Friday, September 14, 2012

MFA--Should I or Shouldn't I? Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers!

Happy Poetry Friday!  Today's poem is about making a decision and so is your poetry writing prompt, below.

So we've been discussing going for an MFA.  Mary Ann posted that it was the best two years of her life. Carmela posted that one of the biggest pros was that it definitely made her a better writer and forced her to make writing a priority.

So...should I go for an MFA or shouldn't I?

It's complicated.

When I was seriously looking into applying to one of the low-residency MFA programs, our only child was a sophomore in college.

I was worried, mostly because I'm a sloooow reader and didn't know if I could keep up with the evil and overwhelming reading assignments I'd heard about.  And worried because I finally had the quiet time I'd craved for years.   Was I crazy?  Was I rushing to fill up the space before I'd even wallowed in it for a bit? 

Was I was just raising my hand, signing up, because I had no other plan?  Did I need to sit in the hallway surrounded by closed doors a little longer and wait to see which one opened on its own?

I decided to go for it.  (Well, 89% of me did.)  Now it was just a matter of deciding where I would apply.  I asked lots of MFA grads.  I got lots of advice.

Meanwhile, it was a gentle, blossoming time in our lives.  My son, who had been nearly absent from the family, hanging out with a girlfriend since he was 14,  was suddenly single and actually calling and texting us. 

We were making up for lost time.  It was delicious.  It was thirst-quenching.  My mother roots were taking in all the rain they could soak up for as long as it lasted.

Even when my husband could not come with me because of work demands, I would use our frequent flyer miles to fly up to Berkeley now and then, if only to sit in on one of my son's cognitive science classes, share a pizza with him and his friends at the Cheeseboard Collective, and fly home.

I knew that if I added an MFA program, this extra layer, to my life, it would be, well, an extra layer.  How would I balance my aging mother who lives alone, my aging uncle in a senior residence who needs my attention more and more, my writing career, my political activism, and, oh yes, family and marriage?

My stomach hurt thinking about it.

Here's what turned me around.  My friend Julie.  She knows me.  This is what she said:

Oh, April.  Don't do it now.  Not now when you finally have such a warm connection with your boy.  You'll have time later, Dear.  Do it when he's in medical school, when he's in residency, when he's married.  Do it then.  Enjoy him now.

Hmmm.  MFA.  Family.   MFA.  Family.

For some, it's not this simple.  It's not either-or.  But for me, it suddenly it was that simple.

Two years later, I have my golden boy, my best friend husband, my teaching gig, several new manuscripts and no regrets.

Okay, look—it's not all tied up in a bow.  I've had lots of rejections. I have self-doubt.  but I have the morning glories in my garden and space to breathe.

Writing Workout: Decisions, Decisions.

There are thirty inspiring ideas about how to make a decision on this blog post.  Choose one as a jumping off point for your poem.

(Of course, you'll have to decide which of the thirty to use, won't you?)

I chose this one:
Imagine having made the decision. If you get a feeling of relief, that’s the way to go, even if it’s coupled with sadness. -Emma Gilding

by April Halprin Wayland

Pull off the sheets
slip pillows out
pile in machine
then shut the door
hear it click shut
pour in the soap
hit button hard
watch the sheets whirl

sheets swirl in soap
just like my thoughts
round they go round

now they are warm
now they are dry
now they are clean

spread them out wide
pull them on tight
now I lie down
how do I feel?
Fresh. Clean. Relieved.
poem © 2012 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Thank you, Diane, for hosting Poetry Friday
at Random Noodling today!


Linda at teacherdance said...

Because of some family crises, I've had to make so many decisions recently, & your poem hit me exactly, April, 'round they go round'. Sometimes it's even challenging to decide when to do those sheets! I like that you shared your process in detail about that MFA. Outside pressure is difficult to resist, but you seemed to keep priorities straight. Thanks for your candor, & I'm happy for you that it all worked out.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

I think plenty of folks can identify with your poem, April - whether or not we're going for our Master's. Great job!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

This is the perfect metaphor, indeed! I know that the next time I make a big decision, I will see my brain as full of swirling sheets. Thank you, April! Thank you, too, for sharing your story - there are so many ways to learn, and that time with your boy was prime. I appreciate that decision making site too - helpful! Happy PF! a.

Leslie Bulion said...

Thank you for sharing your story and poem, April!

Diane Mayr said...

If only life were as easy as laundry! ;-) Thanks for the poem and the link to the great quotes.

Joy said...

I enjoyed reading your poem and the thoughts it provoked. Thanks for this post.
Congratulations on raising a great son. Hope you get back to San Francisco soon.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Linda at Teacherdance, Matt, Amy, Leslie, Diane and Joy...I really appreciate you reading this post.

There are always so many wonderful links for Poetry Friday...I get completely overwhelmed!


Joyce Ray said...

I love that the poem has no punctuation. It perfectly reflects the feeling of spinning thoughts that won't stop when you're trying to make the decision.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks, Joyce Ray--I hadn't thought of it like that!

Mary Lee said...

Lucky you, to have Julie as your friend!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Decisions, decisions...this is especially difficult when they are about our own development as writers and teachers but impact our families and our relationships with them. I, too, put a Masters on hold, for the same reasons...and we all benefitted from it. Lucky you to have a friend like Julie!

Ruth said...

I love your metaphor of changing the sheets. Perfect.

kbrebes said...

Love the poem!

Just an observation from my own life: Don't make an important decision after having had anesthesia--for at least six months.

Doraine Bennett said...

I hate housekeeping, though I did it all for many, many year. On second thought and just to be strictly honest, I made my children do most of it. Now I pay a lovely housekeeper to change the sheets. Haven't found anyone yet to make the decisions.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Mary Lee and Tara...yes, I am SO lucky to have a friend like Julie.
And's a great comfort you decided the same thing!

Kathleen, I was under just two days before writing this...and I can second that!

Doraine--when you DO find someone...ask 'em how much they charge per hour...

Joanna Cooke said...

Thank you April, Carmela, and Mary Ann! I feel so lucky to have you answering my question, which no doubt other people are asking as well. Each post has pulled me, touched me. I think one thing I've realized through this process is that if I don't apply now or get in, then I can always try again later. I'm so enjoying this discussion. Thanks!

Carmela Martino said...

April, now that I'm back, I finally got a chance to read your poem. Terrific! Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and for describing your process. :-)