After Page One: The Journey

From the Literary Mama Blog, December 2015


The phone rings. My boss calls me into her office. Three clothing donors show up, all asking for help with carloads of shoes and suits. Two volunteers don’t come in for their shifts.

After all this, I’m supposed to go to campus for a three-hour class and be inspired?

Getting my MFA at night while working full time is not an easy road. A lot of times, I find myself thinking, Everything keeps getting in my way. I have this illusion of a clear path, with no bumps or obstacles, and my stupid messy life keeps throwing crap in the middle of it. If the road were clear, I could write beautiful, evocative essays. If the road were clear, I could finish my first thesis draft before it’s due. If the road were clear, everything would be so much easier. Get out of my way, I think. Everyone. Everything.

The phone rings. The printer messed up the new brochures. A client has a complaint.

I know I need to be less resistant. Maybe all these distractions, they are not IN my way. Maybe they ARE my way. Maybe my MFA path is not meant to be smooth and problem-free. Maybe I’m not just learning how to write, and read, and critique. Maybe I’m learning how to edit poems on my lunch break, how to summon creativity after a long day at the office, how to let the small inconveniences roll off my back because they don’t matter, how to be everything I need to be, all at once – a student, a professional, a writer, an editor, a friend.

The phone rings. I find out we didn’t get a large foundation grant that would have put us in the black. I forget to eat lunch.

This is not to say that those who pursue an MFA without working are not motivated or busy. This is not to say that those who pursue an MFA while working are smarter or stronger than other people. It is to say that life’s major obstacles could be our biggest teachers.

The elevator breaks down. Someone steals a handbag. The phone rings, and rings, and rings.

Every time I get frustrated (which is often), every time I choose to mindlessly watch TV after work instead of read or write (which, again, is often), every time I pass up a project or opportunity or social engagement because I’m “too busy” (see a pattern here?), I’m going to ask myself – What can this crap in the middle of my road teach me? How can I use this to become better, to learn how to prioritize, to favor self-care over disconnection, to engage my mind instead of turning it off?

Don’t misunderstand. I am tired. This is hard. There is no way around either of those facts. But changing my view so that obstacles become opportunities will at least ensure that when I’m supine and exhausted, I also feel accomplished and useful and…

Hold on. The phone is ringing.


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