I said to my housemate last week, ‘The thing is, if I don’t do at least one thing towards my grad school applications every day, I hate myself when I go to bed. I lie there, and I think to myself, “You stupid pig. You say this is what you want, and you couldn’t even find an hour to add another 500 words to your writing sample today. You’re pathetic. You’re not worthy of a place on a program. If you can’t prove that you want it, you can’t have it.”’
‘WOAH!’ my housemate said. ‘Alright then, Harshy McHarsh-son of Harshville. Calm down a bit.’
Also: welcome to my imagination, warm snuggly home of self-love and positive re-enforcement.
The process I’m going through right now is… extreme. And I know exactly why: I’ve never wanted anything this much in my entire life. We bandy round dreams and fantasies about ideal lives, architect-ing futures where this perfect version of self meets precise version of environment, not really worrying what might happen if it comes true because that’s the point of make believe- there’s no consequence. But, even though I’ve talked about getting my MFA as a gateway to my PhD for three years, ever since I lived in Detroit and hung out with the coolest bunch of grad students you ever did meet, I’ve never done anything about it because fuck. Actually going for it would be scary as all shit. It’s far safer over here in my bubble of hyperbole and rhetoric. Less chance of disappointment.
Sure, I booked in for the GRE, the grad school entry exam, but even though I spent £300 on the appointment, I never showed up. I half-filled in applications in my final year of university, but bailed at the last moment and never hit “send”. I lined up references, wrote up Statement of Purposes, told every American I met Oh, I hope to end up your way one day soon. And then I never followed through.
(Kept that quiet, didn’t I? Well exactly. That’s the extent to which I’m terrified to even try. IF I HAVEN’T BLOGGED ABOUT IT THEN IT MUST NOT BE TRUE. Except, it still is. I still want it. And I’m still scared.)
I think it’s because we just don’t do it that way in the U.K. We don’t get MFA’s and MBA’s and PhD’s because they don’t have the same value here, aren’t valued in the same way. That’s evident by the fact that we pay them to study. In the States, they pay you to get a terminal degree, covering tuition and offering stipends if you teach undergrad classes or research for faculty. And that’s all I want. In my most realised life I write stories in the mornings, and I teach in the afternoons, and I do it all in America because let’s face it: I’m a bit “touch-feely” for England.
I also get laid a lot more in the U.S.
I was pretty fucking low in the summer. When Vanilla Toes arrived we spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. It was her who said, Laura. I think it’s time you swallow your pride and put yourself out there.
She was right.
She sat with me until 2 a.m., me on the laptop and her on the desktop, together compiling a list of 148 American universities that offer a creative writing MFA. From that we figured out who covers tuition, and from that we looked at schools that don’t require the GRE because remember? I never did take it.
It left us with a list of 10 schools. My top ten.
As I sit in the Mexican café around the corner of my house, working on writing samples and application forms and resumes and personal statements I pretty much have tears in my eyes throughout. My waitress thinks I’m INSANE: same t-shirt, no makeup, almost crying as I sit with cold tacos for six hours in a row. I want it, so badly. Having to articulate on paper what my preparation as a writer has been has opened my eyes to just how much I do. My heart beats faster and my palms sweat with anticipation as I explain to admissions officers that I’ve been a storyteller all my life. That speech is my second language. That I’m committed to storytelling as a career, be it blogging or novels or digital journalism or teaching other people those things.
I’ve got ten applications to make before Christmas, and I’m petrified that I won’t get in because once you’ve glimpsed a possible reality so in tune with the one you’ve imagined for yourself how do you go back to how you were before?
I don’t think you do.