To quote the famous poem…
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
– T.S. Elliot from The Wasteland (1922)
I am midway through the fourth month of my fourth semester and, alas, perhaps April really is the cruelest month. Despite celebrating the birthdays of many amazing friends and family – including my own – during this fine month, this particular April is proving to be a doozy.
1) My brain is full and I need a break but that won’t be happening so I shall persist.
2) Teaching is amazing and I love it but it is so so so much work.
3) Writing three pieces a week in a genre (flash fiction/prose poetry) I’m just learning is hard. It is good to be trying, of course, and I do believe I’m getting better at it, but my four and ¾ remaining brain cells are stretched to capacity.
4) Writing my thesis has become torture and I’m struggling to not give up. Really struggling.
5) My tired mind needs a break. Oh, I already said that. Sorry.
6) Although the semester isn’t yet finished, I’m already looking for work for the summer and I’m feeling stressed that I don’t yet have any lined up.
7) I am also already thinking about applying to teach again in the fall but that means drafting syllabi now for the application process and – truth be told – I’m not sure I can actually afford to teach. See #6.
8) My 52-year-old body is behaving badly, as do the middle-aged bodies of many women in this time of life. I’ll spare you the details.
9) I’m exhausted. See #8.
10) My partner and I are currently caring for his one-year-old grandson for the month of April. Just the baby and us. We are too old for this s…tuff.
11) I’m exhausted. Please also see #10.
12) I was going to write one for each day of April but, well, I think you get the picture…
And so it goes. There are days when I feel everything is on the verge of collapse. I am two years into this thing and I feel no closer to my goal of writing my memoir than when I started. Plus, I now realize I may have to graduate a semester later than anticipated because I’ll never be able to finish my thesis on the timeline I’d hoped for. I am not so happy with that plan but I also have to be pragmatic as it is also not the worst thing that could happen.
Writing a thesis is a lot of work. That is no surprise. If you’re heading into this, definitely make sure you set clear lines of communication and deadlines with your advisors. And do whatever it takes to carve out time for your writing. Sometimes life throws curve balls – okay, life always throws curve balls – but you have to be prepared and write regardless.
Student life, in theory, is fantastic and even in reality, it mostly is, but the juggling of being a student and still paying the bills, meeting your obligations and caring for others is a lot to manage. I see now that I underestimated the challenge of balancing it all before I started the program. I would probably still do it all again, but perhaps differently. Who knows.
And there you have it. My update for April 2016, nearly two years though this MFA adventure. April has been a bit of a cruel month, so far, but I have to hope that the hard work will payoff in abundance come May.