This post comes a day late because I’ve been a bit distracted by getting my Master of Fine Arts in Writing at Goddard College. (“You will never truly master your art, no matter what your diploma says,” they warn me.)
After Mike’s grandma’s 100th, we went to New York for a few days (which was An Experience, and a separate blog post), then up to Vermont for my graduation. Saturday I did a ten minute reading as part of my graduation. Sunday was the graduation ceremony. I spent yesterday flying with some excitingly tight connections (sprinting across the entire Detroit airport, getting there right before they closed the door type thing). There was a lot of emotion and a lot to process, and I was almost afraid to start writing about it out because I wasn’t sure what might emerge.
First off, Goddard. For two years, I would fly across the country to Vermont once a semester, and spend a week at the campus. I’d be matched up with an advisor and and an advisory group of fellow students. I’d attend readings, workshops, and on the first Sunday of every residency, I’d watch a crop of students graduate.
So for starters, it was a bit surreal that it was now my turn. It was and it wasn’t. Since I quit my job in February, I’ve been doing more or less what I want to do: freelance design, submitting creative work, writing. I’m reaching the bit where my work must accelerate in pay or else I need a day job for the bills, but that’s all right. I’m fine with where I am. Somehow after graduation, though, it all feels a bit new. The first day of the rest of your art, as our commencement speaker, the politically-charged poet Jan Clausen called it. Perhaps that is the window through which I view my life: how much art I can make out of myself.
Goddard graduations are odd affairs. For one, there is no cap and gown, and we are not given any Silly Hats of Academia or Hoods of Pomp & Circumstance. It’s in a former hay barn, now the Haybarn Theater. There are horses across the street. There are plastic chairs and a wooden floor. And a podium, where each member of the graduating class gives a speech, or “becomes their own valedictorian” as MC and poet Elena Georgiou puts it. (Her advice to us, said in her soft British accent, was “three minutes or less, and try to avoid words like ‘fucking’ and ‘masturbation.’ She managed to keep a straight face while saying it, but then cracked up along with us. “The fact that I even have to warn you about that…”)
When my turn came, I went up to the podium with a pack of Vertigo Tarot cards, which for which Rachel Pollack wrote the book. They’re cards about comics. Seemed appropriate. And so here is my graduation speech:
(Hold up card: The Fool)
The major arcana of the Tarot traces the archetypal journey of a fool, which in this case was me, two years ago, flying across the country to a little school in Vermont, not really knowing what to expect or exactly what I wanted to write.(next card: The Magician)I quickly met my personal Magician, Susan Kim, who told me that writing was like being chained together running through the snow pursued by wolves. This was heartening. Susan reminded us how important creative community was, not to mention breaking down dramatic structure into manageable, alchemical pieces.(next card: High Priestess)Soon enough I met my next mentor, Rachel Pollack, who was my High Priestess–transcendant in ideas, she helped me preserve the mystery of my work. From global myth to really bad puns, working with Rachel was magic. For the record, Rachel says that whenever someone asks what you’re doing with your MFA, just tell them that when you graduate, you get a ring that raises the dead.(next card: Empress)I could not have made this journey without all of my Empresses, those who supported me and held me through this long strange trip. The people who cared for me at residency: gave me food, shoveled the sidewalks, provided me with yoga mats and help networking my computer. My fellow students, in residency, on the Internet, and in Seattle. (what’s up Shae and Cody!) My awesome partner, Mike, who supported me in every step of this journey and totally put up with me when I was at my whiniest. My parents, who have always been supportive of both my writing and my education, meaning that I did not spend my time here writing a memoir. Everyone in this room. Many who are not.(next card: Emperor)As I move into the cold, regimented, Emperor world of publishing, I just have one thing to say:Thank you.