2017, Archives, September 2017, The MFA Years

Dazed and confused in the age of the MFA

Image: Mike Boening

Some things you should know about me:

  • The first time I left Miami I was 19.
  • And I believed so then, with extreme certainty, that leaving the 305 was written in the stars for me. It was absolutely meant to be. And in retrospect, it was for good. I came back a year later with lots of great life experience under my belt: I blacked out from drinking whiskey, I blacked out from too much sangria, I made art that I was proud of at the time, and managed to overcome a depression I had been struggling with for almost two years.

Some additional things you should know about me:

  • The second time I left Miami was a month ago, and I’m still trying to figure out if it was for good.
  • Partly because of how much I’m going to be in the hole after this, which is cause for concern, but also because I’ve just begun my graduate career at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The “MFA in Writing” they offer seems like ideally a great fit for me — the program welcomes artists and writers with non-traditional practices that extend beyond genre. Lying somewhere in that spectrum and using creative writing in my practice as a visual artist, and also feeling an overwhelming sense of uncertainty as to where to take my life post college graduation, which was four months ago, has led me here and to the central theme of this post.
  • Dazed and confused.

The “reasoning:”

  • Acceptance into this program, without having even completed my thesis work and my undergraduate degree, came as an unlikely surprise. I was shocked to later learn that I had been offered any form of aid to attend the school. I’d only been to Chicago for the interview, and knew very little about the city other than it being described as the “windy” city—and with reason. Pre-Chicago, I wondered if it would be the kind of city who’s buzzing with pedestrians night and day, pedestrians with selfie sticks or in suits, if there was any music on the streets or in the bars or heard off people’s yards in the distance, if the trains were plagued with silence, if I’d be happy.
  • Albeit, I can concede that some of this uncertainty was related to romance and the naiveté that comes with being 22. Deciding to move away from my partner to focus on my art, wondering if this ultimately was the place I needed to be at this time. My few acquaintances in an MFA program back home often complained of the immature, 23-year-olds in their program, noting their lack of real life experience and I wondered if that was going to be that person. Although I’ve managed to quell this fear over the summer, I still don’t want to be that person (nobody wants to be that person) and I hope the Lisa Frank stickers on my phone case don’t give me away. But despite everything telling me not to be there, I pressed on.
  • (Updates: the Lisa Frank stickers have come off. I replaced them with holographic ladybug stickers.)

The “resolution:”

  • I am currently moving into the end of my second week in the program, and it’s been a hectic one for reasons beyond the program. These range from: Hurricane Irma making its way to my hometown of Miami in a matter of hours, the wallet that was pulled out of my pocket while I had lunch at the notorious Chipotle, and most recently the casa blanca’s decision to pull out DACA. As a child of two people who were once illegal immigrants, this hits all too close to home.
  • Dazed and confused still seems appropriate, but not without adding afraid and determined.
  • Juggling between a poetry seminar, a fiction workshop, and a class that explores the intersections of text, sound, and the resulting transmission, I’m not quite sure the direction that my work will take. I’m reading more than I ever have, and already in just a week I’m being pushed to think about literature and storytelling like I never had before. Talking to others in my program, and browsing through the posts of my fellow first year contributors, I can see I’m not the only one with an ounce of trepidation coming into this. However, given my dire situation (that being I’m young, slightly stoopid, and in an MFA program), I think I’ll be taking some advice from Wassily Kandinsky on this, and go with that which calls me from within. Even if what’s currently calling me is some Breyer’s chocolate ice cream from the 7-eleven across the street, or the incendiary colors of a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bag, or a dream I had about an old polaroid picture of my mother and a tiger, and the tiger in this dream, I believed, had once been our family pet, but no one else could remember this except for me. Maybe I’ll steer away from installation work and dab into some magical realism this semester.

I’ll let you all know how that works out for me.