Writing graduate school starts in 10 days. Ten days!!
I’m having anxiety. I haven’t been a full-time student since undergrad at the University of Iowa and that was 15 years ago. Sure, there’s been a Spanish class here, a seminar there, but starting August 31st, my autodidacticism* will have to scoot to make room for real-life teachers who will like, grade my papers and stuff. I make a point to process a lot of information from day to day, but so far I have not required myself to write essays that I then grade and hand back…to myself.
“Sophie,” I said to Sophie the other day. “I’m nervous about school.”
My friend looked at me like I told her I was thinking of changing my name to Bazooka Joe.
We were at my place. I was sitting on the floor in a pool of fat quarters, selecting fabric for a new quilt because patchwork kills anxiety on contact. Sophie was at the table, inking illustrations for her book. She’s got a book deal with a big-time publisher and is headed into her second year of our two-year program. (I think I’ve mentioned she hired me at the paper and made me the best birthday cake of my life. We were possibly separated at birth but now we are together so everything is going to be fine from now on.)
“There are so many unknowns,” I said. “It’s overwhelming.”
Sophie put down her paintbrush. “Mary Fons,” she said, and then she said it again, but in italics: “Mary Fons. Stop talkin’ nonsense. You are about to have the time of your life. You are about to begin the most wonderful, happy, exciting, amazing two years in your life. The writing department, the school itself — it’s fun. It’s so fun.”
Of all the words I’ve used to describe my concept of what this whole thing is gonna be like, “fun” hasn’t yet been one of them. “Thrilling,” yes, “exciting,” yes. But I hadn’t thought about fun. Maybe it was that first tuition bill.
“You will fall in love with all the professors,” Sophie said. “They’re amazing. There’s a constant stream of incredible visiting artists and lecturers. And Mary: It’s the Art Institute. You can go sit in the museum anytime you want and write, or draw, or just be. For free. Every day. I’m jealous that you’ve got your entire two years starting and I only have one year left.”
Since Sophie’s pep talk, I have been less anxious. Writing, reading, learning, asking questions, making things, being challenged, and making discoveries — this is indeed my jam. I’ll figure out where my classes are, get some school supplies (school supplies, how I have always loved you!), and I’ll be okay.
I can’t wait to tell you about my classes! They are so cool.