She’s Going to Grad School

She’s Going to Grad School

I’ve always been someone who tries to seek out safety. If there’s an option between a wild choice and a safe one, I take the safe one. It’s something I’ve written about before.

The relatively safe choices of my past have given me a lot in life. I’ve worked some really interesting jobs in the tech world, and learned a ton of skills I wasn’t introduced to in school. The financial stability my career provided me allowed me to do amazing things with horses — mainly taking Simon to as many shows as I have and knowing what it’s like to have a well trained, reasonably talented horse.

They also led me to Tim, and I wouldn’t dare change any decision of my past if it meant jeopardizing that relationship. But as carefully thought out as all of these choices were, they didn’t save me from heartache. Until I turned thirty, I thought I did everything “right” in life, but things fell apart anyway.

Everything felt hopeless immediately after I lost Tim, but as time progressed I started to peer into what my life might look like without him. The things that previously satisfied me, like the career that I didn’t hate but didn’t exactly love either, weren’t enough. I started thinking about the risky choices I’d been too scared to follow before, and what it might look like if I pursued them now.

The thing about living your worst nightmare is that things can never get worse than that. I’m probably taunting the universe with this next statement, but I don’t believe things will ever get as dark and terrible as they were before. Of course I’m going to feel more loss in my life, and undoubtedly things will be really hard at times… but nothing will be worse than that night in June. As this year started, I didn’t know where I wanted to go forward in life, but I knew I didn’t want to be safe.

The biggest safe choice I made after graduating from college was going to work in tech versus pursuing writing. For many years I identified as a writer and remained secretly proud of my writing accomplishments in school… but stopped writing entirely. I made excuses. I told Tim we would support his career and his school dreams right now, and maybe I’d go back one day when we could afford for me not to work. I half hardheartedly looked for writing groups where I lived, but dismissed the options or never got enough courage to go meet strangers. I’m not sure when exactly, but it all slowly drifted away until I realized I couldn’t claim to be a writer anymore.

Then Tim died, and I lost so much. I couldn’t lose anything else, and clung to that part of my identify like it was my only way to survive. I started writing longer pieces not meant for the blog, something I hadn’t done in years. I signed up for a memoir workshop. I met real writers in Austin, and they became my friends. What was a little candle of a flame inside me caught wind and grew into a wildfire, and soon writing and reading and critiquing work became the happiest joys in this new phase of my life.

Since writing the book became an inner drive that took precedent to everything else, I decided to take a risky choice — I applied to graduate school. I picked seven creative nonfiction MFA programs across the country, and told myself that if I was lucky enough to get in, the decision felt right and I got funding… than I would go.

For about three months at the end of last year, I busted ass on these applications. Some amazing people helped me, from my past and present and even blog readers. I whittled down my writing into two samples, re-wrote my statement of purpose until I felt dead inside and got everything to the schools before Christmas vacation.

And I got in. Out of seven programs, I was accepted into three and waitlisted at two. Please forgive the brag, but for my first run at draft season… this was a great success.

Then I picked the school that seemed like it could be a good fit, and flew out for a twenty-four hour trip to meet the faculty and get a sense of the town. At the end of that quick jaunt, I couldn’t think of a reason not to go.

So last week I gave notice at work. This fall I’ll move to Southern California, where I’ll start my first year as a creative nonfiction student at the University of California Riverside’s MFA program.

Put simply, I’m terrified… but I’m also excited. I have no idea what my life is going to look like in two years, and I don’t know if this degree will change my life or be a really interesting detour before I go back to a career in online marketing.

There’s so much I don’t know, but that’s life really. Even when we think we know — we don’t. It sounds cliche to say that I’m excited for the journey, but I am. For the first time in my adult life, I’m really looking forward to the risk.

51 thoughts on “She’s Going to Grad School

    1. Yup! Leave no animal behind, although I haven’t finalized plans for Simon and honestly have no idea where the dogs and I are going to live yet. Minor details…

      1. Yes, I second this! Please do come to Oregon! I’m so happy for you, way to go! Definitely brag worthy that you got into so many/waitlisted on the first try. Congrats!!

  1. OMG this is SO exciting!! Congratulations! MFA programs are so competitive and tough to get into, you DID win the draft! (is that a term?)

  2. Congratulations! This is amazing and awesome. It’s terrifying to pick up, move, and start all over, but it’s also so exciting.
    We sold the family company last year, and while I’m still gainfully employed here, I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving and starting something new. But like you, I generally take the safe choices. Thus, I admire you SO MUCH for doing this. I hope you’ll share your adventures with us!

  3. congratulations Lauren – that’s BIG news! wishing you the absolute best wishes as you venture forth into the unknown!!

  4. Oh HELL yes! Congratulations, lady! And how wonderful that you’ve already got some horse-friends there to help you balance the inevitable school stress with some pony time. SUPER exciting. I know you’re totally going to rock this next chapter of your life.

  5. Congratulations!! I am not surprised that you were accepted to multiple programs, because you clearly have an amazing talent for writing. Fantastic to be able to really choose the best fit for you.

    I look forward to reading about your next adventures with Simon and the dogs on #SheMovedToCalifornia.

  6. Fantastic! So happy for you. Those two years fly by (even when they seem to drag along at moments). What a fun journey ahead.

  7. Congratulations!!!! And brag away on the acceptances, that’s so awesome. I have a little color photo on my bulletin board that says “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” that is placed where it’s at my eye level if I look left from my office chair. I also had a tendency to play it safe and stay in the nest for too long in the past, and the things that have scared me the most and made me cry over the past two years have also been the ones that led to the most personal growth and made me the happiest, even though there were a lot of times I was ready to give it all up in a second if I got the chance. So all that to say, I get at least part of it, and I am so proud of you. Congrats again!

    1. I love that photo on your bulletin board! A great thing to be reminded of, because I think we all have a tendency to follow safety. It’s really, really hard not to and hey this may blow up in my face entirely and I’ll come back in two years and write a post that is basically SAFE CHOICES FOREVER NOTHING ELSE!

  8. This is amazing and you are amazing. Looking forward to the future adventures you are sure to have and all of the glorious pictures and writing to go with them!

  9. That IS great news. Congrats on a super decision and the talent to carry it out! Enjoy the new adventure

  10. How exciting! Whenever I force myself to go beyond safe I remember the oft used quote in business –
    ‘Growth and comfort do not coexist” you go girl!

  11. I am so incredibly inspired by this! Being a “safe” one too, I have been thinking a lot about actually living my life instead of just protecting it. Thank you so much for the extra motivation. What a amazing adventure this is going to be!

  12. Wow! Exciting news!!! I think you’ve made a great decision. Clearly the Californians support you. Riverside is about three hours to the south, but holler if you need anything. I am looking forward to hearing about this new phase in your life. Adventure awaits you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.