Friday, June 03, 2011

The Big Reveal!

Earlier this week I hinted that I had some exciting news to share. Today, I can finally tell you the secret I've been keeping for the last few weeks.

At the end of July, Nathan and I are moving to North Carolina, where I will be a full time student in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington for the next three years! 

photo credit: aaron

photo credit: farmerchris

As many of you know, I've been applying to MFA programs for two years now. Last year, I turned down an acceptance because it didn't come with a teaching position or a stipend and I already have too much student debt to consider taking on even more. This year, I applied to nine schools and was openly blogging about the process when I remembered things like the fact that Nathan and I are currently employed, and I probably didn't want our bosses or co-workers stumbling across our plans to quit our jobs and move far, far away. So I quietly ceased blogging the application adventures, even as the acceptances started rolling in, even as it killed me to keep a secret this big from my blog. Yesterday, I finally gave my notice at my job - my last day will be July 15 and we're aiming to move on July 25 - and everything is out in the open. Can I get a WHEW?

And now for the long version:

After submitting my applications at the end of December and twiddling my thumbs for months, on March 1 I finally got my first bit of good news - UNCW was accepting me into their MFA program! "But do you have any money?" I asked. "Maybe," they replied. "But we won't know until early April." That was a very long time to wait, but I had no choice. I thanked them and did my best to keep from sending daily emails begging for updates.

While I waited on funding, more news came, both good and bad. Waitlisted at Hollins; rejected from Iowa; accepted to the University of Missouri-St. Louis; rejected from Virginia Tech; accepted to George Mason; rejected from University of Virginia; rejected from Penn State; accepted to Colorado State University.

UNCW was still working on the teaching assistantship. St. Louis seemed fairly confident that they could get me a research job in the library, which would have been acceptable but not ideal. Colorado was very tempting (Fort Collins! New Belgium Brewery!) but they also didn't know their funding situation. So frustrating! And yet, I was holding out for UNCW. I knew that I wanted to be back on the East coast; I wanted to be in a three year program; I wanted to study both fiction and creative nonfiction; and last but not least, everyone I'd spoken to from the program had been so welcoming and helpful. At work, on runs, in yoga classes, I silently chanted, "UNCW, UNCW." For over five weeks, it was my mantra.

And then, I got the email. A teaching assistantship had opened up. It was mine if I wanted it. And oh, I wanted it! I couldn't say yes fast enough and immediately let the other schools know that they could give my place to someone else. I knew too well what it feels like to wait for that call and I didn't want to drag the process out for my fellow MFA draftees.

So that's the big news! Not quite as exciting as an engagement or a pregnancy, perhaps, but I personally can't think of a life event more thrilling. I have been working towards this goal for years - writing, submitting, studying, reading, taking classes, and dreaming of the day when I could quit my job, go back to school, and make writing my life. It's hard to believe that day is almost here. Somebody, pinch me.

I'll write more soon - more about moving, packing, the terrifying reality of slashing our income in half (no one, it turns out, gets rich on stipends) and the thing I am avoiding the most - saying goodbye to Texas and all my wonderful friends here. But we can deal with all that later. For now, I'm just going to be glad that everything is in the open and that I can celebrate in full view of the world.

North Carolina, here we come!