People have been asking me, from the moment I announced that I was going back to school to get an MFA, “What are you going to do with that?”
My preferred answer has been, “That’s not the point.” And it wasn’t. If I wanted to use grad school as a stepping stone to some kind of traditional career path, I might have gone back to journalism school (which I attended for a year and then quit), or gotten some other kind of professional degree. Still, I feel like I have to have an answer to this question, especially these days, when the question gets fired at me more and more frequently. The closer I get to finishing, the more people seem to believe that radical career developments are in my future.
There are many people, both friends and strangers, who don’t understand this kind of thinking. They don’t understand that I went to get an MFA simply because a) it was something I had wanted to do for a long time, b) something that I felt I might never do if I didn’t do it at that point in time, and c) something I felt I needed to do to take my writing further. I was stuck, and I needed outside help.
There are quite a few people who don’t understand why a rational person earning decent money in a good job would drop everything and go into debt to pursue a passion that might not provide any (or at least not very much) income. And I get that, I see where they are coming from. Sometimes, though I wouldn’t trade the writing workshops and publishing-industry experience I have gotten, the practical side of me has had doubts that this was a good plan, believe me.
I have been thinking all summer about what I will do after I finish my thesis. Partly this is because I feel a lot of pressure to jump back into some kind of 9-to-5 job, but the thought of actually having any of the writing/editing jobs I see on Craigslist makes me feel sick. Sometimes I can’t even finish reading the ad, I am already so bored. The pressure to consider these jobs is, oddly, mostly self-imposed. It seems like the right thing to do. (There is also the delicious knowledge that job hunting means the thesis is done, and I cannot wait for that to be the case. So much so that job hunting now, before the thesis is done, is a nice way of procrastinating without feeling guilty about it.)
All summer I have been side-stepping the predictable questions about what I want to do next. I answer depending on how I feel that day. Freelance writing. Go back into journalism in some capacity. Book publishing. Freelance editing. I consider telling people other kinds of jobs — truck driver, pastry chef, dog groomer – just to throw them off.
I feel qualified to do lots of things and at the same time nothing at all.
But when I take the pressure off myself to get some 9-to-5 job in the financial district I can start to see other possibilities. I get a vision of myself doing a combination of things, which is probably what would make me happiest. I get bored easily.
And so: freelance writing, freelance editing. Maybe a little teaching. Maybe a little ESL-related teaching or tutoring. It may be a patchwork rather than one complete whole.