Monday morning. Cold cat-nose, green tea, sleepy checking of email. Among the messages, one from my workshop leader, asking if I could stop by her office to talk before class.
Back up, explain: I’m a brand-new, first-semester PhD student in a creative writing program. I’m a poet; I’m a woman; I’m forty-two. And I moved to this city exactly three months ago to start the program. It was an astonishing stroke of good fortune to get accepted, and I was deeply excited to move here and to do good work. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that these three months have felt pretty much like trying to drink from a firehose.
That’s okay—that’s how it is when you’re somewhere new. New city, new acquaintances, new university bureaucracies and departmental eccentricities. A new roomful of bright undergraduate faces staring up at me three mornings a week. It’s a struggle to adjust, but as more or less a career academic (in the sense that I career among institutions, jostling back and forth around and between them), I’m used to transitions and I’ll be here for the next five years. I’m a little daunted, but not too badly. I may weeble but I don’t fall down.
Nonetheless when my workshop leader asked me to come chat with her, I was grateful. I knew she’d met one-on-one already with the other members of the class to discuss their writing; they said she’d been extremely helpful and frankly I kind of felt like I needed some extreme help, to get through the whole drinking-from-a-firehose part of the experience. I felt optimistic about maybe getting a dab of reassurance from her—that thin trickle of validation that lets you know there’s some point in continuing the effort.
Imagine, then, if you will, my surprise. READ MORE >