Ten years ago I was winding down my life as a graphic designer, packing up my belongings, and moving just outside Washington, DC to study fiction writing as an MFA candidate. I can think back to that time and feel everything so clearly, honestly from January 2009 until August, to include the anticipation of the MFA acceptances or rejections. I applied to ten or eleven schools, and was accepted to two - one with no financial package, one with a full ride and TA position. I picked the school that offered me the most, of course, and was grateful for it.
I had wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, scribbling in marble notebooks and keeping them in a "real" leather briefcase. (Yes, I was that kid.) I never stopped writing stories, even though I never really finished one until my first creative writing workshop in undergrad. I ended up there after thinking I should major in journalism, because it was writing. I didn't know creative writing was a thing you could study, take classes in, get graded on. Once I discovered that, I was gone. I was so sure I was going to grow up and become an author. It seemed real to me, just by having a concentration in the college catalog.
I stuck with my MFA program for one year out of three. I didn't like how certain workshop professors pushed us to write in a specific style first, and once we mastered that, we would be allowed to experiment. I couldn't handle having to read three short story collections a week for one class. I loved my classmates. I loved the other tutors I worked with in the Writing Center, and I loved the Writing Center itself. I loved working with other students. I loved editing papers and helping them find their focus while writing.
I don't regret my year in the MFA program. I don't regret quitting after a year.
I have friends with MFAs who are writing and publishing and working as professors and love it. I have friends without MFAs who are writing as publishing and working as [fill in the blank] and love it. And I always felt like I was somewhere in between. That by being enrolled in a program and quitting meant I had failed. But I didn't fail - I made a choice. And I need to be kind and honest with myself and realize that I am one of those without an MFA who is writing and publishing and working... period. I am doing so many things I never thought I would be doing ten years ago.
When I started that chapter of my life, ten years ago, I couldn't really picture the future. I could see myself writing at all hours of the night, because I could hardly sleep if the sun wasn't out. I couldn't picture myself as a professor. I couldn't picture myself as a partner or a mother or anything beyond that hazy image of a person huddled over the table writing... something.
And here I am. I am a mother with a wonderful child. I read in all my spare time, and I share books with him every day. I completed a Masters degree in Library Science. I'm an elementary librarian sharing books with students and their parents. I wrote and published a book. I have been writing nearly daily for over six months. I have been completing stories even without a deadline in my face. I am gearing up to teach an elementary creative writing club in the fall. It might not be what I dreamily thought would come, but, ten years after, I think I'm in a good place - maybe just a logical evolution from what I thought I wanted back then.