Saturday, March 15, 2008

surreal emerging.

Here it is, three in the afternoon, and I am still processing yesterday. Surreal and long, the kind of day when one moment floats into the next, when, even as you are experiencing the present moment, the past one lingers ghostly. Like moving through a dream state or like gazing too long on a Remedios Varo painting. I have the strong sense that I was supposed to be open to the events of the day, even the most minute occurances – that there were gifts and lessons, one and the same, being spoon-fed to me.

Here is the story of just a one tiny part of the day, a sliver: I was deeply disappointed. And later, profoundly at peace with what is unfolding.

After mailing off grad school applications in January, I was careful to stay level. To remind myself and others, “I may not get in anywhere.” In the first week of March, I got a call. Texas State saying I’d been accepted to their MFA program. I felt pure-happy. The next day, in the mail, a rejection from Johns Hopkins. I felt genuinely relieved.

This one acceptance and this one rejection had put so much in perspective. I knew suddenly, that I’d applied to Johns Hopkins for all the wrong reasons. Nothing about the program itself attracted me. It was only proximity to my family and reputation for decent funding that had prompted me to apply.

Having been accepted to Texas State, something turned in me, and I realized that I also wanted badly to be accepted to the Michener Center program in Austin. And in that turn, I felt this: I just know that I’m one of the lucky ones under consideration. I just know. The very kind of thinking I'd been staying clear of.

Michener is a crap shoot – 700+ applicants to a program that fully funds everyone they accept and on top of it, pays a $20,000 stipend each year for three years. They only accept 12 writers. That’s 12 total – poets, screenplay writers, fiction writers. Where the gumption to assume so much confidence in my own work came from, I do not know.

I learned yesterday that I did not get accepted to the Michener Center. My ego bruised and my confidence deflated, I took a few moments to cry at different points in the day.

Only two hours before this news, I’d had the surprise of opening my email and seeing a message from a student at Texas State to whom I’d spoken last weekend. In her email, she reiterated what a wonderful experience she’d had at Texas State. She wrote:

I've been thinking a lot about our conversation, and I have to reiterate that my time here at Texas State has been one of the most productive, charged, exciting times of my life. I leave here feeling prepared to do what I've come here to do: write. I'm armed, too, with a great fount of knowledge that I never imagined I would have gained--of course, it's been an amazing surprise, as well.

But I'd take none of it back. I cherish it all.

It is--and has been--an amazing MFA experience, considering what I've learned, who I've met, what (and whom) I leave with, many many friends for life and the confidence and power to move mountains. At least metaphorically.

This is how my day had opened – with the reading of her words. A few hours later, the first disappointing rejection I’ve received.

I’ve also been rejected by NYU and Sarah Lawrence. All along, I’ve been saying how badly I wanted to get into Sarah Lawrence. But even that rejection did not bring me to tears. I felt a momentary pang, but also the rightness of it – intuitively, it felt right that I should not go to Sarah Lawrence. I've yet to hear from Irvine and UVA. I'm still holding out hope for UVA. Before, I'd thought UVA wouldn't fit, and now I really do. It would be nice if I had a choice between two to make.

But maybe, and hopefully, divinely, a choice is being made for me. The feeling of excitement and rightness about being accepted to Texas State keeps returning to me, especially in juxtaposition to the near-ambivalence of being rejected by Johns Hopkins, NYU and Sarah Lawrence.

On the telephone yesterday, I told my sister, “I think I belong in the South.” I don’t know exactly what that means. I’m going on intuition a lot lately, letting myself meander down strange paths, hiker without a trail. Out in the wilderness figuring out who I am.

Who is this girl? Who is this girl? This girl living inside of me, pushing and kicking and groping her way out of my body.

In an odd conversation yesterday – after I’d learned of the rejection from Michener Center, a friend talked about caterpillars and butterflies, and whether caterpillars, when they go into a cocoon state, are conscious that they’ll transform.

That’s me right now. I feel like I’m in a cocoon that is beginning, at snail’s pace, to peel open. It’s going to take a few years before the girl inside emerges. I want her to have wings the color of peacock feathers – with an eggplant colored spot at the center of each wing. I want the body between the wings to be deep scarlet red with tiny rust-orange specks. The head, pale gold and seemingly weightless, should shimmer iridescent when it’s under the sun.

I want to be a kind of Flannery O’Connor meets Indo-American princess meets Frida Khalo paintings meets Gustav Klimpt paintings. Is this possible? Too much to envision?

SONG: Lull, Andrew Bird and a whole bunch of other Andrew Bird songs

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