Today I finished the last piece of the MFA application puzzle, and mailed off my Graduate Assistantship Application to the University of Memphis (lovingly due Feb. 15th, so I had some breathing room). This has to be the eighth or ninth time I’ve gone to the post office on Church and Vesey on my lunch break. The Church Street post office is one of those massive, immaculate post offices, standing right next to the pit of Ground Zero. It was strange, of course, to be plowing through the cold towards the site, where safety officers in yellow vests hold plastic chains to contain the pedestrian traffic on the makeshift street between Foley Square and Ground Zero. I moved to the city one week before September 11th happened; and here I was, walking by the gaping hole as I sent dozens of envelopes into the world, all of which signal my possible leaving New York.
The whole application process often seemed like an out of body experience. Am I really expending all of my post-job energies at my desk in Brooklyn, writing and re-writing statements of purpose and quoting my graduate GPA, printing endless copies of my writing sample and charging fee after fee on my credit card? (The cost of applying to 12 schools, while I did prepare for it, has still left me reeling). The worst came somewhere between application #6 (Purdue) and application #7 (Arkansas), where the burn out was so profound I had serious thoughts of just not applying, of just letting my hard won letters of recommendations and GRE reports disappear into nothingness. I can say I owe my victorious slogging through to the finish line to my patient roommate, her penchant for quadrupling brownie recipes, the soundboards of facebook and twitter, and, of course, the ever-so-valuable MFA Blog.
The MFA Blog, with its ongoing cascade of conversations through each post’s comments section, kept me going with affirmations of everything from is-it-okay-to-list-publications-in-the-scholarships-and-awards-section, to oh-my-god-why-the-eff-did-i-ever-decide-to-do-this-tell-me-again outbursts. Now that we’re in the throes of the waiting game (schools promise response anywhere from mid March to mid April, with past reports showing that accepted applicants were notified as early as the last week of January), though, I’ve had to take a break. There’s so much data and speculation that ever supportive friends and co-workers finally snapped, when I gleefully announced this week that an applicant on the blog heard from Alabama and was accepted for poetry. (“Why does it matter?!” exclaimed my boss, to which I sheepishly replied, “Well, y’know, if she hears…then maybe I’ll hear…or next week…y’know.”) Apparently, back in the day, the waiting game only involved waiting, and not all the bells and whistles of the internet and patterns of past acceptance years and which schools are hiring and which schools cut funding. It’s nerve-wracking enough knowing that my fate is now in the hands of twelve selection committees who are reading anywhere from 75 (that’s Kansas’s ballpark) to 1,100 (that’s UT Austin’s ballpark) writing samples. A break from all the extraneous information, until I hear via phone, or e-mail, or snail mail, what my next bold move could or couldn’t be, is necessary.
Meanwhile, it’s most surreal to think that I might leave New York. I have moments in my apartment–reading on the couch, or watching my cat tumble from the countertop–when I think, I might not be here next year. And who would leave such a beautiful apartment, in such a magnificent Brooklyn neighborhood? Who would leave dear friends and queer dance parties and so many places where, as the saying goes, everybody knows your name? Who would leave the many bike lanes, the larger than life energy, the first place you got to when you were 18 and decided that you needed to go?
Writers who are offered three years of funding, writing community, and teaching opportunity, I suppose.
I did, though, take the F train two stops to Smith-9th Street on a mild Sunday night recently, and walked the streets of Red Hook to attend my friend Simone Metleson’s art show with artist talk. Here was a tiny gallery of curated fiberworks, all beautiful, all carefully articulated by their creators, a room of mostly women, some in sneakers, some with bike helmets, some with dresses, some with babies. On the dark walk along Court Street under the BQE, I thought, I can’t leave here. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
Luckily, there’s nothing to decide and no where else to go.