on my particular situation. But there are times when I wonder where I might be and what I might be doing had I taken the plunge 30-some years ago, or even a decade ago.
Thank you! I never really looked at those options…time to start researching. Thank you Robert!
You can also find various lectures on YouTube, as well as readings and interviews (some more useful than others). Iinterviews on craft, especially from smaller presses, have been illuminating – favorite authors offering details, tidbits into how they create.You can cobble together quite a bit of information to use as best you can, and with minimal expense. This path isn’t a replacement for an MFA, but it is a decent alternative, if learning is the objective, and not the degree.
Thank you!!! I never thought about looking at youtube. I have been reading Writer’s Digest and need to spend more time looking at their articles.
If you’re looking for good publications about writing, writers and writing programs, the AWP’s magazine (Writer’s Chronicle?) is excellent, as is, of course, Poets and Writers.