The Epiphany of My Senior Year

I began my senior year of college confident in my post-graduate plans. This is not to say that I haven’t been freaking out about actually taking the steps to make said plans a reality, but it’s not for nothing that I knew, or at least thought I knew, what I’d be doing by this time next year. Not long into my first semester at Denison University, I changed my major from Communications to English-Writing. Filling out and submitting that simple form put me on a trajectory that I thought would land me exactly where I wanted to be--teaching creative writing at the college level.

In order to prepare for such a career, in my sophomore year I added a minor in Educational Studies, another decision which would alter my life completely. Now that I’m a senior, a seasoned vet as it were, I have had plenty of opportunities to answer adult questions about what I want to do with the rest of my life. It didn’t take long for me to fall into a comfortable, routine response: “Well, I love school, so I don’t mind putting in the time to get my MFA, and then hopefully a PhD. The goal is to become a college professor,” I’d say. I was usually met with glowing eyes and wide smiles, signs of approval from strangers and family. Though I savored the rush of validation I received, I couldn’t help but think that the plans for my future might roll of my tongue so easily because they felt so abstract and far away.

As a senior, I no longer have the luxury of abstraction and indecision. At least, I feel that I don’t anymore. Like many other young adults, I have no clue what I’m doing or how to get along in “the real world”. To cope with all the stress of not knowing how to survive off the hill, I spent a long time composing what I’ll call “Plan A”.

This plan, which I developed over the course of my junior year with the help of my best friend, involves attending Ohio State University for three years while I study for my MFA. During this time, this friend and I would live together in an apartment in Columbus, a notion which comforts us both since we have significant others and family in the area. Columbus doesn’t intimidate us, and in a time when I already know I’ll be drowning in the newness and horror of adulthood, I know I’ll need some semblance of comfort in my life. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with “Plan A”. It wasn’t until I spoke with a former professor and current mentor about this plan that everything began to feel wrong.

As crazy as it sounds, a thirty-minute long conversation with this faculty member, whose opinion I value very highly, changed the course of my life (at least for the foreseeable future). While my mentor gave me the names of other universities to apply to, filling me on which institutions have the best staff and which are situated in the best cities for writing, I found that I couldn't picture myself completing an MFA. This degree, which requires an ambitious spirit and thick skin, no longer felt right for me; as much as I love to write, I can’t imagine being happy in an environment that seems to thrive on cutthroat competition. What’s more, I could not, and cannot, imagine myself publishing voraciously in my early career, a necessary evil of trying to become (and remain) a professor.

For once, my feelings about my future had nothing to do with my ability to succeed, but everything to do with my potential happiness and fulfillment in the future. I did not “want it”, as this mentor cautioned, enough to warrant investing my money, my time, and my energy into this program. It’s because of this conversation, and a subsequent phone call with my mom, that led me to reimagine my life after Denison. The decision to separate my undergraduate degree from my potential master’s degree opened up countless possibilities, and in effect, inspired me to complete all the applications I was too scared to even look at before. Although I may not continue to write creatively in an educational setting, I know I’ll never lose that part of myself; I also know that by pursuing a Masters in Education, just as my mother did, I will nourish another worthwhile passion of mine.