The winds of change are upon me. I’m not entirely sure how well I will come out of this change. I find myself in a position to change my day job once again. This time, the change of jobs is also a change of careers. While related to my current job, my new form of employment will let me use more of the skills I’ve developed throughout my time in the MFA program at Seton Hill University, and not in ways I had expected. I realize now that I have not spent much time reflecting on my graduation. The entire experience still hasn’t settled into my mind.
The final week in the MFA program came in a whirlwind. After a few weeks of 60+ hour work weeks to finish a project I wasn’t prepared to do, I boarded a plane in Salt Lake City to fly out to Pennsylvania for my final residency. I felt completely unprepared for the residency compared to previous semesters. I had not been able to get to the workshop pieces I had to critique, I still had not practiced my thesis defense (in truth, my defense was still unplanned at that point), I still needed to work on my pitches for the visiting editor, and I was nominated to give the commencement address at the end of the week. While I prided myself in keeping the last a secret from my wife and family, my anxiety was reaching high points. However, if I have learned nothing else from salary employment, it is budgeting project deadlines. I had to force myself to only work on what was due the next day.
First, my thesis defense. I had a basic intro noted in a notebook, but had not figured out which scenes from my thesis novel I would be reading. I honestly had not finished what I was going to say and read until the hour before I was to present. I refused to allow my wife or family to come out to the reading because I knew it would be harder for me to focus and remain calm. Instead, I set up my computer with Livestream so I could stream and record the presentation. There were maybe twenty people in the room, but many more watched the presentation afterwards so it seemed to work well. My thesis defense can be viewed here:
Thursday and Friday kind of went by in a blur with the nights and early mornings spent critiquing the pieces I had left to do and attending thesis readings from my classmates. Friday night was the second SHU book signing I participating in. Last year I sold more novels than I did of my non-fiction work. This year was a complete opposite. Interesting to see how different the market can be venue to venue, year to year.
My wife and father-in-law arrived that night and were able to see me at the book signing for a bit. The next day I pitched to a professional editor who came as a guest speaker and she requested to see some of my work. Still, I did not tell my wife and family about giving the commencement address the following day. I am sure I still appeared nervous and frazzled even though they thought I was done with all of the stressful parts of residency. I went back onto campus early Sunday morning so I could finish writing my commencement address and practice it without giving the secret away to my wife.
By the time commencement arrived, I was lined up outside the hall with the rest of the graduates in our robes when my wife and parents came to say hi. They had come in through the back and hadn’t seen the program yet. After they went in, I turned to my class and said “they still don’t know I am giving the address.” A few minutes later, the family came marching out again shocked and surprised I had kept them in the dark for so long. I am grateful for technology because they recorded the address: shown here.
Now, a month and half later, I still have to look at the diploma on the wall to remind myself it is over. I will try to attend the alumni conference each June. I am trying to work in some way my family can come with me as a vacation, but there isn’t much for them to do in Greensburg.
I am impatient with my degree. I have applied to various teaching positions, editing, copywriting, and technical writing positions without much luck. However, an opportunity came up for me to rejoin an old team and a new career path. I won’t be using my writing skills as heavily as I hoped, but I will be using the classroom planning and curriculum design aspects of the teaching component from my degree.
The change is here and that is all that is important. It has been so easy to fill my free time with job hunting instead of writing. Hopefully, I can change that after I start the new position.