Monday, May 14, 2012

Chapter 80: In Which I Declare Mastery

Master of Fine Arts.

70,000 smackeroos and I get a pen, a cardboard fan, a water bottle, and a folder with the word Mills on it with no diploma inside. I write 1/6th of a rough draft, generously referred to as "thesis," got the muttering assent of two professors, then put an embargo on it so one may ever read it.

All cynicism aside, I have finally graduated with my Masters. The celebration was well worth it. Seeing all my friends with their family was worth it. Sitting next to my beloved Mills sisters as they took their robes off, got drunk and muttered at the president to hurry up her speech was worth it. The confetti in the air was worth it. A college commencement is a parting, yet it felt like nothing less than a reunion. We were all together.

And we were all smart, and ambitious. The Mills English graduates of 2012. Hearing everyone discuss their post-graduate plans was so inspiring. These are people who WILL publish books, who WILL teach, who WILL work in publishing. 

It seems not long ago I sat in Maud Casey's office at University of Maryland and talked seriously with someone about dropping out of grad school. At the time, continuing my education seemed the most distant thing in the world. Graduate school has been a 5-year journey and I saw it to the champagne glass end.

First of all, I thank my family. Family has always meant more to me than blood. There were times I wanted to drop out, saw it as the only option, but it was my family who told me to push through. Getting to visit my friends in Pittsburgh over winter vacations kept me balanced after all the Bay area insanity. Getting to see them when they visit the Bay? Just as good.

I thank the new friends. Those who I met in class and hippie houses. Writers, painters, world travelers, Antarctica cartographers, dancers, squatters. Amazing people. Every new friend reminding me that I live in maybe the world's biggest gathering of interesting people.

I thank the artists. My brothers and sisters from the Interdisciplinary Writers Lab. Kim Vodicka, who went on the road with me. Adam Atkinson, who introduced us. Everyone who hosted us on tour. Everybody who organized every reading and every performance that inspired me over these last two years. My world has been filled with artists. I can count several authors as close personal friends.

I thank the teachers. Micheline Marcom, Dr. Rebekah Edwards, Dr. Tarah Demant, Kathryn Reiss, Miranda Mellis, among others. Thank you for teaching me.

The students of English 001: Thank you for being open to my instruction.

I thank my love, Carleen. We met during one of my darkest periods in the Bay. Would it be cliche to say she was my light? Oh well then.

At graduation rehearsal I was speaking with the fellow who produced my audiobook. We were sitting on some steps. He said he first saw me at orientation.

"What was I doing?" I asked him.
"Sitting on some steps," he said.

There and back again, eh? If grad school taught me one thing, it's to take life one thing at a time. Multitasking does not work for me; I focus on one thing and do it well. Last weekend what I did well was celebrate with my family and friends.

Next up: I'm a panelist at Baycon and Fanime. Doing a panel on this year's Hugo nominees. Have not yet read Among Others. Excited to do so.

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