Last Friday, April and I attended a reading at Borders here in Springfield. She had been invited to read a couple of poems out of the Moon City Review, a publication by Missouri State University in which she was featured last year, so we went and joined the sizable crowd as the MSU Concert Chorale sang some renaissance period songs and the readers were queued up. After the singing was complete, the first poet began his reading.
I had a class with this young man several years ago, and as he read about a road trip, I recognized some of the names and assumed they were our fellow class mates with whom he had become friends. We were all in the same poetry classes, two semesters in a row, and if I had continued down that road we may very well have become friends. A culture and a clique was formed there, but I was diverted and went elsewhere.
With a touch of a melancholy I thought about What Might Have Been. Until recently, I was a double major in Religious Studies and Creative Writing, but I dropped the latter down to a minor to graduate sooner. I don’t know that I even have a 3.0 GPA in RS–last I checked, it was a high 2, but it has been a while so it might have risen. I have a 4.0 in CW, though, and while the English department is well known for grade inflation, I feel like I have earned that grade. I honestly have enjoyed almost all of my English classes, and Creative Writing is probably where I should have spent my time.
In light of my recent academic travails, though, I thought through that path to its logical conclusion. Would I have been happy if I had pursued that degree more fully, focused on that instead of getting a job, and been in the same place academically as this young man (preparing to finish my masters degree)?
As I shared with April later, a large part of what I sought there was the community, and I am relatively confident I would have found it lacking. Not that they aren’t nice people–I like every one of the advanced Creative Writing/English students I’ve met–but there’s that pesky religion thing. It is difficult to connect deeply with a group of atheists/agnostics, and it seems that the upper echelons of academia are often inundated with such.
As Jennie observed about the graduate program in art at Wichita State, where she studied for two semesters, Christianity and work inspired by Christ wasn’t exactly welcome. She was often at odds with her peers and professors, and I would have found the same at Missouri State. It wouldn’t have led to negative relationships, just shallow ones, and that is unacceptable to me.
Perhaps I am mistaken in this perception, but it seems that the majority of the people with whom I communicate solely via the Internet are likewise non-religious, and I suspect when they view my site they consider me completely looney. I’m currently becoming even more overt about my beliefs, and I fear people’s judgment to some extent. If I were in an advanced writing program, and wrote and communicated vulnerably and honestly, I wonder what the reaction would be.
Would I have been happy pursuing that education more fully? Yes, probably, because it would have kept me writing and helped me become a better writer. As I listened to the final short story being read, a wonderful piece with descriptive language I doubt I will ever be able to match, I recognized that there were heights I would likely never reach. There was a path somewhere back there I choose to not take, and there is no going back in this life.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t cut cross country now and begin struggling for my own sake. What I need more than anything is practice. And if the degree program is inaccessible to me now (as it most assuredly is for a variety of reasons), that will not prevent me from writing. If a community of writers is part of my future goals and desires, a piece of paper will not prevent me from beginning to form one.
It will not be the same as it might have been, but what will be will be. We won’t have a future if we don’t make it, if we sit around watching TV and pining for what might have been. Instead, we must cut down the trees, stoke the fires, and begin building the future we so desire.