The air was not on in the performing arts building and the plumbing was OUT OF ORDER--factors which made me even more uncomfortable as I waited in a chair in the hallway to finalize acceptance of the graduate assistantship the university had offered me--and then reality became all too real, as suppressed memories of my first experience in a Master’s program cascaded in until I was waist-high in anxiety. My throat, however, felt as tight and dry as the moat that so prosaically surrounded the romantic architecture, home to a thriving fish population when the world was as it should be. . .Big decisions called for courage, and courage hinged on faith and, now that it was time to “sign my life away,” I was suddenly out of both, wondering how I had talked myself into this predicament. Again.
You plan, you wait. You type, submit, and wait again—and then, you get what you had wanted. Then, the authentic hell begins, a bigger circle deeper within the realm. The truth is, until this instant, any memories I did have about earning the first MFA revolved around accomplishment. I had achieved a personal goal: I was the first in my family to get to that level of education. Professionally, I had been published, my writing had garnered awards, I had been nominated for Graduate Student of the Year, I had been selected to teach at the college—a coveted position with few openings and stiff competition, and I was handpicked to edit the university’s literary magazine. What was not to celebrate? I felt like the whipped crème atop a prize-winning éclair.
I had blocked out all the bad stuff, the early years, the deadlines, the hours of research and cataloging. How I had been so tense at one point that I had forgotten how to spell simple words. All I actively recalled about graduate school was the tail-end of that arduous journey, my identity after the hair-ripping learning curves of bad teachers and impossible classes. After I had fallen on my face and failed, somehow learning to rise again, after surviving the hazards of workshop where writing was reduced to a formula. Gone were the hardships that had caused me to doubt myself at the basest level, after a particularly-grueling seminar with a famous poet. It seemed like another lifetime, perhaps even a memory belonging to another person, since that terrified girl had had to cancel the negative voices to find her own in the light of existential brutality: What WAS I doing there? And, Where did I think this degree would get me?
My mother always told me: “Childbirth is the toughest pain you will ever endure, but it is also the most easily forgotten.” Well, I have endured both childbirth and graduate school and, although I never did contemplate bearing a second child, I am wondering if pregnancy “at my age” wouldn’t be easier than trying to sweat through a second Master’s Degree.