I was looking for a happy ending...or maybe just an ending.
I’ve had this blog post germinating in my brain for a while, and the end of spring quarter seems like an opportune time to share it. It also seems a little cruel to all you lovely MFA students who just graduated because what I’m about to say is the opposite of hopeful: Life outside of graduate school, what some call the “real world,” can be a floundering, heart-wrenching experience. Let me explain.
I used to be under the impression that graduate school, or academia in general, wasn’t much different from the rest of the world. Maybe I saw it as a microcosm, a more manageable chunk of real life, that still required the daily monotony of mundane tasks and bureaucracy that exists in most environments. Just days ago, I realized I don’t believe this anymore.
I overheard one of my colleagues telling a student that school and real life are pretty much the same thing and that the student shouldn’t feel like he isn’t participating in real life just because he’s in school. I perked up at this because I realized that I was, maybe for the first time, internally disagreeing with this notion. Sure, the student shouldn’t feel any sense of guilt or remorse for burying himself in books rather than sloughing all that off for something more “real.” That’s not the part I disagree with.
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I’ve officially climbed out of the tower. I finished my third degree, and I’m done with academia, at least as a student. And I have to say, I kind of feel like I want to give my brain a bath, get all that academic nonsense outta there. Only the nonsense, not the good sense. But sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference.
Example: My boyfriend and I have been writing language arts lessons for a website for pay this summer. The way it works is you write a lesson, turn it in to the online submission manager, and wait. They give the lesson to three reviewers who then give you feedback. You’re supposed to take that feedback and use it to revise your lesson. Pretty simple really. But yesterday Dylan received reviews of his very first lesson. Two of them were very positive, didn’t want him to change much, but one of them was kind of scathing (if something can be kind of scathing) as if this reviewer (who we’ve decided is a little old lady who hates creativity and fun) was out to get him from the start. Everything was wrong, according to this reviewer, the whole lesson a failure.
Unfortunately, this reminded me of graduate poetry workshops. Read more »
Don't quit your day job. You could actually make a difference there.
For the past several months I’ve been looking for jobs in Portland, Oregon, where I’ll be moving after graduation. Every job I’ve applied for so far has been in academia, either in community colleges or universities, and applying for those jobs felt safe, sensible, as if teaching in higher education is the next logical step for someone with an MFA. But on Sunday I came across a job that I’m qualified for, that provides full benefits, that is full time–in other words, a job that is more stable than adjunct work–and that is outside of the protective nest of academia, the nest where all the other poets and writers seem to live and convene, where they share their connections and resources and encouragement. Also, this would be more than just a desk job. I would be working for a non-profit organization with at-risk youth in public schools (that is, if I get it) full time, which means this wouldn’t be the kind of job where I could occasionally write notes for poems at my desk/cubicle or the kind that is free of intellectual and emotional strain. This job, as far as I can tell, would be a challenge. And I would be doing something that I consider to be important: giving kids the same chance I had at education.
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