Yes and no are easy, finite answers to daily questions: would you like a fourth cup of coffee? Did you wear that outfit yesterday? Want to go to Boston for Spring Break?
I’m constantly trying to define the term “grown up” now that I have the opportunity to look back at my academic career, and what I’ve found is this: a “grown up” is one who has the capacity to make a choice when presented with troubling circumstances and who’s willing to be responsible for the consequences. That being said, let me tell you a little something about going to your first writer’s conference in one of your final semesters in your graduate program.
AWP moves to a different city every year; I was lucky enough to attend this year when the city of choice was Boston. A few things about me: I want to get married inside Fenway Park, I want to feel superior next to a mound of snow, and Tom Brady has made me cry twice. To be able to visit such an emotional place for a completely valid reason is one of those decisions that wasn’t actually so difficult to make.
It should be awkward for a 25 year old to still get jittery on a flight (especially now, when if the flight attendant asks if I’d care for a drink, I’ll be tempted to start a tab). My stomach, as turbulent as the clouds we flew through, was enduring the consequences of my (tiny but extremely real) fear of flying all because of a simple choice - this decision was all mine.
And what we need to understand is how many more doors open when we say yes to opportunities. My Spring Break was interrupted by the first ever named winter storm, but it was also transformed into a duality of work and play. In between panels of Israeli and Iranian poets (one of which I am) and recently graduated MFAs discussing how awesome being an adjunct is when compared to not having a job (one of which I will most likely be), I walked a path through Boston Commons and built homunculus snowmen, measured the distance between seats of the Green Monster, and determined where my parents will sit during the ceremony.
It was a growing experience: wait, I was just told I must describe the AWP after party, which is fine because it ties in rather nicely to my description of the work and play duality. Writers become different people after 8 pm. After spending three days in my charming, witty banter mode, it was a spectacle to behold editors and published writers (as sweaty and flexible as you would expect) acknowledging that, this too, is their jam. Apparently this decade’s laureates have 90s rap and hip hop to thank for the flourishing of their talents.
A simple yes made it possible for me to revitalize my talent while being able to cross momentous occasions off my bucket list. I think the most important thing you learn after realizing you have grown up is the myriad of things you can feel, often contradictory to each other, at the same time.
Negean is finishing her final year as an MFA candidate in poetry. Her rare blend of honest humor seems to captivate people enough to ask constantly "is she serious?" or to announce an inner thought "I can't tell if she's being sarcastic." She assures you that you will never know. Negean currently teaches English Composition to college freshmen, who laugh at the same jokes she tells her elementary sized creative writing aftercare students.