Third-Year Funding

I have reached the point at which not applying for something is more difficult than applying for something.

I was going to leave it at that, but let me explain. The Writers’ Workshop is a two-year program. We are fully expected to get the hell out of here after we graduate, unlike those Michener folks. However, there are a select number of adjunct teaching positions and weird fellowships that enable people to stick around for a third year. I’d somehow assumed that all my friends had big plans for after they graduated, but it turns out that everyone’s somewhat like me: we thought getting into Iowa meant we were like totally set for the future, and now, having been actually thrust into said future, we are overwhelmed by its many possibilities and would much rather keep existing in the past. Also, you know, Iowa has a rich literary culture and tree-sweaters.

One of these third-year positions is the Provostship. My friend Clifton has it this year, I think; it’s available to one fiction writer and one poet. Your job, so far as I can tell, is to teach a class for the English department that proposes to offer an overview of fiction writing as a whole. Yes, that’s right: you design a course and assign readings that purport to teach all of fiction, or at least what you are good at. In, you know, all of fiction.

I am not usually daunted by things. When Connie the Workshop secretary said “There’s a job opening up at the college in Cedar Rapids, but the application’s due today,” I spent the afternoon holed up in my office unshowered, smelling myself as I typed an academic resume. When I realized that the Stegner fellowship deadline was December 1st, Colin and I barricaded ourselves in his parents’ basement for the entirety of Thanksgiving break, emerging only for delicious meals and dog-show watching. Certainly I’ve been working on the full funding application – I discovered yesterday that the time limit for which I can sit at Caribou is four hours. I have driven two agents to the airport and forced another to buy me drinks for an entire evening.

But somehow, the Provostship – I just feel as if it’s not my bag. I don’t really know why this is, but I’m typing this blog post in order to physically prevent myself from applying at the last minute (it’s due at noon). I’m telling myself that I’m not nearly authoritative enough. My Creative Writing classes are very silly; we play improv games, for God’s sake. I’d rather it go to someone who actually knows what he or she is doing, like Colin or my friend Sarah; someone who will have earnestly considered their course description, who will be excited about it rather than daunted.

It feels strange to admit this on the Internet, and sort of petty. But it’s part of a larger point I wanted to make, a realization I had this morning whilst tossing from side to side in my bed, feet narrowly avoiding the cat: that we will be okay.

Seriously, this shouldn’t feel profound, but it does. No matter what happens to us next year or where we are forced to move, we will live on. We were okay before this, and we will be okay after it; success is relative, and in many ways we’ve already succeeded. We can do anything after Iowa, literally anything, and this should not be intimidating but freeing. (I know two graduates who are in the business of making artsy brooms, for heaven’s sake.)

Somehow we will eat and we will laugh and we will have friends, and we will resign ourselves to the fact that it’s taken us a while to get published, and my cat will jump on the bed and off it again, and we will exist not in a multiplicity of possibilities but in one coherent whole of a life.

One response to “Third-Year Funding”

  1. You couldn’t be more right my dear. As we get older, we truly do get wiser in some ways. We get wiser in knowing ourselves and our likes and dislikes, our abilities and inabilities, and our interests and non-interests. As I turn 40, I look back on all that I thought I was when I was your age, and while I am proud of who I was back then I am even more proud of who I am now because I had always had an open mind about my future. As you move through life and your career, listen intently to your intuition; it speaks volumes if you listen. From listening to mine, I have learned that I am an organizer but not a follow through person. For example, I can come up with elaborate plans to have a successful money making carnival at my school, but I am not one bit interested in decorating it or physically running it. In this way, I’ve learned to say yes to spearheading the plan but no to its implementation. You learn who you are and what you are good at and you stop feeling guilty for saying no to the things that don’t quite fit the mold of your interests or qualifications. You say no because within no time, another opportunity will present itself to you that will fit you. You are a writer. You have always been a writer. I knew it when I taught you in sixth grade. There is a reason that I still use your writing samples with my current sixth graders when I teach them to write. What you will do with that talent, and interest, is yet to be determined. Thank God for that actually. The possibilities are endless! As you narrow down who you truly are, keep an open mind and try to feel it instead of think it. Your intuition will guide you. Most importantly, continue to believe that all will be alright no matter what…In good faith I can assure you it will.

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