The other day a friend and previous classmate asked, "Do you miss the program?" She was referring to the time we spent at UTEP completing our MFA in the Creative Writing department.
In May it will be a year that we graduated. Last year at this time I was knee deep in trying to finish my thesis under a pile of student papers I needed to grade, memories coming to life on the page, tears, half a sandwhich, and coffee. Did I miss that? Hell no! But there were things I did miss.
After being in the work force for five years prior to entering the program I enjoyed the free time, the odd scheduling, just sitting down with a cup of coffee and talking about books. I enjoyed the slow in pace after being rev'ed into red for so long. Now, I am not rev'ed, I still have free time, but now there is the worry of "What's next?" In the program I was surrounded by like minds, we talked about books and writing, we stayed up into the wee hours of the night giggling over half empty beer bottles, and for the next three years our lives were somewhat planned for us. We knew we had to work as teaching assistants and although we weren't making it rain, most of us were comfortable. We made dinner at each other's homes, made beer runs, and met at The Tap to share pitchers. As we neared our expiration date we all grew more busy, writing, looking for the next thing. Wondering, what exactly would happen with this expiration date?
Now, we are in the next thing. We are all trying to write in between working or trying to find a better job. We are schmoozing and participating in things to show we're team players and that yes, we really do want to be headed toward that tenure track position. And while we are all in different places now, doing our own version of the next thing: in a PhD program, teaching, writing for a newspaper, teaching children, we don't have the same connection and or camaraderie that happens in such a small group of strangers that meet under new situations and make fast and ready friendships with anyone else or with each other. We didn't meet a new set of people on the same voyage. There is no commiserating for the most part in our present situations because we are all now at different places, and although there is a connection between us all, of a shared experience, we are not the same either. Things like distance, spouses, babies, and life now get in the way.
So, when I was asked the question, "Do you miss the program?"
I replied with, "Just parts. I miss the ease of it. Does that make sense? And the first year. The first year was the best."