“Should I go to grad school for an MFA in creative writing?” I’ve been asking myself lately.
I’ve dropped out of grad school. Twice. Both attempts were somewhat ill-considered. The first time, two years of college, I completed half of a master’s degree in Humanities. I thought that I would go from there into a PhD program in English and become a professor. Except I also threw in a journalism class about cultural criticism, and a comp lit class about trauma studies. Looking back, I was all over the place, trying to repeat college.
Medical circumstances intervened, and once they were resolved, I no longer wanted to be an English professor. I was infused with a sense of mortality. I wanted to be an artist, make a film. So I signed up for a filmmaking class offered by a local university. When they announced that they had created a new MFA degree in film, I thought, why not?
I completed about 2/3 of that degree, before taking a one semester break. Which became two semesters. An interest in art film and documentaries did not translate into the fanatical drive and resolve and financial commitment needed to become a filmmaker, for me.
There were other, lesser grad school attempts. A year after college, I started a post-baccaluareate program in Clinical Psychology, where I lasted one semester, partially due to the high cost of the program and my low salary as a part-time nanny.
Then there was the year I applied for a master’s in English at the University of Vermont and was accepted with a full scholarship. I was planning to quit my job and go, until the Director of Graduate Studies there talked me out of it. Looking back, I’m extremely grateful that I didn’t pursue this path.
There was also the time that I applied to MFA programs in fiction full on. I must have applied to 8 or 10 of them. I was rejected by most, waitlisted at 3, and sure that I would get into at least one. Until the three programs that waitlisted me rejected me.
There were also many many times I’ve pursued other professions, such as extensively researching post-bac programs in pre-medicine. I think I would have been a good doctor. But my medical circumstances would have made it a difficult path.
Most of the above experiences were undertaken while I was working in a field and job that I hated. In retrospect, my grad-school attempts were escapist fantasy. I wanted out of my job, and moving to Vermont, or becoming a famous filmmaker or Professor sounded much better than HR, which I had utterly no passion for. You’re supposed to follow your passion, right?
For ten years, I’d been writing on the side, but I mostly told myself that I didn’t want or need to pursue an MFA in fiction. I wanted a graduate degree that would grant me skills (thus the MFA in Filmmaking). I didn’t need to be taught how to write; I could learn that one my own.
Fast forward to 2017. I left the HR job to work on continuing education programs in writing and other artistic fields. My dream job! I thought at the time. I took a huge pay cut (42%…it still hurts…)
And, I discovered that work is work. There’s still stress. You might as well get paid as much as possible for doing it.
However, in my current role, I am extremely lucky to have the privilege of being able to take classes in the MFA in Writing program where I work. For free.
Thus my dilemma. Is it better for me to get back into HR as quickly as possible, try an make a ton of money and invest in real estate, accelerating my path to financial independence (which would mean all the time in the world to travel and write novels), or is it better to stay in a low paying, still stressful job, and pursue a free MFA in creative writing, but have little money for investments that could generate a passive income for me?
I don’t know!!
Some other life stuff. I’m getting married in, oh, 3 weeks. Turning 33 next month. I want to have kids and I want to be in the financial position to stay home with them. Which would be financially pretty difficult, living in the NYC area.
To be continued…