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Week Five: Return to Zero

Image: Aikawa Ke

I wish I could tell you my feelings of insecurity and worry have gone away. That I’ve come to learn that I not only belong here, but was accepted to Stony Brook Southampton. While the notion of belonging is getting better now that I’ve made a few friends, I still have trouble accepting my acceptance.

For me, being in an MFA program feels like going to the gym.  I am convinced everyone is looking at me – judging how much I lift, wondering why I don’t increase the resistance on the treadmill, snickering at my Old Navy compression pants. But no one is actually looking at me.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally gotten into a routine. I write two hours a day, every day. Thursdays are for homework. I go grocery shopping on Saturday morning, and cook on Sundays.  Evenings are for reading. Last week, the routine went to shit.

A requirement of the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton is the Intro to Graduate Writing Course. If you asked me about it after my first two weeks in the program, I would have certainly given you an eye roll and a sigh. But today, I can tell you the class can be life-changing.

In previous years, the Into class was taught by the same two faculty members. This year, they’ve revamped the course and allow a different faculty member to teach the course each week. You get to sample almost every instructor the program has to offer. And, two weeks ago, I met WAL.

WAL is a memoirist. When she taught our class, I felt an instant connection. In her office, a week later, I wept like a child as I came clean about my insecurities and how I felt paralyzed by doubt. I told her I had the beginning of a story, but could not seem to put anything on paper. Then, she gave me an assignment. I was to write about an important day in my life, and give it back to her in one week. After I turned it in, she gave me feedback, and a two week deadline for more work.

The assignment consumed me. Words came so easily that I thought I could fall asleep and my fingers would continue to type. I couldn’t contain the excitement. The story was new. Sentences had not been recycled or repurposed. I didn’t know the ending and still don’t.

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The featured image of this post is called “return to zero”. It is the truth. No matter where you are, who you’ve become, what story you write – you can always return to a blank page, and begin again. And it’s really fucking awesome.

Wednesdays are for returning to zero.

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