There’s a scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Dermot Mulroney’s character, Michael, says something to Julia Roberts’s character, Jules, about his impending wedding. I don’t remember exactly what he says, and because I’ve typed the title “My Best Friend’s Wedding” along with almost every different combination imaginable along the lines of “Jules and Michael boat scene,” “Michael talks about wedding,” and “Chicago River conversation” into Google and nothing relevant to my purpose came up, and because I’m far too lazy to find my My Best Friend’s Wedding video, I’m going to have to paraphrase from semi-distant memory.
Michael, while talking to his best friend, talks about the wedding almost as if it’s a character in itself. He says something about how you decide to get married and start making plans, and before you know it, everything is just happening; momentum is building, you’re along for the ride, and soon, whether you want to go through with it or not, there it is, the wedding, and everybody is expecting you to do one thing, the right thing, and it’s almost like you don’t have a choice because everything happened while you were just living your life and going along with the plans and not even really paying attention. It all just happened and then—well, and then it’s wedding time—whether you like it or not, and whether you want to go through with it or not, it’s wedding time—you got yourself to this point, and now you don’t really have a choice because—well, because you have to follow through. Even though you might not even remember why you wanted to get married in the first place, here you are, and there’s nothing left to do but do it.
I’m elaborating, of course (and maybe projecting just a little bit, but now certainly isn’t the time to go into that). Michael says maybe two lines of dialogue on the subject, but, believe me—he meant everything I just said. And how Michael feels about the wedding is kind of how I feel about my MFA.
Before you think I’m just a big whiner, hear me out. When I was getting all of my application materials together, I was insanely nervous with that impending-diarrhea feeling—you know, the one you get waiting in line to get on an upside-down roller coaster because you just know you’re about to plummet, headfirst, to your death—and then when I got my acceptance letter, I was insanely happy and proud, head filled with ideas about how wondrous my life was sure to be after my degree (in the marriage analogy, I’m now about to become a Sadie), and then when I went to my first class, I was insanely excited because, after all, I was a real-life, on-my-way-to-being-a-writer grad student, and then when I went in the next semester for my first workshop, I was insanely nervous and insanely anxious to share my work and read the work of my peers. Let me tell you guys something: I absolutely could not write enough during my first few workshops. I had words and words and words inside me, more words than you’d think would fit inside of 63 inches, and they wanted so badly to not be inside of me anymore that they came out way easier than anything else my body has ever expelled. Those first few semesters were so exciting, you might say they were almost like the beginning stages of planning a wedding.
But then, as time went on, I got used to the idea that I was a grad student, and instead of being KEL MCINTYRE, GRAD STUDENT EXTRAORDINNAIRE, I was just Kel, the girl who happens to be in grad school. Along with all the interesting, well-written texts I read in my workshops, I struggled through some pieces that weren’t exactly Kel-friendly. I also had to take lit classes, which, while interesting, are not only nowhere near as fun as taking a workshop, but they’re also twice as much work. I think it’s safe to say that by the time my credits got into the double digits, grad school had lost a little dazzle in my eyes. Not all the dazzle disappeared, but it did dissipate. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t so.
Still, even with being a little light on the luster (God, I just cannot stop with the alliteration. I’m not even doing it on purpose!), grad school was still something that, while I can’t really say excited me, I guess I could say interested me. I pretty much settled into a school-related routine, and after awhile, everything about it had just about become second nature. That is, until now.
So what’s different about now? Impending graduation. I’m now three classes and a thesis away from graduation, and that easy, second naturedness (don’t bother to check; I made it up) I’d come to take for granted is gone. In its place is a folder in my mailbox stuffed full of emails regarding plans of study, thesis topic approval forms, and graduation deadlines; a frantic search for a thesis committee; multiple drives back and forth from Davie to Boca in an attempt to figure out once and for all just what it is I’m supposed to be doing and to collect signatures; sheer terror at the thought of having to perform a thesis defense, whatever that may be; and complete and utter unsurety about a post-graduate school future. Add all these things together and what do you get? I don’t know about you, but what I get is the urge to quietly disappear from graduate school, to just go -poof!- and to disappear.
Because really, when you think about it, a writer doesn’t need a degree to be a writer any more than a couple needs a marriage certificate to commit their devotion to one another. Why go through all the hoopla of getting a degree or having a wedding when it’s not really necessary? Why should people get that anxious-tummy feeling when they don’t absolutely have to? Why should I? It’s so much easier to just go –poof!- and to walk away.
Except that it’s not. As far as effort put forth goes it might be, but it’s the opposite of easy in a give-up-your-dreams, hurts-your-insides sort of way, and I really, really don’t want to hurt my insides any more than I’ve already hurt them through thirty-seven years of walk-away-from-the-hard-but-right-thing kind of living. At some point in my life, I need to step up like Dermot Mulroney’s Michael and be a man.
It might as well be now.
Kel McIntyre is an MFA student at FAU. She enjoys avoiding the beach, alphabetizing, and imagining the day that she can surround herself with dogs. She's got a blog of her very own that you can read at http://melankelly.blogspot.com/.