Back to Tuscaloosa. Back to work. (Well, sort of. Back to thinking about work. Back to knowing I should do work. Back to planning to do work sometime soon. Back to getting drinks at Loosa Brews?)
This time last year, I had just submitted my MFA applications and was trying to find ways to distract myself as I waited for responses. I had no idea where I would end up. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted in a program.
One important factor when considering where to apply is location. Yes, it is not the only factor, but it also shouldn’t be dismissed. For instance, how would you really feel about living somewhere that regularly gets below 20 degrees Fahrenheit during wintertime? How does a lack of sunshine affect your mood? Are you willing to do long-distance with your current partner? How important is it to you to be near family and friends? Do you prefer to live in a city, a town, or somewhere rural? What is the cost of living like in that place?
Give yourself permission to care about these things. There are so many good MFA programs, and I would argue that where you live can be just as significant as the ranking, status, etc. of a particular program. When I sent out my applications, I almost felt like I wasn’t allowed to care about location, but I think you should. Don’t go somewhere rural if you can only imagine yourself in a city. Don’t go somewhere in the Midwest if you hate absolutely the cold. Even if you’ve always dreamed of living in New York City, if you get into NYU or Columbia without any sort of fellowship or scholarship, think about how those costs are going to impact your life.
As for me? I’ll be honest. Tuscaloosa’s not perfect, but it does have enough of what I want. I’m glad I’m not somewhere any more rural, any colder during winter, or any more expensive. Being a city person, I’m glad that Birmingham is only an hour away, and that Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans aren’t too far either.
So think about it. Where do you want to live?