It would make a great story to say I earned my MFA for my children, to show them a thing or two about being a Badass, unfuckwithable, gettin’-it-done Mother: to give them an example of what can be accomplished when you set your mind to it. And maybe that happened, but it was ancillary. Lovely, but not the point.
The truth is my reasoning may not fit with any typical notion people have about why a person with a lot of other responsibilities would spend two years doing this work. Because if it’s not for my kids, and it’s not for money, and it’s not for recognition (none of which it is) – then why do it? I was asked this two days ago. I’m still reeling, but only because I wasn’t certain of my answer.
If I say it’s for them or for money, or for recognition – well-meaning people nod, smile and pat me on the back or hug me sweetly. It’s really easy, sometimes, to just pick one. Any of these answers quickly appeases. All of these answers seem to make sense to people who aren’t me.
So I’m trying to get at the actual truth here:
It’s more than chasing and fulfilling a dream.
It’s bigger than exploring whether it could even be done.
It’s outside the desire to create, with words, something out of nothing.
It’s even greater than wanting to communicate clearly in a way I just can’t in every day interactions.
All of these are good reasons, true-ish reasons, floating around in my heart and brain. But it’s more, and it’s different, and it’s a driving torrent of cleansing rain:
It’s about earning it.
I did it because it feels good to work hard. It feels really good to get thoughts on paper, and then change them around – again, then again, again – to capture a niblet of truth, out of its entirety – its messy, imperfect, breathtaking surrounding chaos – and to say to myself, yes, that’s what I mean, exactly.
If I had gone directly to graduate school out of undergrad, I believe I’d have spent a terrible amount of time writing about whatever it was I thought, at that time, I should. I was so very busy taking others’ ideas and putting them out there as my own, anxious to prove my learning. Maybe that comes from being first generation to go to college. Maybe I’m just a jackass.
But I’m in the middle of a personal revolution now. I’m earning my place. It’s quiet, and it’s honest, and it needs nothing in the way of attention. But that driving torrent of cleansing rain is compelling me to seek it out – and to do so with no umbrella. To get soaked in the unknown and to welcome the deluge on my face, skin and bones.
In his address to my graduating class, Martin Espada, world-renowned and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet, said;
Today we are here to celebrate you: your vision, your courage, your integrity, your determination, your endurance, your skill, the tales you tell. Listen to Marge Piercy—novelist, poet, teacher and activist—and you will see yourself in her words:
Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.
It’s time for me to pick up a tool. And an umbrella is not a tool.
I’m earning a place for my voice to be heard.
That’s why I did it.