Friday, April 1, 2011

Malibu Barbie vs. Hawaiian Fun Skipper

The last few years have been spent with two goals mind: 1) Finish my book, 2) Get into a MFA program. I’ve run through every emotion that I’m sure all of you have. I’ve been at the bottom of the ravine, looking up and thinking: what the eff? I’ve hemmed and I’ve hawed. I’ve retreated, backpedaled, swam through the rivers of self-doubt, charged feebly through the walls of rejection and in the end when the dust settled, I found myself a tiny bit closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. All this to say that I’ve been accepted to several programs and now face the task of making the right choice.

Lately I’ve been rather content to sweat over the change I see in the distance. The MFA application process is so self-involved and so obnoxious in its ability to wrap even the most calm psyche up into fever that I don’t believe many of us are able to comprehend that life goes on after the results are in. I’ve weighed the possibilities of faculty, area and time. I’ve even panicked over funding, which I had never even considered crying over until various blogs commanded I do so. Now I'm waking up from my hibernation in a daze, like wha? Last year I held onto one waitlist that strung me along by nose all the way through July. This year, I’m writing this from the Southwest terminal of LaGuardia airport at 5am, currently on my way to Chicago to visit the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. I’m somewhere between alive and asleep. Not just because it’s 5:08am in the friggin’ morning, but because I've come to realize that if and when I take one of my offers, I will be starting the next phase of my life which for the past two years has been nothing but some semblance of a dream.

The point being, life never turns out the way you planned it. I wish I could give you a bullet point list to illustrate my reasoning, but my mind is a body of water that strains bridges and dams. If you’re as spiritual as I like to believe I am then hopefully you’ve realized that God has one hell of a sick and twisted sense of humor. My remedial understanding of blessings is that the lord will always deliver, but never on your time, and it’s never the exact package you asked for. You want Malibu Barbie? The Lord brings you Hawaiian Fun Skipper. Well gee thanks, God. Hawaiian Fun Skipper is cool and all, but I wanted the pink convertible and you gave me a pink scooter. There’s some deeper meaning in this, right? Some lesson I will come to realize ten years from now that’ll make me go: Ooooooh...well now I've gotta get on my knees and pray.

For me, my Malibu Barbie was Columbia University. Yes, yes, boo and hiss, wah-wah funding and all that jazz, but I felt that program was perfect for me. I have a life here in New York that I never wanted to give up. I would have sacrificed a few lambs and slapped my momma silly to figure out the finances, but it was worth staying here and continuing the life I'm comfortable with. Alas, I found Hawaiian Fun Skipper under my Christmas tree. Believe me, there was no sadness. Just a quick pause then the happy-bunny-hoppity-hop dance commenced. Now the novelty of it all is wearing off and I’m examining Skipper, I’m noticing the differences between her and Barbie and I’m realizing the warm and fuzzy vision I had in my head is not my reality. Is my vision better than my reality? I don't think so, but I think visions allow us to have our cake and eat it too. My reality is asking me to lose some weight. It requires a lot more courage than the comfy dream I had set out for myself.

I’m currently in the midst of visiting schools: Colorado Boulder, The School of the Art Institute in Chicago and the University of New Orleans. I thought all my choices were in, until last week when I received a phone call from Goldsmiths College, University of London. So once again, my situation has changed and every time I think about it, my brain explodes. Do I study at a MFA program or study at a MA program? I’ve been doing my research and have found pros and cons to both. There are plenty of authors doing quite well with a MA (Hello, Kazuo Ishiguro!) But I already had it in my mind that I’d spend two years in a MFA program, teaching undergraduates and finishing up my novel. What can I possibly accomplish in a yearlong MA program? Meet a hot British guy and make him my husband.

MA degrees are generally less practice based, although my interview with Professor Stephen Knight claims otherwise. I’ll be subjected to more theory and the study of literature, which I’m always fascinated by. I won’t be able to gather any adequate teaching experience in a year. However, if I chose a MA, I could be out of school in half the time and from there reapply to MFA programs right afterwards.

But do I want to be in various schools for that long? Well, if I’m funded why not? If I go to Colorado Boulder, I’ll be in school for 3 years. If I go to London and attend another program afterwards, I could wrack up twice as many degrees in the same amount of time. Plus I’ll be able to live abroad for at least one of those three years. Then again if I already know that I’ll still covet a MFA even after receiving my MA, am I wasting my time? Maybe I should just accept one of my MFA offers and get it over with already. I mean, Jesus, I’m not getting any younger. My facebook is filled with friends getting married and popping out babies. Even my mother, who is practically the face of women who work on their careers before settling down with a husband to start a family, has reverted into a 1950s nosey neighbor: When you gonna get married and give your poor momma some grandkids?

The point is: great, I’ve got direction so…what do I do now? And the only reply I have for myself is: I love my Hawaiian Fun Skipper, so, so freaking much!

I will blog about adventures in the Windy City soon! :D


  1. Carol, what amazing choices you have... Can't wait to hear where the pink scooter takes you!

  2. Thanks, Chelsea. I'll ride the pink scooter till I die!

  3. what a great blog entry. i agree with you wholeheartedly...some of gods greatest gifts are unanswered prayers and somehow the universe always gives us what is best for us. you go girl.


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