Monday, October 11, 2010

And So It Begins

If I were to be totally honest with you, I'd say that the reason I never went back to grad school, even though I've wanted to since before the day I left college, was logistics. What exactly did I want to study? How would we pay for it? And in the more recent years the logistics grew more complicated. Who would watch the kids? What if they are sick and need to be picked up from school? Who's going to pack their lunches and brush their hair and make sure their clothes match? Who will check their homework and carpool them to swim team practice and piano lessons? Where would I ever find the time to study when I can't even find the time to get the clean, dry clothes from the dryer to the dressers?

When I began researching and drooling over programs, these were still always the questions. Where is the money going to come from? Who will take care of the kids? When will I find the time to get the work done?

Until finally my husband said, "Just apply. And we'll work the details out when it happens."

So I applied, and now the details are hanging over me like weighted clouds. I still don't know the answers to those questions. School doesn't technically begin until January and yet I already have a stack of things to do, to write, to submit, to read. I thought I'd have time this fall to finish revising my current book and get it off, have a short break for Christmas and be up and rolling the first of the new year. But it's not looking like that.

So yes. Details.

But if I were to be totally honest with you now, I'd say the reason I feel like hurling every time I think of school is not because of money or time. It's because I've glimpsed the people in the program.

There's not a list anywhere, but a resourceful writer who is likethis with google can find names. And I've found names. And they are beyond impressive. Awards heaped upon awards. Publications all over the place. One man has TWO pulitzer prizes for journalism. Because, you know, one just isn't enough. He has TWO.

I say this to my husband at random moments when he probably thinks I've paying attention to TV or marveling at how the dish soap stays soapy after so many dishes. Out of the clear blue, into the silence between us, I say, "Two Pulitzers. He's got TWO! PULITZERS!"  And my husband will sigh and say, "Yes. I know. You've said that before."

But I'm still wrapping my head around the idea that I will be sitting with these people, and who am I? Am I the obligatory "person with potential" the program chose? How in the world did I get lumped in with these writers? How can I even call myself a writer among them?

I worry that I will get there and everyone will be more well-read. They will know great writers and be impressed with the guest speakers, and I will wonder who they are and why they talk in words with more than two syllables. I will wonder if I need to do more navel gazing, write more poetically, write less like me.

Will I lose the voice I fought so hard to find? Do the professors expect me to be a better me, or a different me?

And I keep reading about how painful it is, but in a really good way, like people rush out of rooms crying because they feel the poetry punched them in the gut, or their advisors push them so hard they are emotionally drained and already I cry more easily these days, when I never used to cry at all. So will I spend my residencies crying and being embarrassed and rushing from rooms and saying, "I have no idea what came over me, but now I must go write until it cleanses my soul!"

Or should I just make sure I have plenty of kleenex and waterproof mascara packed?


  1. You're exactly where you need to be, worries and all!
    I think you're primed to do amazing work.

    And take it from me, matching clothes for children is totally not required (just look at my two sometime).

  2. Wow Heidi. Relax and enjoy the experience - because that's what it all is.

  3. Heidi, of course it's intimidating. And it would be even if you had no idea who else was in the program.

    You're in the right place at the right time and it will be amazing! Just wait :)

  4. You can do this! What a great opportunity for you. I hope you are able to relax and enjoy it!

  5. They want you because they already have a two-pulitzer prize winning author. Every program needs a Heidi Willis.

  6. Well, I think its great that you threw your hat over the fence! Now you'll just have to find a way over the hurdles yourself.

  7. Ok, Heidi...You are a bright young woman who already has a published book. Did you forget that part? You are a published author of a BOOK. You will do fine. Stay true to yourself. Learn all you can but be true to yourself. You'll be just fine. Think about how much fun it is going to conferences being in a room full of like minded people.

  8. Who are you??? Did you just ask that? Who are you?

    You, my friend, are HIS.

    That is who you are. You applied to this program, following HIS will, you are accepted to this program...

    Don't you loose sight of that.

  9. I have a feeling Heidi, in some other past times, you've been through similar feelings. And you flew through just fine and learned some great things along the way. When I get caught up in the 'what ifs' I'll recall my first baby. It was painful as heck, full of unexpected surprises, and many humbling moments but the results were, well, perfect.

  10. Breathe, my friend! And remember that everything happens exactly as it is supposed to, when it is supposed to. What a fabulous journey you are beginning!