First year, Guest post
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On Wishing & Leaving

“I wish you weren’t leaving.” I get this not from my friends and/or boyfriend but my coworkers. This is the case, I think, for two reasons.

First, my friends aren’t ones for IWYWL because now is the time to leave.  Also, to possibly return to a brighter and more bubbling Boston in two years. But mostly to acknowledge that, while I’ve worked since graduating (TWO WHOLE YEARS!) to become an adult and pay for my own health insurance and wipe down my stove-top, realistically I have no responsibilities. I say this with confidence because the hardest thing I’ve done to prepare for my imminent departure is sit in my boss’s office and tell him I’m leaving.

Which leads to number two.

I really like my job, and my job likes me back. Here’s the takeaway: it’s inherently satisfying and rewarding to be to be great at something. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be life-changing or liberal-arts-approved meaningful; I’m not distributing books to low-income orphans, I’m not publishing the wide-eyed try-hard innovators of tomorrow. I’m working for a Fortune 1000 publishing company. Our goal is to make money. I’ve developed the ability to use corporate speak—and enjoy it. This isn’t a corner I saw around. Maybe I seem disillusioned, but, really, it’s one of the most optimistic things I know. Happiness can be created wherever I end up (given a certain amount of privilege, etc., etc.). This is about 98% of the reason why I’m less super stoked to go to grad. school than I was to go to undergrad. I know my successes and progress won’t directly lead to infinite joy and life-fulfillment, or, rather, now I know graduate school isn’t the only way.

My job allows me to do all the other things I want—like write this post from my work computer or buy ten soon-to-be-Google-identified jarred things from the Asian grocery store down the street. But mostly my job has taught me how to structure the moving and whirling parts of my life. And this is what I will take with me to Oregon State. I would not respect myself for becoming solely a ‘student.’ I’m excited to learn and to write—and I see grad school as that space both physically and temporally—but I have spent the last two years developing hobbies and interests that feed into my writing but that aren’t necessarily writing; things I didn’t have the time (or wherewithal) to work towards in undergrad. In the same way that, now, I’m not solely an ‘editorial assistant,’ I hope to never be a ‘graduate student.’ Please remind me I said this when I’ve lost all perspective and am sharpening my competitive edge.

Here’s the thing: a lot of me wishes I wasn’t leaving, either. I know my friends will remain, no matter our proximity or non-proximity, as will the replete restaurants I didn’t go to, the museums whose Free-First-Xday-Of-The-Months I always managed to miss. Yet, I also know I will never walk back into my office, sit at my very grey desk, and know exactly how to do everything I’m asked to. Going back to school, working as a teaching assistant: it will be hectic, it will be hard, and it will be fucking stressful. This is what I signed up for, but, sitting here in my ergonomic swivel chair, knowing everything will stop at about 5:09PM, grad. school seems daunting in its promise of discomfort.

But discomfort is the whole point. I know I haven’t learned oodles on, you know, a squishy couch and/or an easy English class. I will be intellectually, emotionally (and financially) uncomfortable, and while I’m scared, I’m much more anxious to begin so I’m not living in my Land of Conjecture. The things I know are few: I won’t be able to pack up, make a snide joke about The Bachelorette to someone in an adjacent cubicle (I work in an area I dotingly call “Cube Row”) and leave everything that is my job behind. My work will live with and within me by its nature, and, as a result, I will be personally invested in it. So, of course that makes it harder; but it’s also so much more meaningful. Everything I do will directly contribute to my growth and also, by proxy, contribute to a community of talented people seeking goals similar to my own. We are all trying to alchemize our passions into lifestyles, and, importantly, into careers. Definitely not going to be easy.

So, yes, I’m scared—everything will mean more to me than the website I created or the client meeting I aced. This is a daunting task, although one I know oodles of MFA-ers have overcome by making it their own and, thusly, making it a tailored kind of awesome. And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Image: Nathan O’Nions

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Alana Folsom is an MFA candidate at Oregon State University. She graduated from Bates College in 2012 with a BA in English and a concentration in creative writing

If you’re interested in contributing a guest post to The MFA Years, visit our submissions page.

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