2016, Archives, May 2016, The MFA Years

Elation (And Everything That Came After)

Image: Wonderlane

In my introductory post, I called this entire MFA process my first pancake. It was supposed to be the try that didn’t end in success, my testing of the waters.

Except I got into two of my top choices and wait-listed at another two. Clearly I was happy, right?

Not exactly. Although I did experience great joy when I got those wonderful phone calls and emails, it quickly turned into overwhelming grief. Because I had psyched myself up for disappointment, I didn’t know how to take my acceptances. I had planned ways to make my 2017 applications better and drafted a new list of schools to apply to. Starting school now means

  • I will never apply to Michigan, Wisconsin, Austin or many of the other schools people rave about.
  • I will never know if a SOP that reflected more of my personality would have won more programs over.
  • I will never need to send out the stack of transcripts I have sealed in a box marked “for 2017 applications.”
  • I will never use my dogeared, well-worn “MFA applications” notebook again. I filled it with so many bits of information and hoped to use it again next year to make my applications better.

Where do all of these documents “for the next application cycle” go? Where do I go?

If you’re an MFA hopeful (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), you might be ready to throw something at my head. I’m not ungrateful, I just wasn’t prepared for this. I made a post in Draft about it and to my surprise, other people felt the same way. Maybe we’re all so focused on the acceptance, we don’t focus on our post-application state of mind. Maybe we treat acceptance as the goal and don’t focus on the after. Maybe sites like these have us constantly comparing our success to others’ which leads to a lot of regrets. I’m not sure why the blues kick in, but I’m sharing my own grief and anxieties here so you know you’re not alone and that it does get better.

Starting school now means I can finally devote myself to writing, something I’ve been dreaming about for years. And that one reason supersedes all of the others.

Ultimately my choice was a very easy one. After sitting in on a workshop at my top choice, I fell even more in love with the program and sent in my deposit. I will never apply to another school, but that doesn’t matter; I found the program that is right for me. My transcripts will linger in a drawer for a future job use. My notebooks and spreadsheets have passed on to other nontraditional students who, like me, once thought an MFA was beyond their grasp.

I can finally say I’m starting an MFA program this fall and I’m so happy about it.

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