On September 1, 2015, I will begin the master of fine arts program in creative writing at Rutgers University-Camden. This means that after nearly 10 years, I will be leaving the hometown I had already returned to once and starting life over again.
This is by far the most terrifying thing I have ever done. When I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting in 2004, I was afraid, but I had arranged to stay with a family friend–rent free–until I found an apartment of my own. This time I have no idea where I will live. In 2004, I was taking the next logical step after filling nearly every moment of my spare time with script writing, just for fun. This time I’m returning to creative writing after 2 years of academic writing and far fewer publications or awards than I had in 2011, when I last tried to make writing my full-time job. I’ll be bringing new knowledge to my writing but working with a different part of the brain to compose my thoughts.
What stands out to me most is that in 2004 I was younger, and there was much more time to make up for my mistakes or to make drastic career changes than there is now. At this point, I am the only person in my close and broader circles from Washington University’s Class of 2002 (and those I knew from “2k1” and “Double 0”) who does not hold a graduate, professional, or doctoral degree. Most of my friends are well into their careers and into family life. I have managed neither to obtain my career goals nor start a family, and though this is not about competition, I do feel like I have sacrificed much time for few results and that I have under-achieved. The memoir I had hoped to release by February 2015, at the latest–the same memoir that some of my readers signed up to receive updates about or that they helped to support financially by sending me to a writing workshop in 2013–remains shelved, despite how much I know it’s needed.
I am convinced that my writing will not become what it could be without concentrated time devoted to it. I have chosen not to carve out that devoted time via a low-residency MFA program (such as Louisville’s own Spalding University) because it’s expensive. Rutgers-Camden has offered me a fellowship that includes tuition remission, a small stipend (probably enough for food), and student health insurance for one year. I will still need to work (don’t have a job yet), and I’m not sure what will happen in year two, but I’m taking a leap of faith. This is my Abraham moment, if you will; I’m moving because the “promised land” isn’t in Louisville. Over the past 10 years, I’ve built what I might call an above-average life. I’ve worked with people I admire, who have changed me for the better, and who I will miss sincerely. I feel very rooted in Louisville, that I can do and have done important work, and that I can make a difference here. But this isn’t everything I’m meant to do. The path to the “promised land” is very ill-defined, as it almost always is when it comes to creative pursuits–but I’m taking the first step.
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