A little over a year ago, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree.
Six months ago, I decided to start researching MFA programs.
The problem: what do you do when you’re no longer an undergraduate, but not yet a graduate (student)?
Much like coping with any kind of loss, I went through several emotional milestones when transitioning out of academic life.
The first milestone: realization.
The real world is, unfortunately, not as accommodating as the college town that seemed to be filled with endless Starbucks shops and social events with free food. There’s no longer a professor who will set deadlines or stay after class to help me work through my writer’s block. And, worse yet, it’s exponentially more difficult to make myself produce work (which is not included with a liberal arts degree, unfortunately).
The second milestone: regret.
“Should I have majored in accounting?” -after talking to my traditionally successful college roommate.
“Should I have become a surgeon?” -usually only during Sunday night Grey’s Anatomy binges.
“Should I have become a scuba diving instructor?” -when I’m feeling particularly lethargic.
The third milestone: anxiety.
This often manifests as a mild form of impostor syndrome. There have been too many late nights where I lie wide-eyed in bed after reading an incredible short story and wrestle with the knowledge that I will never create art to rival it. Even browsing websites contemporary writers can be panic-inducing and knock out any hope of sitting down and writing 100 words (I was never good at endings, so micro fiction eases the blow). It’s much easier to not try than to try, fail, and wallow in the tears that every rejection letter brings.
The fourth milestone: productivity.
Finally, I beat that eight month writer’s block! Hello, Pushcart Prize nominations! By some stroke of luck (this time, brought on by Sally Rooney’s Mr Salary) I’ve found the inspiration to write again. The world will no longer go without my voice, for it has been deprived too long already. I’ll send my stories out to as many journals as I can because I am that talented and it’s about time someone notices. No more Netflix for me!
The fifth milestone: anxiety (again).
The first of, presumably, many rejection emails arrives. I break down in an Arby’s parking lot but eat the tear-stained roast beef sandwich anyway. The grease from the curly fries smudges my phone screen and, instead of deleting the email, I accidentally forward it to my Yahoo, second Gmail, and school accounts. Perhaps the emotional trauma will fuel my secret belief that I am a once-in-a-generation writer who will never be understood in my time.
Just like Emily Dickinson.
Since completing the Big 5 (a term I hope will catch on) I have bought two new books, lost 10 pounds through working at a summer camp, and started looking for jobs to really establish my place in the world. Still working on getting the endings of things down. I clearly have a long way to go.
I really should have become an accountant.
Even if I don’t understand how math works.