2015, Archives, December 2015, The MFA Years

Semester Countdown

This is the last weekend before the semester – my third in this MFA program – ends this coming Thursday. I still have a stack of reading to get through as well as to revise my final portfolio, so, of course, I thought I’d write this instead. Procrastination is a demon, but at least I’m writing.

In my last post, I explained, at length, how I’d decided not to apply to teach in the spring. Well, I guess I lied because now everything has changed. In an unexpected twist, a couple of slots opened up to become the TA to the TA for some fellow grad students teaching literature courses. (Apparently this happens when courses have more than 25 students enroll.) I applied, and I was selected so in the end, I will be a Teaching Assistant this coming spring.

As TA to the TA I will be assisting a friend and cohort member from my program to teach a World Literature course, focusing on The Literature of Immigration. I don’t know exactly what all of this will entail, but I am certain it will be an amazing experience.

For me this feels like the perfect opportunity because I get to help teach a class without the full responsibility on my shoulders just yet. And, the truth is, I have never even taken a literature course, let alone taught such a beast, so I’m sure I’ll be learning as much as the students.

On the other side of that equation, is that I am now reassessing my own courses for the spring to make sure that I don’t over do things and run myself ragged which is a life-long battle I’ve still yet to overcome. But I’ll figure it out and I’m looking forward to the next adventure on this MFA journey.

Meanwhile, as I enjoy the quiet of Southampton for one final weekend before I return to living full-time in Brooklyn, I find myself thinking back on where I was this time last year and, in also, this time two years ago.

Last year I was still in awe, I think, of the fact that I had actually made it through my first semester. I was eager to see how my grades would be (they were fine) and proud that I had managed to coax my 50-year-old brain back into student mode. It was a leap of faith to start this program at this age, but it has been a spectacularly wonderful choice and I’d do it all again.

Two years ago, I was in the final tearing-out-my-hair stages of applying to MFA programs. I applied to six – three in New York and three in California – and got accepted to all of them except Hunter. Hunter has rejected me twice, so at least they are consistent. I wasn’t sure I’d have been accepted to any so having had such success was definitely good for my self-esteem and I think that fueled me to move forward through this program.

Over these past years, I can definitely see an improvement in my writing and I am starting to have a better grasp of structure and pace and the mechanics of the craft. One of the benefits of being much older is that I came into this program with the distinct advantage of having more material than I will ever manage to write about, so my goal was really working on the skills and I feel I’ve gotten a lot from each course.

That said, what I have gotten out hasn’t always been what the instructor intended, I suspect, but I’ve still always squeezed out what I needed to move forward. Some teachers are better than others, come students are better than others. Like anything in life, it is always a crap shoot, but I keep coming up lucky, so I can’t complain.

And so it is that as I wrap up this semester, I look back and feel very fortunate to be here and that my wild idea of returning to my studies in middle-age is proving to be a good one.

It is also worth noting, if only for the giggle factor, that for logistical reasons, I lived in the dorms this fall. I’m certain that at the beginning of the semester my suite mates thought “oh wow, we have the old lady,” but by the end I think they were probably happy because the old lady usually went home on weekends.

It seems that I actually am living in the “party suite” on campus which delights me to no end. I have never before lived in a dorm and while I didn’t join in their parties, I did enjoy being around their fun energy and getting a glimpse as to what dorm life might have been like had I lived in one when I was in undergrad some thirty years back. So, again, a great experience.

Good luck to everyone who is wrapping up their applications – may you be accepted to your dream program! And good luck to everyone already in their MFA program on finishing up your semester or quarter. And, above all, I wish everyone reading this a smooth and safe transition into 2016.


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