Tomorrow I graduate with my master of fine arts degree.
I wasn't going to walk in graduation, but due to some news I received at the end of last week I am. Today I went out to buy a headband so I could transform my cap into something that can work with my afro. I tried it on and stared at myself in the mirror. I think the cap looks ridiculous, if you ask me, but tomorrow I will put it on.
It was around this time two years ago that I found out I had gotten into grad school. I applied only after my mother and boyfriend at the time basically told me I'd be stupid not to. I applied full of fear.
You see, pretty much since I graduated undergrad, I've wanted to get my MFA. It has been on my yearly to-do lists, my bucket lists, etc. Figure out if I want my MFA, it said. If so, apply, it said.
I've always wanted to be a writer. I've always wanted to be good at writing. I've always wanted to be seen and respected as a writer.
I was scared to apply for my MFA because...what if I didn't get in. What would that mean? What would that say?
Of course, there are thousands of writers who never step foot in MFA programs. And they are writers. There are writers who have been rejected over and over again who are writers. I believed and believe all those people to be writers. I mean to say that I basically believe everyone in the world who says they are a writer, is actually a writer. Except me. Because I'm dumb like that folks. Because I like to torture myself mentally...
I am someone, I have learned over the years, who would much prefer to live in denial. If I didn't apply for my MFA, then I couldn't be rejected. Duh. Perfect plan. And better yet, if I didn't get my MFA and try to be a writer, then no one could be mad at me if I failed.
But then I applied. And then spent a month freaking out internally and wondering if I made a good or bad decision.
I was at brunch with a friend I've known since high school when I got an email saying I had gotten in. I was happy and also scared.
All right, my brain said. You want to be a writer. Then go be one. But you better be a good one.
I thought this journey would be about two years of focusing on my writing. I thought it would make me a writer.
While it was only two years ago, the beginning of this journey is a blur. I barely remember the first class, the first few classes. To be honest, so much of it has been a blur. A blur of so many different things.
The thing is that life didn't stop because I was in school. It kept moving. I spent my first year heartbroken after my ex broke up with me within the first two weeks of me starting the program. I got some feedback from my professors that really sent my brain down a weird road and I wondered if I was right all along...that I wasn't a writer at all. I spent the first year trying to regain my footing. And I did. I wrote a strong play. And a few days after my first year ended, I met my current boyfriend. And a few days after, my play Hottentotted went up for one night only.
I just knew the second year was going to go better.
But this year was challenging in a different way. I lost both my grandfathers this year. My granddaddy at the beginning of the fall semester and my grandfather at the beginning of the spring semester. A few weeks ago, a cousin passed away. I had just seen her at my grandfather's funeral. I learned that the same skills that make me a good reader at weddings make me a good reader at funerals.
But I wrote another play that is strong. And Hottentotted went up for two weekends. And there were a bunch of different things in-between. Good things.
So these two years have been...interesting and difficult...and just full of life.
I look at my writing and I see how it has changed for the better and the not-so-much better. One professor discussed missing certain elements of my earlier work during a postmortem I had on Friday. I nodded my head in agreement. I realized I'd lost those elements as I took classes with another professor who didn't seem to like them as much. I've learned that grad school can be a weird process of strengthening your voice and losing your voice and then hoping to god your voice comes back again even stronger.
The last two years didn't make me a writer. Duh, I already was one. (Okay, I write that because I'm supposed to write that but if I'm being honest, I'm still skeptical on whether I'm a "writer" or not. I mean I am, but am I really...? I know, I know. It's a process trying to undo the crazy beliefs I have in this head of mine. If only wine would help...). These last two years did make me stronger. I did make great new friends. I did learn to appreciate Beckett (shout-out to my favorite play of his, Footfalls). I did learn that world famous playwrights are humans and not mythical creatures. I did learn to apply to the things I really want. I did learn I am happier when I can read the books I want to read. I did learn that I have themes I return to as a writer and that's okay. I did learn that you can't please everyone--but I can try to please myself. I did learn how great it is to have a partner who is supportive and respects this career path. I did learn that some things fall into your lap thanks to the kindness of those who support you. I did learn that there is such a thing as being too busy. I did learn that boxing classes are helpful when you feel powerless in many aspects of your career. I did learn that grabbing a drink with fellow writers can be a wonderful, soothing balm. I did learn that sadness and writing sometimes don't go hand-in-hand and sometimes do and you just have to see. I did learn that facing your fears is often a good thing. I did learn that checking your voicemail is often a good thing. I did learn that not organizing your plays in a orderly fashion when saving them in word is a not so good thing.
Basically, I grew up a little bit. My writing hopefully did too.
Tomorrow I graduate. I become a "master" of playwriting, but let's be real, I'll be a student of playwriting and words forever.
(Side note: I've gotten some awesome news these last few weeks and have some awesome things coming up in the next few months so stay tuned. Now if only I could find some extremely flexible part time work to make this living thing more feasible...but that's for another post)