2014, Archives, August 2014, The MFA Years

Jennifer Obi Introduction (Northern Arizona University ’16)

Imagine with all your mind. Believe with all your heart. Achieve with all your might.

It’s probably providence that I waited to the absolute last minute to write this post. I’m constantly doing that when I have writing deadlines, and I guess old habits die hard as they say. I spent a long time trying to figure out the perfect way to write this introduction. What should I highlight? What should I speak on as an authority? It was all a waste of time. I’m no authority, and there isn’t any right or wrong thing to highlight. But I guess that speaks to who I am as a person. Always trying to figure out the right way and trying to figure out if just being me is enough. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I should start from the beginning. My name is Nkechi. My name is Jennifer. I go by Jen. Just call me Jen. I’m a Pisces, and as any Pisces will tell you, I’m entirely ruled too much by my emotions. And the last couple years for me were pretty bad. Really bad. I’ve always loved to read and write. I’m of the artistic mind. Constantly creating, constantly hoping and wishing, but never having the confidence to just believe in my own talent and just run with it. I’m definitely a pleaser. I spent a very long time trying to please everyone but myself, and what it left me with was a lot of depression and unhappiness. I needed a change. It’s funny because for whatever reason, I never considered that just wanting to make a change would be enough of an initiative to just make the change. I wasn’t being an adult. I wasn’t taking responsibility for my actions. I wasn’t an agent of my own actions and I had zero conviction. Also funny because these are traits I often look for, often times to no avail, in the female heroines I read about and what I like to instill in the heroines I write.

So that’s all it took. I wanted to make a change, and for the first time in my life I felt as if I could just do that, and I threw myself into the effort of what it took. It was already late in the 2014 MFA applicant cycle. It was the end of December, when many people had already started submitting at least a month or two prior, were mostly satisfied with their polished samples, and had already masterfully put together a statement of purpose meant to dazzle and intrigue any adcom that might have glanced their way. I was starting from scratch with old short stories from undergrad and unfinished long works left to sort through and somehow make a compelling sample. Most of the weeks prior to my first deadlines (all February 1st) were devoted to sorting through all my old work and deciding which pieces made me cringe the least (most certainly the most daunting of tasks). Eventually, I compiled the letters of recommendations I needed and decided on pieces that would sell my abilities the best and pain painstakingly put together a statement of purpose I figured would be professional enough, but at the same time revealing of my character enough to not get completely passed over. I sent my first 3 apps out and felt both relief and tension followed by paranoia and anxiety that later set in.

It was downhill from here as I had already assembled the essential building blocks and it was simply putting them together according to each schools specifications before their deadlines. My initial list of schools was around 15, by the time I was done sending all my apps out it had been trimmed down to around 12. The app fees are no joke, and in many cases caused me to nix schools at the last minute (sorry BU). The waiting game was the toughest, but I tried my best to fill my time with freelance work that would look good on my resume in the future and contribute to the new me I was trying to create.

When that first acceptance came in, I was so stunned I thought I would cry. It was like in that moment of nearly a lifetime of self doubt and believing everyone else’s perspective just had to be more authoritative, more right than your own, all came tumbling to a head and I could believe just for a little bit maybe I did have something special. That first acceptance was for the school I decided to attend. Having lived on the east coast all my life, mostly in the same state, I knew I needed a change. I wanted to move to a place that would inspire me and make me feel at home. Every time I looked at pictures of Flagstaff, I got that feeling the city had something really special to offer. I wanted to see what I could find there, what I could create there. So despite all the obstacles, all the things that didn’t completely come together the way I wanted, I don’t regret choosing NAU. Not right now anyway. Hopefully not ever.

So what was the rest of my journey like? I’m not quite finished expressing that yet. I’ll continue this post into a week 0 post to describe to MFA hopefuls the things I found helpful in my application process as well as the mistakes I made that I would hope many of you will avoid and follow that up with a following week 1 post describing my journey to Flagstaff, how I chose my classes, and how the first week went.

It’s a pleasure to be in such good company, and I hope I don’t bore you with my musings. If anything, I hope this new journey will give me a new perspective and encourage others who have those nagging feelings of less then. The first step is always to keep in mind, “there is no ‘right’,” and to keep that mantra in your head until you actually believe it!

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