I guess there has been a little post-MFA depression.
I swear it’s a real thing.
You finish, finally finish this almost-accomplishment that’s been looming over your head for years, sneering at you. You finish it. You get your diploma, your hood, your hug from the head of the program. You tell that almost-accomplishment creep looming over your head, “I have defeated you! You are hereby banished!” You make plans, a strategy. This is how I’m going to cobble together a writing career.
And then you go back to your job at Starbucks, realizing that you don’t have any real-world, paid experience doing anything else. You are the single mom of an awesome kid, who happens to be on the autism spectrum. You can’t take the chances you used to be able to. You need to work. Even if you’re not making enough money. You need even that little bit. You need the health insurance. You can’t work two or three jobs to get ahead, because your kid needs you around, and he needs your extra help if he has a chance to grow up being able to take care of himself, and leading a life that makes him happy.
So you work this job that was only ever meant to keep you from starving your fist time round at grad school. You work this job that doesn’t really make ends meet. You work this job that is most days, mindless, and un-fulfilling, this job where complete strangers are constantly making judgements about you. You work it, and you feel like crap about yourself because you aren’t living anywhere close to your potential. You’re not being challenged, and your skills and passions are not being utilized. What if they atrophy? But you don’t know what else to do. You just don’t know, because you don’t have any experience and it’s so competitive out there for MFA Creative Writing grads. You haven’t found anyone out there who will hire you.
But you try to do your work. You try to perfect your craft still, and you keep looking for jobs, residencies, opportunities. You sometimes come close, but not close enough and your life still trudges on, the same. How can you not lose hope?
And if you lose hope, how do you keep the dream?
I found out yesterday that in January my dad will be retiring. He’s in his early mid-sixties. I always forgot how old he is exactly. It does make me sad. Getting older myself is one thing, but I don’t want him to get older. He’s retiring because he’s tired. I don’t want him to be tired. Of course it makes me think about the eventual death of my parents, but also I wonder…I think back over all these years he’s worked pounding away at keyboards and I wonder if any of it made him actually happy. I wonder if he had the life experiences he wanted to have. I wonder if it was fulfilling. I wonder what he thinks about when he thinks back over all those years in all those various offices. It’s such a large chunk of life.
My dad, he hasn’t saved. He’s not going to spend any part of retirement traveling or taking classes or re-building old cars. Most likely he’ll do what he does on the weekends: sit on the couch watching sci-fi and action movies and fighting with my mom. I want so much more for him than that, but it really does seem like he reached the end of the road of dreams and adventure a long time ago. There used to be possibility. Now there’s the sofa, the dog, and take-out.
I have not reached the end of possibility. Not because of my 37 years. Not because of my desire. It’s a harsh-ass world. I have to keep fighting uphill against the wind, and most of the time I feel so weak, so malnourished, so on the brink of collapse. I have to fight even if I can’t see around the corner, even if there is nothing around the corner, because in the end, at least I will know that I fought, that I did everything I could.
So the question is, am I? Am I doing everything I can? How on earth do I balance having to kick myself to try harder, to write more, to get a better job, to be a better mom, to get less sleep with giving myself a break and letting myself cry in the bathroom or sleep in sometimes on Sundays so I don’t jump off a bridge from all the pressure?