2016, Archives, December 2016, The MFA Years

On Reflection

Image: Moyan Brenn 

I’m not much for doing reflections. There’s something about looking back into my past that I don’t like. I imagine much of it has to do with the fact that for many years I was stuck in the same place, around the same people, not moving on, not growing, not changing. No one likes to be reminded that they’re stuck in quicksand while trying to figure out how to remove their feet from the quicksand they’re currently sinking in. 

But despite 2016 being a tire fire of a year socially, culturally, and politically, personally it’s been a pretty decent one for me. I finally finished my undergraduate degree, becoming the first person in my family to do so. I was accepted into a few MFA programs and for once in my life actually got to choose where to take my next step. I moved away from South Carolina, a long held desire of mine, to New York state. I started graduate school at a freaking Ivy League.

If I’m not completely out of the quicksand then I have at least one leg out of it.

That doesn’t mean things have gone great, Lord knows it hasn’t. Moving away from the one place I’ve lived my entire life has been hard. Getting adjusted to graduate school has been hard. Trying to find my footing within workshop with other writers who are more advanced then me has been hard. But there’s nothing about that I would change. I feel like for the first time in my life I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Which makes reflecting important for me this year despite my usual reluctance. I am giving myself the chance to remember where I was in January 2016 (burnt out with applications and undergrad, wanting nothing more than for it to all be over) and think about where I am now in December 2016 (genuinely excited to work on my writing, reading works that motivate me). I am giving myself the chance to be happy in my progress. But I’m also taking this time to think about where I’ve failed, where I’ve been disappointed, where I want and need to improve. While professionally (would this be considered professional? Maybe more educational?) things have gone pretty well, personally things are either in stasis or have relapsed into something I’m not all that proud of, and despite my best efforts those issues have impacted my writing in not so pleasant ways.

But mostly, my time reflecting on 2016 has made me try to evaluate what’s important to me for 2017. Of course, writing is important. But I’ve been thinking about in what was is writing important to me. Do I continue with my tried and true writing, the thing that got me into grad school? Or do I branch out, begin to write the things I’ve never thought about before? Do I stick to my original ideas or do I change them to where I am now? Is the general improvement of my writing enough, or do I make publication a high priority in the new year? How much do I prioritize my writing over my other academic work and even other aspects of my life? How much emphasis should I put on writing?

Reflecting has made me wonder where I want to go from here.

And that’s the thing about reflection, is it not? Looking back and understanding what has happened in the past so you can either continue on the right path or make the necessary changes for the future that you want. I may not exactly get that future I want, but at least I’m taking those steps, right?

Or maybe I’m just looking on the bright side. What I know is that at the end of 2016 I feel like I’m slowly getting out of the quicksand and starting to take small, shaky steps on solid land again. I just want to keep walking away from the pit.

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