I am on campus for the last time. The fact that I’m graduating is finally beginning to sink in. I have my graduate reading tonight and graduation will be tomorrow. I’ve decided what to read; I just need to get it to the right length and practice it a few times. I still need to write my graduation speech. It will be short and sweet, but I don’t know what it will be about. I have a lot of people I want to thank, but I should say something inspirational too. I’ve considered taking something from my Process Paper, but that was quite long and I’m not sure there is anything that I can be used out of context or condensed enough to be appropriate for my 2-3 minute speech that will also include thank-yous. I have some time to think about it, and for something so short, I would prefer not to spend too long preparing it. I’ve been thinking about what I would say in my graduation speech for at least three semesters now, and yet I have no idea where to even begin. I feel like I should maybe do the speech before the thank-yous, but I’m not sure. I will ponder on it and I have had a few thoughts percolating already.
Coming back to campus has been an odd experience. Building up to this, I was afraid I’d spend the whole time crying over the ending of all this because I started welling up every time I thought about it for months before, but it hasn’t been like that. When I got here and got into my room, it felt like I was home again. There are two places in the world that feel like home to me: my parents’ house in Maryland and here. Here I can be myself.
It was very quite when I first got here, but with lunch and opening session, everything got back to its usual crazy self. I thought I would be sad, but it’s just been exciting to see everyone again and talk about everyone’s projects and catch up and everything else. The thing that has been most weird is that now I am the Graduating Student. I remember my first winder residency exactly three years ago. I was new and wide-eyed and in way out of my depths and we had a handful of students on campus who were G5s and G6s and graduating students. I remember talking to them and wondering how I would ever make it that far. They were experienced and had all the answers. And now that’s me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have quite a lot of them for the Goddard experience. I’ve offered to answer more questions and give feedback on thesis revisions to a number of people and I hope they will take me up on that so I can stay in touch with the Goddard community.
Goddard is a magical place and Paul Selig was right when he said that we all come here at the right time. I have changed in so many ways since this all began. I was already in a place of transition and I was ready for a positive change. The change here wasn’t all positive here, but I am a stronger person and a better writer than I was when I came into this program.
The most asked question I’ve gotten since I announced my graduation is: “What are you going to do now?” I’ve come up with a variety of answers for that, some specific about what I plan to do over the next few weeks and months, others very general about what I hope to do with my MFA. The truth is: I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I don’t know what my future holds and I don’t even know where to start. But I know I can do hard things. I know I can get through an intense program with impossible goals and the emotional hell that was my personal life. I learned skills for critical and creative writing, research, endurance, and organization. All these things can translate into other areas of my life, including countless careers that may or may not have anything to do with writing. Most importantly though, Goddard has taught me this:
I am a writer.
If I can write, I can do anything. And so can you.