At the end of the closing session of my first residency at Goddard College, the faculty handed out notepads, pens, and envelopes with the instruction to write an encouraging letter to any of the Goddard MFA-W students (ourselves included) to be mailed at some point during the semester. This is apparently a Goddard tradition and the idea behind it is that at about mid-semester, things get very hard and we start wondering why we’re doing this and if we’re going to make it, so these letters are meant to boost our confidence and give us that little extra push to make it through to the end.
I hate being put on the spot like that; I never know what to say. As I didn’t know who else to write to or what I would say to anybody else, I just wrote a letter to myself. I was already feeling out of my depth and knew I would desperately need that extra push before the semester was over. Around the third packet, I started watching for my letter because I was feeling that this whole ordeal was completely futile and that I would never amount to anything as a writer, even if I did manage to survive this program, but the letter never came. Some of the other Fireballs (our “G1” or first semester group) complained in our Facebook page that none of them had received letters from anyone and I finally gave up looking, wondering if they ever even intended to mail the letters.
Today, my letter finally arrived. It was a brutal morning. My second day in a row on less than 6 hours of sleep while working 11 hour days and first thing this morning, my boss made it painfully clear that I was failing to live up to her expectations. Exhausted and defeated, the day wore on and I had to keep reminding myself that I took this job because it was one of the few with a schedule that would allow me to continue at grad school and be a writer, which is what I want to do more than anything.
This afternoon, I went outside to check the weather and decided to check the mail while I was at it—though I’d already received everything I was expecting, so I wasn’t anticipating anything for me—and there was my letter to me. I found it a bit funny that it arrived the day after our final packets were due, so there wasn’t much point for the letters, though some of the other Fireballs mentioned that they had finally gotten their letters, so I wasn’t all that surprised.
My letter said:
You are a writer. You are doing great work. Look at what you’ve done so far. Remember why you’re here, why you’re doing this.
You can do this and it’s all worth it.
Just keep writing.
This too shall pass.
These sentiments are exactly what have been going through my head to keep going all semester, so it wasn’t necessarily helpful to find them in the letter—though I did vaguely remember what I had put in the letter, and the memory of it was helpful in reminding me why I had to keep pushing forward. What surprised me was the last line: “This too shall pass.” At the moment, I’m not overly concerned about getting through grad school; yes, it’s hard, but it’s also a great experience and I’m studying and learning things that interest me and improving my skills in writing, which, as I’ve mentioned, is very important to me. What I hadn’t expected was just how hard this job would be, how exhausting and overwhelming and frustrating and time-consuming, even though it’s only three gruelingly long days a week. When I read that line, I felt some semblance of peace. Yes, my job is rough, but I chose it so that I could do what I love (I seem to do this a lot), and it will pass. What matters is that while I’m here, I can write, I can study, I can work towards achieving my dreams and even though a lot of life is hard and just plain sucky:
This too shall pass.