When I was brainstorming what to write about this week, I realized that everything weighing on me related to transition periods and (relatively) big life choices, which is part of what this blog was geared to address in the first place. So, I will write about what is weighing on me. But first, a life update (re: this post): I actually did get into a poetry MFA program, for which I am beyond excited, humbled, and grateful. In early April, I decided to defer for complicated reasons. And the question became, what will I do in the year ahead?
On April 15, I got an email from the NC State poetry MFA program saying that if the final person they had admitted into their program didn’t accept their offer by the end of the day, the spot would be mine if I wanted it. As I read the email, an entire alternative life path flashed before my eyes. During my two years at NC State, I could've lived in Cary with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and baby nephew for the first year, and in Raleigh with my dear friend who’s getting her math PhD at NC State for the second year. I could’ve seen my baby nephew every day and been a huge force of love in his life. I could’ve eaten my father’s amazing Turkish cooking every weekend and gone to many of the volunteer events he coordinated. I could’ve taken walks with my mother and bought her Wake Zone coffee when she was reluctant to spend the money herself. I could’ve gone to lunches with my brother and sister-in-law, and with my many friends who still live in the area where I spent my middle and high school years. But I emailed NC State and said no. It’s crazy how your life - even a life that hasn’t happened yet - can change with a single decision.
The issue is not that I am bound to attend the program I deferred; I will have to go through the formality of re-submitting my application, and I could easily choose not to do that. The issue is that the program I deferred, which is in Boston, is my top choice, even accounting for NC State's perk of placing me near family and friends. For various reasons, the BU program is a much better fit for me. Many have to do with the program itself, but some have to do with a deep wanderlust - a love of new places, especially cities - that runs through me and overpowers almost every other desire. I feel called to Boston just as I felt called to Chicago six years ago for my undergraduate degree. But the question remains, what should I do in the year before Boston?
I could stay in Chicago (though I already told my boss I would leave my current job in July/August); I have many friends here from my undergrad years, and much of the city left to explore. I could move back home to NC and have all the aforementioned benefits of living with my family for a year. (In this case, though, I would probably just work in a coffee shop or in some other random job.) OR, I could move to the town in California where one of my best friends lives. Even though no one else I know lives there, I could get a job at a counseling center (relevant to my desire to get an Master's in Social Work if poetry doesn’t work out), and have a grand adventure in a rural mountain town, a place unlike any I’ve ever lived in before. (Sure, I love cities, but novelty wins the day, especially if it’s just for a year.)
In my heart, the choice is clear: move to California. But there is a big divide between where I feel pulled by my emotions (CA, adventure) and what makes sense according to my intellect (being near so many people I know and love, whether in Chicago or NC). But, if I go even deeper, doubt falls away and I feel that I just have to accept what my intuition is telling me. It always has and always will pull me to new places and experiences, and I have a high tolerance for the sacrifices I need to make to follow that call. I must accept that there are vastly different kinds of people in this world, many of whom would prefer to be near loved ones for a year, and it’s okay that I’m not one of them. It doesn’t mean that I love my friends and family any less. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have been perfectly happy choosing NC State, or that it would’ve been the “wrong” decision. It doesn’t mean that California will 100% deliver on the promises of novelty, adventure, and escape that I project onto it; nothing is ever exactly as you expect it wil be. It just means that I am trying to know and accept myself. I will not fight against what I want, imposing “shoulds," “coulds," and “what ifs.” I will choose my path and walk it, and if I make mistakes along the way, I will learn from them and re-calibrate. And I will remind myself, always, of one of my favorite dialectics (two seemingly competing statements that I hold to be simultaneously true): Life is short and you must not waste it; and life is long and forgiving of our mistakes. It does no good to believe that we’re not all going to be okay.