The saying goes that things happen for a reason. There is a similar saying that states things happen when meant to, not necessarily when we want them. I feel like my life for the past two years has been an experiment in these common thoughts. Hell, probably even longer than that.
I have been meeting with different individuals in the academic world, and in the process explaining my personal academic history. I graduated in 2008, half-assed attempted to apply to graduate programs knowing full well that the effort I put into the process was half, if not a quarter, of what was needed to fully impress someone, because at the time my goal was to stay with my boyfriend, soon to be fiance, of the time. In retrospect it is obvious that I blew whatever chances I had at graduate programs because my sole concern was making sure Jonathan and I remained in the same town, in the same place, glued together like I thought relationships should be. It has taken four years, a rather unconventional job (for a mid-twenty woman), and unknown, but really known, support of family and friends. I don’t have fear to hinder me, aside from that positive fear that floats in your belly; the kind that you get before making a big move to a different and wholly new place, or the fear that excites you because you are beginning a new relationship and you have no idea what will happen.
My first fledgling steps into academia include applying, getting accepted, and registering for non-degree graduate work. The longterm plan is to take classes that can aid in applying to the Nonfiction Writing Program at Iowa. When I was an undergraduate with the University, the course work for those interested in creative fiction and nonfiction was slim. I was a year or two too early for the advancements they have in place now. I took full advantage of what they did offer, though, filling my class schedule with fiction and nonfiction writing workshops, as well as taking a multitude of English course work that spoke to my interests. In the end I found the ability to take criticism like a pro, to give positive criticism (like a pro), and the knack to speak about tough stuff to a wide audience.
My nonfiction teacher was the one who thought I should approach a nonfiction program. He encouraged me more than any other professor and even tried to hook me up with classes that could aid a potential graduate writing student. I, of course, was flattered, but did not take full advantage of his kindness, because of the aforementioned naivety. If I could go back and kick 21 year old me in the butt, boy would I ever. But, I must live in the present to make sure I have a future I want.
This morning I had a meeting with an individual from the NWP at Iowa. I came away from the meeting with this energy, these positive vibrations. When I was 21, I would have been too afraid to set up a meeting with anyone, I would have gone in acting nonchalant (and therefore, I assume, appearing very disrespectful), with no questions ready, no thought to what I actually wanted or how to get that, and probably would have come across like just another undergrad going through the motions. Life and experience have proven a wise teacher. You can be book smart, educated and well versed in what the latest academic journal says, but there is no single greater instructor than experience. Something that was wonderfully confirmed this morning. That’s not to say what I did at 21 was right, but it definitely help proves the theory that things happen when they’re meant to, not when we want them.
I have a great support system of family and friends to push me through the insecurities, along with lessons learned from my job with Public Outreach. Always an extremely nervous and shy girl, the ability to walk up to anyone on the street and start talking to them was an important lesson. When fear about your next paycheck, how you will pay your next bill, where you will get your next meal pushes you forward, you can accomplish anything. There are no barriers unless they are the barriers you create yourself. This learned (or maybe nurtured) ability has given me the confidence to reach out to people I would have, at 21, shied away from. Canvassing, my job with Public Outreach, also coached me on how to communicate points effectively. A skill learned in my undergraduate work, but refined, highly refined, as a canvasser. Talk, get to know the person you are across from, standing next to, or sitting with, mention your goal or objective, but do so in a relatable way. Don’t go straight to the point outside of letting this person know upfront there is motive, but it’s not as important as talking with them, getting to know them, listening to their likes, dislikes, and finding ways to relate your message to them in a way they would understand. These benefits may be diagramed, but there is no better educator than going out and performing them.
Also, learn to pick your battles. Completely unrelated to my future hopes with the NWP, but a valuable lesson nonetheless.
It has felt like my life has been one large jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing and gaping holes obscuring the finished picture. Don’t get me wrong, the picture is still incomplete, but that one area I was stuck on because everything smeared and I wasn’t sure where the delineation was, is getting better. I am starting to see the fine lines and put the puzzle pieces into spots. It’s helping form the larger picture, not necessarily complete it.