Matthew A. Merendo
September 21, 2017
12:44 pm

In which I’m four weeks in

Well, I have just finished my fourth week as a candidate for a master’s of fine arts in creative writing, and I must admit I am envious of people who still get to sleep.

The program itself isn’t exhausting, but life is. I realize now, and probably the first thing you should address if you’re considering a graduate program, is that no matter what you think, no matter how much free time you have now, even if you already know you’ll be busy in a graduate program, you will be busier than you think.

At the moment, I’m working 37 hours a week, taking 7.5 hours of class a week and doing the required reading and writing, and working as a technology assistant to my creative writing department. In addition to these “official” duties, the program also expects you to become a “literary citizen” — their term. This means you attend literary events like readings, both on and off campus, and guest lectures. You assist undergraduate classes when necessary, running panic labs for composition courses or facilitating workshops for introductory creative writing groups.

So you’ll have to do all of this in addition to the things you like to do on your own — hang out with friends, either old ones or new ones; write; play video games; read for pleasure. Eat, sleep, bathe.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that sleep is the first thing you jettison, followed closely by eating. I haven’t reached the point where I’m tossing out personal hygiene, but we’re only on week four, so stay tuned.

So far, this sounds pretty bleak, right? That’s not my intention. In fact, as I embarked on this new program in a new city, I promised myself several things. That I’d be less shy and self-conscious and afraid. That I’d try more things. That I’d say yes more often. That I’d complain less. So far, I’m not very good at keeping this promise — but I’m trying.

To that end, let me say this — I’m happier right now than I have been in many, many years, at least a decade, maybe more. There are dozens of reasons why this is so, and I won’t go into them here — not yet, at least. But all these things that my program has made me do — read out of my comfort zone, attend readings, help out the undergraduates — has already given me feelings of community and connection that I haven’t had, again, in a decade. And I’m grateful for that.

Now if the program can give me someone to cuddle with at night, I’ll be set for life.

Matthew A. Merendo