Grad School Part I: Resistance

Glorious Ellis Hall (home of the English Dept. @Ohio U)
At some point during my senior year of college, I realized that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

I knew what I wanted to do with my life -- I wanted to be in a band.  I can remember being at a party and talking two these two guys I knew who were two years younger than me and in a band of their own about how we'd all be happy working at gas stations as long as we could be in a band.  At that point, I'd already been accepted into the graduate program at Ohio University, so I told them I'd have to be the manager of the gas station, what with my Master's degree in Creative Writing and all.

I applied to graduate school because I didn't know what else to do.  I would imagine a lot of people do that.  I only applied to a hand full of schools.  I was willing to go to grad school for pretty much anything in the realm of English, which meant I applied to literature programs which, if you know me, is insane.

Part of my problem was that I had no where to go.  I've more or less just gone wherever the wind blows me, but there was no wind to speak of.  I couldn't stay in Athens, Ohio, because there was no real reason to.  I didn't want to go back to my home town of Kent, Ohio, because that felt not unlike failure.  I wanted to strike out on my own, but I had no idea how.

I was going to OU when they adopted the "Attack Cat"
I will admit that there was a part of me that was sad that my college career was coming to an end, and I mean that from an educational standpoint, believe it or not.  I felt that I'd finally hit my the sweet spot of learning.  I felt like I was a part of the English department community, which is something I couldn't have said in the years previous.  I knew all the professors.  I was friends with other English majors.  I spent time at Ellis hall recreationally.  I had become part of something and it was ending just as it was beginning.

I don't know why Ohio University decided to accepted me into the graduate program.  I know that they generally frown upon accepting students from their own undergrad program.  I know that the only reason I was given a teaching position, stipend, and tuition waiver was because someone on the list ahead of me had turned them down.  I'm sure the recommendation letter from Dan Chaon didn't hurt, either (my one claim to fame).

While much of my desire to become a successful writer is selfish, there is a percentage that wants to do well by Ohio University.  I feel like they invested in me and I've yet to pay off.

My first year of graduate school was everything it shouldn't have been.  While I enjoyed being in The Local Arm (the band I was in at the time), it distracted me from all things graduate school.  The fact that I lived in a house with five undergrads didn't help, either.  That had nothing to do with them, it's just that I literally didn't have to leave the house to be social.  We had parties nearly every weekend, and some of those parties involved bands playing in our basement.  I only wrote sparingly, I was taking required classes, and I never went to any department functions.  The few times I tried to get involved, I bailed.

For a guy who was so desperate to get into grad school, I held on to my undergraduate life as if I would die without it.

Ellis Hall without snow, which was how I liked it.
An extension of that was a rather ridiculous long distance relationship with the girl I'd been with since my sophomore year.  We spent more than a year unable to completely move on mostly because we were afraid to.  We had completely separate lives on nearly every conceivable level, yet we kept going back and forth, even when we would officially break up.

I remember, at the end of my first quarter of grad school (we were on quarters back then), I actually decided to be social with the rest of my class.  We all met up at a bar and realized that all of us had begun the year with long distance significant others, and were now broken up with all of them.  I do believe I was the only one who refused to cut the cord completely.

That first year of grad school wasn't a good one, at least not for the right reasons.  I can't even claim that I got the full, graduate school experience that year.  I was just so far removed from it.

At the end of the first quarter, I was on academic probation.  My tuition waiver demanded a B average and I'd gotten a B and a B- in the two classes I had taken.  They were required classes that had little to do with creative writing and, as usual, I was obstinate; I was there to write, not take classes about literature.  But that's what I got for getting an MA and not an MFA, not that I knew the difference back then.

While I don't regret being in The Local Arm, I regret pretty much everything else about my first year of grad school.

Thankfully, there was a second year and a second chance to do it right.