One of the most maniacal things you can do to a bright-eyed English major is ask, “and just what do you plan on doing with that?” Inception in its finest form. This devil-seed snowballs into a litany of doubts: “What will I do? I can’t really do anything with a BA in English. Isn’t that a song in Avenue Q? Well, I guess I need to get my master’s, if not my doctorate? Can I even afford that? I’m not good enough. I’m useless. My degree is useless. Maybe I’d be happier cleaning the Goliath bird-eating tarantula cages at the zoo.
I went through two years of dramatic, internal battles before I decided what I wanted out of my education, and it only required me to sit in the right chair.
To summarize my decision process: I rejected my acceptance to the MFA once and deferred twice. When I first rejected the offer I was unsure of what I wanted to get from the MFA and I was not convinced that the degree would be useful. Thinking I was being considerate, I withdrew myself. I didn’t want to take the opportunity away from someone who actually wanted to be in the writing program. Everyone told me I was stupid…I agreed. I was certain that I sucked at writing (despite being accepted to an MFA) and I was under the assumption that the only career I could pursue was to become a professor. “Is this what I want to do?” My brilliant mind confronted me with a resounding, “I don’t know,” every single time.
I had been removed from academia for almost two years, and I was completely lost. Money was an issue, which also affected my decision, and I still had not asked the tough question, “what do I want?” Seeking an answer, I decided to attend a reading that included visiting alumni from our MFA program. I was quite nervous to ask my question; there were very important faculty there and I did not want to ruin my chances of being accepted again if I changed my mind. When I finally asked, the alumni tiptoed around the question, which made me more nervous than before I asked. Professor Bucak, on the other hand, stood up, asking if it was all right for her to answer, and said, “You get an MFA because you want to write and be a part of the literary community.” Very direct, and very purposeful; at the time I found this answer as helpful as a keg at an AA meeting. I knew this, but I couldn’t acknowledge its importance.
It wasn’t until I visited an instructor friend that I knew what I needed to do. I sat and chatted about the university, learning, exchanging philosophies and just sharing knowledge. At this moment I understood the idea of community and what Professor Bucak meant. The MFA, aside from being a terminal degree, creates a bond and a community. If you don’t want to write, there is no purpose in getting the degree. It will waste your time and the professors’ time. When the high of my epiphany wore off I immediately contacted advising and hoped that I wouldn’t be out of luck.
Do these trepidations wear off? I would say no. I still question my legitimacy in the program, but I am reminded that I am in the right place every time I enter into discourse during class or with my fellow grad students. My hope is to become a great writer and to enter into a long lasting community of writers. Based on these wants, I cannot shake the feeling that I belong in the MFA.
Scott Rachesky is a first year MFA fiction candidate at FAU. Aside from singing Carmina Burana in community choir, being a photographer, solving imaginary murders, and raising Unipegs, he enjoys to write…go figure. His writerly influences include Chuck Palahniuk, Jennifer Egan, Lori Moore, and Joseph Heller. Some people have described his writing style as similar to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but he doesn’t believe those people and thinks they only make the connection because of the shared name of Scott.