As I get ready to battle the second year of my MFA program, there is one thing I am holding close to my intellectual breast: I am better than my education.
We all know this but, because I am a recovering wannabe clotheshorse, brands always loom in my mind and I feel a constant compulsion to bend to them, to have a name, to rest myself against an institution instead of myself and my work. It’s like when you have a job and you let the job become your identity instead of you being your identity. It’s you before anything else, people. This is easy to forget. It’s so easy to get mixed up in a place or a thing that you forget the you in it all.
This is your semi-regular reminder to do you and I have artist Ebony G. Patterson to thank for giving this idea a little intellection retweeting in my mind. It comes by way of her recent interview with The Creative Independent where Patterson detailed why grad school is to help you in your work and that’s it. It’s not about the name, it’s not about the connection: it’s about you leveling up yourself so you can step everything up without them.
I’ll let her get into it.
Now, what grad school does in relation to the work is that it certainly helps to push you, right? Of course. There’s also this other thing where people say, “Well, does going to a particular kind of grad school help? Like, what if you go to one of the big-name grad schools?” There’s this idea that if you go to one of these big-name grad schools, say for example Yale, that somehow it’s going to change everything for you.
And there’re some people it has changed things for, right? There are. But guess what? There’re tons of other people who it hasn’t helped. I always say, “Think about that.” I won’t call out any names, but when somebody would say this to me, I said, “Well, have you ever heard of so-and-so?” And they would say, “No.” I said, “Exactly.” They went to that school, but you’ve never heard of them. It clearly cannot be the schooling. It has to be what you’re doing. It’s always about what you’re doing.
“There’re tons of other people who it hasn’t helped.”: please put that on my hands so I can keep reminding myself of that.
Not that I am hoping my MFA does any sort of boosting outside of finishing my novel but this is such a reminder to make sure that your pursuits, your life, your work is always about what you are doing. Not anyone else, not anything else: it’s about you doing the work. Enjoy the name of a place, enjoy the people you are with, enjoy the ride but, at the end of the day, it is about the work that you do. The second you start resting on another entity, that’s the second you start turning back time because you’re being lazy and – as they say in drag – “relying on that body.” Unfortunately, that body doesn’t happen to be your own.