I'm Never Going to Graduate
I've avoided really admitting this to myself, but it's time for brutal honesty. In the future, when I look back on this past year, chances are I'll think of it as the year I took off to watch TV.
Don't get me wrong; it's been far from a complete waste of time. I managed to get into the Master's program in philosophy at the University of New Mexico. Then again, I've also decided that what I really want to do, eventually, is write novels or screenplays, or both. So yeah.
After getting into playwriting and doing my philosophy thesis as a sword-and-sorcery novella, I was hoping for admission to an MFA program in creative writing. That didn't work out. Disheartening, if in hindsight unsurprising. For better or worse, I'm a "genre" writer, and certainly not an exceptional one plus, I didn't take any literature classes at Colby.
As matters stand, I guess I've got a pretty good deal. I do miss philosophy classes, and philosophy classmates. Debt will be substantial, but manageable. The department's strengths align nicely with my interests. UNM also appears to have thriving dramatic and creative writing programs, in which I hope I'll have time to dabble, so I can give MFA apps another, better shot. The truth is that I'm not ready for graduate-level creative writing, so having at least two years to get there might be for the best.
The bitter catch is that of all the programs I applied to, UNM was the only acceptance, and even there I actually applied for the doctoral track. This would suck somewhat less if I hadn't spent hundreds of dollars on application fees and GRE score reports.
Still, what nags at me most about this past year isn't its eventual outcome--like I said, it may be for the best--but my relative inactivity. It's been weird keeping track of my classmates while I've been unemployed, un-enrolled and generally not contributing substantially to any greater good. They've been working for a girl's school in India, the magazine Atlantic Monthly, Congressmen, a small but internationally active nonprofit (citihope.org), the National Institutes of Health, an ambitious swords-and-coolness Indie film (hirokinmovie.com) and so on, or they've been in grad school, while I've mostly just been finding my bearings. But the question looms: What the hell have I done lately?
Hopefully, now that I know for sure what I want to do--as opposed to most of my time at Colby when, honestly, I didn't have a damn clue--I'll use the next two years more efficiently than has been habit. And this finally brings me, sort of, to the "year spent watching TV" thing. This past year I've consumed a LOT more fiction (genre or otherwise) than I've created, but I wouldn't have had time for much of it if I'd been less adrift. I didn't realize just how out of touch I'd become (at Colby, and during the three years before that, living overseas) with pop culture, particularly TV.
A would-be professional storyteller should be familiar with a wide variety of contemporary storytelling, and the biggest common touchstone in America is probably TV, whose quality I keep hearing has made great strides of late. Plus, having very little experience relevant to screenwriting, it makes sense that I should at least drown myself in the stuff after watching very little of it for a very long time. (Don't worry, I've read lots of books, too.)
So now I have something to prove, if only to myself. I still have one chance to make this seemingly aimless year mean something, to make myself feel worthy of my friends who have been far busier than me since graduation and to prove that I've learned tricks and internalized tropes from the hours and hours of Netflix and primetime. If I do this right, I can someday look back on this year as a time spent recharging and reorienting myself to a new, and newly clear, life direction. Starting with two to five more years of school. Maybe I really am never going to graduate.