I’m… done?

I still find it a little difficult to believe I’m done with my Master of Fine Arts degree. The diploma itself has sat on my desk since January, protected by the stiff cardboard envelope it was mailed in. Until I walk in the graduation ceremony on the 14th, I don’t think I’ll feel like I’ve finished. A piece of paper with my name on it doesn’t seem as concrete a finale.

The months since receiving that expensive bit of paper have been filled with me wondering what to do next. Teaching abroad had seemed like a sure thing, but circumstances dictated that it won’t happen this year. Maybe I’ll get into one of the programs I like on try 2, maybe I won’t. For now I’m working on getting some teaching experience and generally figuring out Plan C.

I’m continuing to study Japanese because I enjoy studying, not because I feel I need it. During my thesis semester, studying helped keep me sane. To a nerd like me, making and studying flash cards is soothing and having the structure of studying something is also a sanity saver. I started to pick Japanese up again faster than I expected, so I suppose all that time I spent watching anime and half-heartedly studying Japanese as a teenager did pay off. I can say a lot more than just 私は日本語が少しわかります(I understand a little Japanese), and I can back up that sentence with evidence. Once upon a time, my fluency in any language other than English was limited to a few pleasantries (please, thank you, hello, goodbye) and the all-important “I don’t speak this language.” For French, Spanish, and German, that’s still more or less all I can say. I’m still surprised how often I was stopped in Europe by natives asking for directions (my favorite was in Amsterdam, where the woman went on to say “English! Second time this has happened today”). Apparently my choice not to dress sloppily paid off, and I managed to somewhat blend in.

One of the best things that’s come out of me beginning to shed my monolingual status is the international community of language learners. I never realized how many fantastic online communities there are, where fluent speakers take the time to correct speakers who are not fluent. I like helping people who are trying to learn English and it’s invaluable to have people correcting my still-sketchy Japanese.

There are other things I ought to be focusing on, such as my writing career, but for now I’m taking it slow while I decide exactly what I want my focus to be. I write, or at least work on plotting and development, almost every day. That too keeps me sane while I figure out all those larger life goals.

Final semester, I am in you

My first meeting of the semester with my thesis chair took place on Thursday. Even though I felt woefully underprepared, I think I managed to come across both more coherent and less stressed out than I in fact was. The mile walk to campus is about the perfect length to clear my head before a meeting without tiring myself out. As I suspected, it seems like my advisor is good at this type of teaching, and she sent me home with a decent list of books and articles to look at to help me get a feel for what others have done with subjects I’m writing about.

In the end, even if I hate the final drafts of my thesis, I will have learned a ton during my time at Emerson, and I truly look forward to being able to ask my advisor a lot of questions about research projects. My thesis isn’t a research project, but the couple things I want to work right after I finish this up will be heavily research oriented. No matter how much I end up hating my thesis, I at least have projects I’m truly excited for ahead of me.

I’ve read statitistics before about the high percentage of MFA graduates who quit writing after they receive their diploma. Of the ones who don’t quit writing, maybe half are eventually published. I don’t think I’ll be among the set who quits wrting. I don’t think I have it in me to stop having ideas I want to play with.

The point for now is to not get too bogged down by stress and frustration.

Fall is my favorite season, and one that’s perfectly tailored to cut down on the aforementioned stress and frustration. Long walks in cool weather, beautiful New England fall colors, that crisp edge to the air… I’m looking forward to all the things I love about fall, stress or no stress. Maybe this year I’ll even carve a pumpkin for my favorite holiday of the year, good old Halloween.

Home on the front range

On Monday, I flew to Colorado to visit family. At least, visiting was the original plan, before I found out I’d have to spend a fair amount of it running errands. I’d planned the trip back in February without taking into account the need to get transcripts from my alma mater and the need to start the process of getting an apostilled copy of my undergraduate diploma.

I hadn’t been on the CSU campus in roughly four years, not since the last time I’d had to meet with a professor about letters of recommendation for graduate school. My mom dropped me off, aiming for the parking lot in front of the Clark building where she’d occasionally dropped me off when, for whatever reason, I couldn’t make it to campus alone as an undergrad. Only, the parking lot wasn’t there anymore, and it took us a couple minutes to realize it all looked different because there was a large new building where the parking lot used to be. We both giggled about how long it took for the changes to register. The nice new mostly-glass building threw into relief just how ugly Clark is, a building that shows its roots in the Nebraska Gothic Architectural Movement (okay, I lie, there is no such movement, but it’s more fun than saying “hideous 60s or 70s architecture that doesn’t fit in with the old and pretty parts of campus”).

The building the English Department is housed in hasn’t changed, and it wasn’t difficult to find my former professor’s office to meet with her about the rather long, complicated instructions for writing letters of recommendation. The meeting went fairly well, though it’s always a little awkward to reconnect with someone I haven’t seen in years and who doesn’t remember me as well as I do her. Considering the number of new students she teaches every year, I’m not surprised I did not stick in her memory. Introverts who do participate in class can still seem quiet and my writing wasn’t exactly top-notch.

I’m relieved to have the diploma and transcripts ordered. I’m also relieved that I finished some of the major shopping errands with my mom’s help– I hate shopping for clothes, but I was down to one pair of trousers that looked half-decent. I just wish I hadn’t needed to fly home to Boston yesterday. My favorite part of visiting my parents is always good conversation and good food, so I’m always a little sad to return to my own cooking and living alone.