Friday, November 16, 2012

Escape Goating: Megan Hesse's First Semester as an MFA Student and GTA

Escape Goat. That was the moment I felt like a real, exasperated teacher, when I was reading a student’s paper and found the words “escape goat.” Presumably they meant “scapegoat,” except that they weren’t using that term right either. Grading papers has been a surreal experience for me. After all, it was only a little over a year ago that I was an undergraduate, and even right now I am still a student myself. So to be in the position of teacher is very strange. And then suddenly, escape goat.

I was terrified of starting the MFA program at FAU for a number of reasons that didn’t involve teaching. I had no idea what the community or the courses would be like. Even though my goal was always to be a creative writer, my undergraduate degree was in Literature and I’d never been among a community of writers. Instead of using guilt to harass my friends and family to read my work, I would finally have a group of people going through the same struggles and triumphs as me to turn to. But there were fears there too: everyone would be smarter, better, more talented than me; a chosen circle I had no hope of ever breaking into. Or classes would be too difficult, professors would look down on me in disgust, and I’d be doomed to be shunned for being mediocre.

My brain gets a little carried away sometimes.

But that’s not what happened. The MFA writing community at FAU contains some of the most helpful, welcoming people I’ve ever met and/or harassed. In just one semester I’ve learned a ridiculous amount from them and the professors, and I cannot wait to learn more. To finally be among other writers gives me an admittedly sentimental feeling of coming home that I would of course never publicly admit to having.

Oops. Don’t tell anyone.

My other fear though, was of time. How would I ever hope to balance teaching more than forty students with my own coursework and possibly have time for creative work besides? It was daunting, to say the least. After I finished undergrad, I took a year off and got a job tutoring high school kids for the SAT. The idea was to make money, and now that school was finished, have all the time in the world to write. Except I didn’t. What I did do was join a gym, watch a truly horrifying amount of Pawn Stars, and explore the uncharted edges of the internet. I finally had time, and I found myself doing absolutely nothing with it. Meanwhile, despite the forty-odd students and the coursework, I have written more in this one semester than I did in my entire year off. Somehow, though it’s meant many late nights and some frantic scribbling, I’ve found the time. I’ve started to grow and learn about myself as a writer in this program, and for me that’s pretty exciting, and well worth the occasional escape goat.

Megan Hesse graduated from the Honors College of FAU in 2011 with a BA in English Literature and is currently enrolled in the FAU MFA Graduate program. By day she attempts to publish stories and make a name for herself as a writer and by night she fights for justice as Batman.

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