It’s been a long past 18-months, and a fast last three weeks. I spent the last year and a half living with my parents (although I don’t lead with that). And I’ve come to realize that, even in the middle of a pandemic, I was still being performative—I was “Tutoring ELL students and working on my writing.” That wasn’t a lie, but let’s just say I watched more Netflix in those months than I had in the prior two years combined.
I started writing a memoir-esque piece that was just snapshots of my daily crises or ruminations. I was sick of reading biographies and memoirs that “had it all figured out.” I wasn’t able to pre-package my life, the pandemic, or global events into chapters or a narrative—I still can’t. Instead, I wrote snippets like, “Would it be weird to honeymoon in the Bermuda Triangle? I could pitch it as ‘let’s be lost forever in love’? Would that make it sellable?” and “I am a mildly intelligent moth drawn to a very dangerous flame.” I didn’t, and don’t, have my life “put together.”
But what does “put together” look like in the midst of multiple global emergencies? Is there such a thing? Has there ever been?
When I got into graduate school, I felt like I had made it—I now had something more concrete to tell people when they asked about my plans for the future. Then, cue the imposter syndrome. Was pursuing an MFA something I was doing because I wanted to? Or because it was a better thing to tell people? Did I deserve this? Was I good enough?
My current answer to these questions is: yes—but not because I always believe it, but because there’s enough to contend with without the burden of constant and incessant self-judgement. Being “put together” is a performance and society the judge—why do I need to join the jury?
In other words: my life isn’t more, or less, put together for pursuing an MFA, I do like being able to tell people that I’m an MFA candidate, and I’m trying to let go of this idea of performance. But, even if 4% or 12% of past me made the decision to pursue an MFA so I could have the next three years planned out, I have no regrets. But please, if you’re considering applying to an MFA program, do yourself a favor, and try not to ask yourself 3,000 questions, because while I’m all for a good pros and cons list, sometimes it’s the results, not the reasons, that matter.
-Anna Emerson is a first-year MFA student in Creative Nonfiction.