MFA or Bust-What’s Worth Waiting For
Some things take far too long to complete, but are perhaps worth the wait. No they are worth the wait. I have to believe that, I have to believe that time makes you appreciate, and work harder for what you truly need, instead of the frivolous wants of youth, that can sometimes mislead us horribly.
I graduated from California State University, Long Beach in 1993 (I’ll wait for you to do the math.) Many of us who called ourselves writers were thrilled to hear that CSULB was starting an MFA program. I know I was, and swiftly applied. Relatively young, I only applied to CSULB’s MFA program, and begun to pray. And then the letter came and I was accepted. I would later find out I was one of maybe 3 poets, and others were on the waiting list. At the same time, my mother had become ill, and I was the only one making money. My older brother, high 70% of the time and living in the garage of our rented house, was little help. All other family had escaped Long Beach, or found their ways into jail, rehab, or all of the aforementioned. So suddenly it fell on me, to take care of my cancer filled mother who was 56 and had been talking about dying since I made the mistake of graduating high school (she’s still alive). There was no way I could work, take care of my mother, and attend grad school, but I had a strange hope in my heart. As if a fairy godmother existed and she’d find me walking up willow street one day, jump out of Willow Landing bar and hand me a life with different circumstance: healthy mother, (mentally and physically) scholarship to MFA, and living expenses (I didn’t need a Prince Charming like the majority of women wanted).
The resentment I had for my mother was already festering; this would not calm it. However I avoided calling the school and telling them I could not take my place where I knew I belonged. The school called me. Glenn Bach, I believe was the one who called to check my status. (If it wasn’t you Glenn, forgive me, but I remember it as you). I knew Glenn, we shared nights of poetry, and could recall him reading a poem in our circle of friends and whatever alcohol we could afford about his girlfriend leaving. There was a line in that poem about waking up without her and he compared it to “a man who can still feel his phantom limb”. (sorry if I screwed that up too). Glenn use to draw in one of the Liberal Arts Buildings, I would see him when I walked by to some class that left no impression. So when it was him that called I choked up. He did his job, he asked if I was attending, and I had to say no. He said, “You should have let us know. Other people are waiting.” I stumbled over some words that were lies and useless, because what was I to do lay out my pathetic story like it mattered to anyone else but me.
In the end I think it was the best. At the time I learned my friend Andrew Demcak was moving on with his life in San Francisco, and Kristine Sanders was not attending the MFA program, and I had sort of thought she was. Perhaps the real reason I did not attend was I was afraid to do it without support of those I truly loved. And I really did love Andrew and Kristine. Kristine so much so, that we stayed friends for a long time, and I even introduced her to the man she married and they share four beautiful children. Andy leaving broke my heart. I hated the man he married, had seen the ugly in his new husband and feared Andy would too. Funny outside of a Facebook post we have not seen each other in years.
Maybe I did not want it bad enough then. No, I didn’t want it bad enough then, or I would have found a way. Now, I want it with an ugly fervor that doesn’t seem to care about circumstances, lack of money, or those who will be second to my true loves, poetry, writing, haven written. I’m older. Wiser I wouldn’t bet on. As I have begun to fill out applications, write personal essays, put together a portfolio, and stress I know now I will appreciate it. At this mature (?) age I want to hear criticism, I want to workshop, I want to be told how I can be better, I want to discover how I can be better, I want to believe in my talent, and most importantly I need to believe in me.
Andrew posing in back, Kris all the way to the right, Joey (there is not enough I can say about him, other than I love him) in the middle and me on the left. Thanks to Candace More who found this.