The Bride Goes to Graduate School: A parable
Once upon a time
I'd narrowed down my choices to two gowns. Gown A was my favorite. It looked so perfect on its puffy, satin covered hanger. It beckoned me with its loveliness. I tried it on. And...meh. That's how it looked on me: meh. Just okay. It was a beautiful dress, but I didn't really look that beautiful in it.
Then there was Gown B. It was my second favorite. But when I put it on, I sparkled. The dress and I became more than the sum of our parts. It was clear: This was my dress. We were meant for one another. The dress knew it. My mother knew it. I was the only one having a hard time admitting it.
I tried those two dresses on dozens of times each. During the last marathon shopping session, I put on each one in rapid succession, vainly trying to get Gown A to live up to its on-hanger promises. I wore myself out trying to make myself look as wonderful in Gown A as I did in Gown B. Oh, how I wanted to choose Gown A!
Finally, I did the brave thing: I admitted that I was my most beautiful self in Gown B, and I gently let go of the other dress. Eight years later, I'm glad that I chose wisely, not vainly. Yes, I still think longingly of that other gown from time to time, but that's just how I am. In the end, I sparkled, the wedding was lovely, and my marriage has been unimpacted by my fashion choices.
Once upon a more recent time
I've been obsessing over choices lately. This time around the wedding gowns have been replaced by graduate schools. This is the project I've cryptically referred to recently. Over the past few months, I've worked fiendishly to apply to six MFA in writing programs. And then, to my delight and surprise, I found myself accepted to nearly all of them, including my top three choices.
And that's when the real problems started.
I couldn't choose. Each school had a long list of pros, and very few cons. When listmaking failed me, I tried overriding the analytical part of my brain and listening to my intuition. But everything was cloaked in white noise.
To make matters worse, I already knew which school I wanted to choose. It was perfect -- until I tried it on. And then I realized it didn't fit nearly as well as another one of the schools. I tried those schools on in rapid succession, just like the wedding dresses. And each time, I knew in my heart that the school I wanted wasn't the best fit for me. It took me many days and much angst to admit this. My husband knew it. I think the other school knew it. I was the only one having a hard time admitting it.
Finally, I did the brave thing: I chose the school that fit me best. And I'm excited to say that I'm enrolled in the MFA in writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Yes, I'll probably still think longingly of that other school from time to time, but that's just how I am. I don't like picking favorites or choosing one thing at the exclusion of another. I hate questions about favorite colors, foods, and books. Why must I choose? Can't I love it all? Can't I experience it all?
In some things, the answer is no. Well, that's the answer if everything goes well. You only wear one wedding dress. You only complete one degree per subject. Any more than that and something has probably gone awry.