I have, for the past few days, been blogging sparsely (at best) and have been totally non-existent in cyberspace. The reasoning behind this is preparation for my latest 10 days in Cambridge, MA, as part of my second semester of studies in the Lesley University MFA in Creative Writing (poetry, English, Journalism) low-residency program.
Since the entirety of the semester is based off of distance-learning, the format works perfectly for me. As a teacher, having the opportunity to write during the early mornings/evenings and on the weekends is a great plus, as opposed to the alternative of attending classes either full-time during the summer or going part-time over a 5- or 6-year period and struggling to finish up a Master's program in time.
Last semester I was able to create around 50 pages of poems--an amazing feat of proliferation and creativity--and this semester I hope to be able to achieve more. Since January, my personal life has been on a roller-coaster. I was engaged, attended my first residency, and was laid off from my job all within 3 weeks. Paired with the plummeting and uncertain economy and free world, my personal life tumbled into a free-fall that I still feel hesitant in saying I have recovered from. The following is a brief (yeah, right) synopsis and explanation of how the past semester (writing-wise, academically, personally, future-wise, and depression-wise) went for me.
Since struggling and searching 16-18 hours per day to find a job, realign my personal life, devise a financial savings plan, search for a part-time and summer job, become certified to teach in MA and RI, and write enough to keep myself in the MFA program (and to produce something better than trite or sentimental teenage verse), I have found a semi-stable foundation and feel much more confident heading into this next semester than I did heading into the first.
For starters, I know what to expect this time going in. Immediately after the January residency, I was prepared to write, revise and read my heart out and take all the time in the world with a stable backing behind me. The very next day I was laid off and (idiomatically) thrown onto the street. Physically I felt drained and hopeless. My psyche was bruised and twisted into an imbroglio that was devastating and painful. I dropped at least 15 pounds, found myself depressed and dazed, and believed the world was probably coming to an end.
I found myself researching and learning more about stock market and economic trends than I was studying and reading poetry. I found the poems of Robert Lowell dull and uninteresting, and the banter of Rick Santelli of CNBC to be intriguing and provocative. Left disillusioned and frightened, I headed blind into a world that looked neither promising nor bright.
The winter days dragged on. Snow piled into a cascade of sadness and uncertainty that was impossible to shovel away (through K. and others tried their hardest). The lack of light seemed to be my inner monologue. I spoke in macabre vowels. I breathed an apocalyptic fog. It took more than 5 weeks for the first secondary teaching job to appear, and even longer to devise a plan to become certified, find a job (close by) and secure myself a financial future. Writing appeared in a helter-skelter fashion. Then in spurts, then began to finally materialize into something malleable and palatable. I was no longer thinking in terms of trite songs and dull repetitions. I wrote at times like a house aflame, while during other times I was more arid than a March 6, 2009, stock portfolio (see: lingering financial and economic influences on my psyche).
The stock market turned around and at this writing is 2,300 points higher than it was during the depths of its downturn and during the depths of my own depression. Hopefully the job market as a whole turns around quickly and comprehensively--offering all Americans a chance to breathe again and look at the world as a sunny place with promises of hope as opposed to a careening wheel becoming more and more shriveled with each passing day; tossing off the jobless at every turn and ruining the prospective lives of more generations.
I have secured a teaching job for next year and feel both humbled and lucky to have found one--both so quickly (3 months after becoming unemployed and about 1 1/2 months after teaching jobs began to be posted) and with such benefits to it. I may have the opportunity to teach 1) creative writing (!!), 2) drama (!!), and 3) journalism (!!)--all of which are my fortes.
If the MA economy is able to turn around by the end of 2010 and return to something normal and/or promising, I hope to be able to keep this job past the 2010-2011 school year. It seems likely that I will retain the position for the aforementioned school year, but for the 2011-2012 school year (when all federal funding will be non-existent) and districts and the state of MA again cutback on all aide to towns and local governments, the position may be cut along with hundreds (maybe thousands) of others across the state as virtually every town would be forced to raise taxes more than a nominal amount to bridge the difference gap between the prospective tax revenue and budget and what would be needed to retain every service and job from the previous year. (The level funded fiscal 2010 makes me feel more confident in 2010-2011 than I previously did as well.)
Regardless, this upcoming school year promises to be filled with enjoyment, excitement, preparation and guidance. I know positively that I will cherish every day I am teaching high school English. It is a life-long dream come true. The classes could not be better, the school is immaculate, the schedule is highly desirable, and from what I have observed of the students, they seem eager to learn, intelligent, diligent, and receptive.
As for the MFA program, I feel I have a very solid and structured writing schedule for this upcoming year (moreso than this past semester even before I became unemployed). I feel I'll learn a lot this semester as well and will be able to revise, finalize (?), and write a lot more and a lot more often. Instead of two or three days a week creatively writing, I might be able to get five or more in!
Here's to hoping the economy turns around as soon as possible to provide the necessary foundation for everyone to live again without the worry that at any moment their lives will implode on a whim of the unpredictable and uncontrollable stock and housing markets.