Monday, September 29, 2008

Graduate School Attempt Two

I feel like all this stuff about applying for my Ph.D's been annoyingly swimming around in my head, so it's time to lay some of these thoughts to rest. I think first I need to give a note of thanks for how many willing current and former Ph.D candidates have helped me out by answering all of my questions, some of them going to greater lengths than needed to talk to me via telephonic apparatus and through long emails. And I hope to repay the favor to others someday.

The last year has been a weird one, one of transition, one of not unhappiness but not one filled with the vigor I had for everything poetry when I was getting my MFA. Yes, times weren't always like that, but I was not one of the seemingly many discouraged folks who went through a kind of paralysis of language for whatever reason. But enough about that. I've talked about it before.

I gave myself one year post MFA, and thankfully VCU let me stick around and had room for me to teach some adjunct spots, for which I am now grateful after hearing about horror stories regarding folks driving to community colleges and other universities for one or two classes, just to make ends meet. The year was, of course, "If I still want to get my Ph.D after that year, then I'm applying, and if I don't, I'll try to look at other options."

Well, that time has come, since it's almost October, and I've spent the past month dwindling down my list to about eight programs. I like academia. I've always liked academia. But that word has evil connotations. I, like most, had my fair share of bullshit to deal with during my MFA. One of the main things being three undeserved grades of a B, lowering my Wait-Everyone-I-Know-Graduates-From-Their-MFA-Program-With-A-4.0-So-What-The-Christ GPA to something lower than I wanted. I'm over that, though, and dealt with it accordingly, by moving on and writing, and knowing that it was good enough and high enough for folks to glance at it before glancing at the things that are really going to matter with the applications.

But I want to live somewhere new, even though I love Richmond. I'm ready for more workshops. Do I need them? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'm not vehemently against them like some post-MFA, who clearly couldn't take criticism then, and certainly aren't looking forward to criticism again for at least four more years. I say criticize all you want: for me it can only help my writing. I'm ready to take courses I never thought I would take. To read books I never would've read otherwise. To meet new graduate students. To meet new professors. To learn new customs. Visit new places. Drink beer at different bars. And everything else that comes along with it.

Those are my reasons. Plus, I still have the fire to want to do all that. I haven't become old and stuck in some job I hate and jaded about the whole thing. And I hope to never be. I might eventually, yes, and the chances of getting a job in four or five years related to what I want to do is equally slim. I'm aware of that. But I'm ready for the challenge. If I'm not challenged, I'm usually unhappy, and though the last year hasn't been an unhappy one, now I know what was missing. That's if someone wants me at their school, and hopefully they do.