Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Now what?

Well, winter has come and gone and with it my last semester of grad school. So that's it; I officially have my MFA in creative writing & publishing; the diploma's in the mail.

Someone asked me yesterday how graduation was; I said the first thing that popped into my head: "anti-climactic." Some friends talked me into walking in the ceremony, and another who graduated last year lent me his cap, gown, and hood. I sat in the audience next to a fellow MFA'er and listened to a few speeches, walked across the stage when my name was called, got hooded and got my picture taken a couple times by the photographers and then returned to my seat. And so I guess that's the culmination of my last four years. I don't want to downplay all the work I did or the challenges I faced during that time, but now that it's over, it already feels distant. I don't feel any different now that I have a master's degree than I did before -- though I'm sure some of that is because the change was gradual and happened in increments, not all at once like the ceremony. But I'm not sure how much of an advantage it really gives me now that the experience is over. I mean, the experience was worth it, and I don't regret the last four years at all, but I'm not sure if the degree itself is going to give me an advantage in the "real world."

I'm now unemployed, for one thing. I had envisioned, during the final couple of hectic weeks, that this free time I have would be spent immersed in writing and visual art, but in reality it's been a struggle. I've managed to write something every day since the ceremony (which I realize was less than a week ago, May 22) and even pushed myself to work on a couple of artistic/crafty projects I started long ago, but I've also spent a lot of time on the couch watching TV or reading (I'll never view reading as a waste of time, but it's all amounted to a lot of sitting still). I'd also told everyone that the first several days of my break would be spent vegging and doing nothing, but... it turns out there's a lot of time in the day when you have no obligations, and my days have had room for both vegging and productivity. I know, I KNOW there's merit in sitting and being inactive, letting the mind reflect, leaving time for introspection, and it's through that introspection that I know myself well enough to understand the "problem": I need a new challenge.

Well, the challenges are coming. For three weekends in June, I'll be taking a course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, with the goal of eventually being employed abroad, in Eastern Europe, Asia, or South America. The company I'm taking the class through, Oxford Seminars, guarantees job placement after I complete my certificate, so it will just be a matter of time before I'm off to see the world -- if I like the workshop enough to spend six months or more teaching. I've always been really ambivalent about teaching; I think the conditions would have to be just right for me to enjoy it (I don't think I'd do too well with young children, for example, or people who aren't interested in learning). But I do love English, and language in general, and I'm discovering a passion for promoting education and literacy. At the very least, this course will let me find out (perhaps once and for all) whether I can teach.

July 3, I'm returning to Ireland with most of my expenses paid this time, which is an incredible opportunity; Kimberley, my supervisor at the theater and one of the core faculty members for the Armagh Project, has arranged for me to attend again this year as a Teacher's Assistant (thus, a chance to experience teaching in a different environment). I'm a little nervous about what this will entail, since I haven't been given any formal instruction yet, but I'm really excited to get back overseas, especially since one of my best friends, Maureen, is taking the residency this time. I'm looking forward to exploring with her, to revisiting Armagh and Belfast and Dublin and also seeing some places I didn't have time to visit before. I gave myself an extra week abroad once the program is over to visit other parts of Great Britain and to return to France for a night or two (Jake is supposed to be joining me for this final week, which is also exciting -- he's never been abroad).

Then the search for a "real" job will begin (though that actually should start much sooner so that I can potentially have something lined up when I get back). I'm incredibly averse to the 9-5 corporate environment, and am really dreading the prospect of a desk job, but my resume will doubtless be sent to a few of those places. However, I've also applied for a nine-month writer's residency in South Carolina and would like to look for other similar opportunities. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to indulge this long-term wanderlust before the feeling of obligation to "settle down" takes over, but for now I'm going to keep it up. And continue trying to find a satisfying balance between productivity and relaxation in the meantime.

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