But the thing is, when I did go to morning lectures, I wasn't much good. My brain was ping-ponging around in my head from one thing to another. I kind of see how this last residency is set up with a lot of open time, purposefully. I spent the better part of the first seven days prepping for (and worrying about) my lecture. I hadn't been nervous about it until a run-through on day 4(?) that didn't go well. From that point on, I just walked around in a haze and mumbled to myself about Shakespeare. I didn't feel like I could really sit in lectures and absorb a lot of anything. The afternoon free time was good, and I used it to practice. I think that ultimately helped.
I had long meetings with two editors and two agents who had read my work. Since I'm a short story writer (let's all pause and nod in affirmation of the fact that I just called myself that for the first time since ever), there wasn't much that could happen in those meetings, but they were a good chance to get professional feedback. I'm incredibly grateful that I was in a program (past tense... getting choked up...) that allows for that kind of real-world interaction and feedback. Invaluable. Hard to do, trying on the ol' introversion, but completely and utterly wonderful in terms of what it means in my writing life.
The meetings took a toll. And not having workshop--not having that connection to other people and their work--though it was nice in some ways not to have the monkey of the reading on my back, made me feel all week like I was floating. A part of me felt like I'd been let go already, like I was the girl who was hanging around to say "I used to go here." Already. I was in Purgatory. (God, that's an awful analogy, but I can't think of another way to say it. I couldn't move on.) Sure, I had delivered letters that we graduates had written to the new students on the first night of rez, tried to make a connection for our class. But those new students had moved in to workshop and filled our old seats, not even sensing that we'd been there before. Life was carrying on while the nineteen of us sat around on the patio all afternoon, staring at each other. What are we supposed to be doing? We all seemed to wonder for the better part of the week.
As a residency, it was more of a struggle to get through than others have been. But there were some definite highlights. Margaritas on El Paseo with my girls. Seeing my fellow graduates--my friends--get up and lecture. I feel really proud to have graduated with such a bunch of smarties. Ugly sweater night. And the special graduation dinner that my mentee, Eileen, planned for my friends the night of my lecture. She had my thesis bound for me as a special gift, and every detail of the dinner was just perfect. It felt incredibly special. I felt incredibly special.
Something about the week felt off, though. I decided this just meant, probably, that it was time to go.
And the going, graduation, was a rough day emotionally. Happy: My whole family was there: parents, sister and her husband, E, monkeys, E's mom and dad, and K. Everyone who has supported me all the way through and helped us to make it through school--both me and E--for the last six years of law school and MFA. And I'm so grateful that my "people" on both sides had the opportunity to meet each other, to get to know a little bit more about what makes me, me. To see what my world looks like. More difficult: Things coming together like that is intense. And the fact that it combined with my emotions about having to leave this safe, positive and creative space... it was just hard.
I've been worried for months that I'd go back to my life just as if my MFA program didn't happen. Still am. I felt that tug inside me a little bit that day. And the fact that some of my besties are remaining means I feel a kind of separation anxiety I struggle to define. It makes me feel panicky. It's stupid--I know they're in my life forever, but the fact that they stay and I leave makes me feel grabby and puts a lump in my throat.
Ultimately, the ceremony was lovely and I had a great night. But there is that sad feeling after the lecture, or after the graduation, when you go back to your room and change out of your pretty dress and change back into your jeans and life goes on. And you go out and sit by the fire and stare into it for hours willing the night to go on forever, and eventually, everyone yawns and starts to head back to their rooms and it's just a cold night. You drive home and there's all the laundry. Circle of life.
I do know this: I didn't get a college experience, really. I rushed through. I was only in college for three months longer than I was in my MFA, which was only just over two years. I hated my undergrad, so I just wanted out. And everything that my college experience was not, my MFA was. This program came to me when I needed it as a creative outlet, but it also gave me a do-over. As a way to recognize things within myself that I never knew I was capable of. I came in wanting to write and looking to find something else I could do. I'm leaving knowing what it is I'm supposed to be doing. I'm leaving with so many connections, with so much love in my heart for so many good and kind souls who've helped me to grow. Gah. It almost hurts. It's hard to look at these pictures without feeling an ache. But a good one, you know?
I'm sad when things have to end, but I like that it makes people want to say what they feel. And thank goodness for these people who have an abundance of words. My heart is full of them.