Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Good Year for MFA Graduates, Okay?

Yep—here we are again. Facing our demons. The bad year? or good year? existential self-questioning had bugged me like Fmr. Gov. Blago’s phone. (…) In honor of May, the time that the current class of MFAers say adieu to what they knew for two years, I offer a recollection of May '08--May '09 (give or take).

The good news. It is still a bit early for you, nearly-graduated one. May still gives you time to look forward to a belabored severance of your new, scared self from your old, confident self. I didn’t freak out or imagine the shape of the future beyond Missoula until August, once the UHaul had to be picked up or I’d forfeit my deposit. Or as I was selling my pre-owned mattress to a family whose toddlery son had to use my bathroom and proceeded to dump (throw?) my last roll of toilet paper in the bowl (true story).

Since August, I’ve learned key money-saving skills. They include how to create life-sustaining feasts in a bowl. It is much like I imagine astronaut food to be but poorly, poorly executed and non-dehydrated. Think rice and beans (dried, not instant), 5lb. beef “savings pack” and onions from the bin at Aldi. Put it all together…and you hope that a burrito wrap can hide the horror:

You know what? Just hold off on that Aldi onion and…grow your own onions! On your kitchen counter. Whoops. Get to know your favorite compost heap pile.

There will be copious reading opportunities for your genre of choice in your city of choice. Or, at least enough to sustain you and comfort you into a false sense that you-are-still-in-the-program. See some famous people. See some soon-to-be-famous people. Silently support them with beams of flowers and rainbows and unicorns and puppies and kittens because they need them and you can wait out karma.

Survive the winter and everything will be a-okay. It won’t seem like it in mid-January in Chicago (or Seattle--or, well, New Orleans is just warm anyway, without mercy, and we'll exclude it from our results), but trust.

You’re going to spend a fair amount of time researching post-graduation fellowships or residencies that will give you another year down the road to do that thing you were doing in the MFA program. You’ll spend the following March opening the rejection letters.

If you’re a poet, maybe you’ll find all the Apocalypse Now stuff mighty useful as an operating principle for your newly imagined collection of poems—you see it taking shape. Your perverse worldview had to pay off sometime. Since the real world is so damn bizarre sometimes, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s taking beautiful, exquisite shape. (Well, at the very least you’re totally estranged from your thesis, which you can’t even bear to look at, much less tinker with. This may change. In a bit, maybe you’ll warm up to it, face its cold icy stare. I’m waiting it out, giving mine the silent treatment for now.) But the scheming and the abject poverty of jet-loving corporations and the illness and the general turmoil treats you OK. It’s something you can always count on. Prose folks, I bet this is the same for you.

You will temp. Boy, will you ever temp. You will know the skills of the temp. Like a substitute teacher, be ready for the 5AM call. “Can you be on site, ah, 10 minutes ago?” Start…now. Watch as the clock on your assignment runs out. Four months, three months, two months… You’ll be searching the fall teaching openings. This is, of course, assuming you didn’t have an idea of what was going on and refused to acknowledge time would pass after you graduated. I found myself desperately clinging to the scam-toned Craigslist posts in the “education” section because, well, what did I have to lose?

And if this hasn’t enticed you, remember, not having the extra money to eat at "restaurants", see concerts, go to, what, the history museums, leaves a heck of a lot of time for sitting down and writing. Right? I’m not a perfect example, no. I spend a lot of time messing around and drafting elaborate and overly complicated, windbaggy emails to my online students. They don’t need to know how amazing Blackboard is. They can access their assignments just fine thank you very much. So, yes, for everyone who is driven, you can sit down and write and something actually materializes on the screen. But one thing is for sure: you won’t be sitting down to just write if you can’t pay your utility bill. Then you’re just in the dark.

And the job tip in the post directly below this one is excellent. Take it. Run with it.

The Three Ps roundup almost one year in:

  • PhDs: One up and coming! Go Kelly!
  • Publications: Yes, yes and yes.
  • Panhandling: I applaud the social service opportunities available in large metropolitan areas for those in need.

1 comment:

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson said...

Whoah, I've been dreading the year end round up. God. A year! And I'm still not famous. Crud.