I received an email in March of 2021 from Andrew Altschul announcing that I had been accepted to the MFA program in Fort Collins, CO. I was more shocked than happy, and I’ll explain why. A month prior to that email I had sat my mother down and explained to her how I was not going to graduate school. I told her I messed up, seasonal depression hit like an added bonus to Covid, and my future dimmed so far away from me that gradate school applications didn’t matter anymore. I had only submitted two applications for two MFA programs, both in Colorado, and one of them had been submitted with only one of my three required references posted. I told her I would take the year off, get a job at a local school, and if they didn’t have any job openings, I’d go do seasonal work in the fields with her for the time being. I have a bad back so I can’t pick lettuce or melon, but I have small hands and nimble fingers; I could do the sealing and the labeling. I promised her I would keep moving forward, and so I forgot about my applications because I was confident, they no longer mattered. I had already made my peace with the rejections I had yet to receive, and I forgave myself for not having put in more effort, but then… an acceptance came in the shape of an email.

I didn’t respond for a few days. I waited to see what I would do with it. My reality had just shifted, and I didn’t know if I was going or not. There were requirements I was still missing, professors to contact for recommendation letters they never sent, and paperwork to request and money I didn’t yet have to spend. I had a month to do it all or my acceptance would become null and void. The excitement of the acceptance never really kicked in, not until I moved 1,069 miles away from home to attend a program I had given up in at the start of 2021. I am still unsure of where I’ll be going from here and how I’ll navigate something I never planned for. Even now, it feels like I jumped headfirst into freezing water, and the hypothermia set in first before the cold shock. I am feeling that cold shock now, and thanks to that my world has opened. I got to see trees change from evergreens to shades of orange and yellow for the first time this autumn, and I have a sense of where I am and what I’ll become. I don’t have a plan yet, but I’m searching and that’s my first step out of the freezing water I had submerged myself in.

Bianca Adamari Melendrez Valenzuela is a first-year MFA student in Creative Fiction.