Today the countdown on my blog says I submitted my thesis—as in, today was the deadline for thesis submission this spring. In actuality, I turned in my thesis TWO WEEKS AGO today! And then, the next morning, Chris and I woke up and moved to Florida. I was offered a position in Orlando, and I accepted. (I’m still only a contract employee until my background check clears. Apparently, VA background checks take a notoriously long time to clear in Florida.)
What has happened to my life? I started my last semester and this year with the plan of moving in June. Chris would probably be able to find a job first, because skills, and I had no idea what sort of work I would find—what do Creative Writing MFAers do for a living after? My program pushed pedagogy hard, but I never wanted to go into academia after graduation. This was a head-butt conversation several times in the program. Wait, you don’t want to teach? Why? Aren’t you a teacher? Yes, I taught for years at Deep, but my primary goal was never solely teaching—it was social justice, youth advocacy, non-profit work. I love working in the non-profit sector, but I was worried it would be hard to shift back into it after three years getting a creative writing degree.
However, during AWP this year, I went to the panel “Degree of Change: Using Your M.F.A. in Social Justice Nonprofit Work” with panelists from Shout Mouse Press, PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools Program, and Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. It was a great reminder to me that social justice and youth advocacy non-profit work jobs are out there, that they need and want creatives working for them, that they are where my heart lies, and that I can get back into non-profit work after graduate school. (And I totally texted all my Deeples from the panel telling them how awesome it was.)
I also worried that getting back into the non-profit sector, or not finding a job, would put a strain on my life. Chris has been so supportive the last three years, supporting us in so many ways, especially financially. (My TA stipend was $5000-$7000 less than the cost of NOVA rent, so I wasn’t really throwing around the big bucks.) With a wedding coming up, and knowing we want to start a family and buy a house in the coming years, I was worried that my skillset wouldn’t lead me to a decent paying job (or benefits. GMU was the first time I’ve had health insurance since I was on my parents’ plan in college.)
So I started applying for everything—writing jobs to non-profit jobs (even a few graphic design jobs.) I applied to about fifteen positions during the month of March, all in Orlando or Tampa—even one creative internship in Ohio for the summer. (It was paid.) I got new business cards and printed out my resume. I redesigned my website. And I didn’t hear back. I honestly didn’t think I’d hear back that soon; I even thought I was applying way too early, but I felt it couldn’t hurt to start looking. I applied for jobs I thought I was a shoe-in for and heard nothing. I was starting to believe that I’d been right in assuming the job search was going to be a long haul.
Then, in early April, I got a call from the Orlando libraries for a phone interview, then suddenly an in-person interview, and before I could even wrap my head around it or tell a few people I’d interviewed, I was offered the job! It involves writing, advocacy, reading, literacy, youth services, outreach—I mean, I work in a library. It’s a non-profit. It’s all the things in one job, *and* it has benefits.
Of course, I accepted, and then we moved. And what’s been so surprising to me is how happy I’ve been. I knew we were going to enjoy Florida, but the move has really reaffirmed how much of an affect weather and sunlight have on me. Chris and I have gone on walks daily, and almost every walk has ended in my saying, “I’m so happy.”
I can’t wait for my background check to clear (UGH, VA, why are you taking so long?) and to get started full-time. In the mean time, I’m off to work tomorrow for an event with the public schools. Today, I’m editing my novel. I’ll take it.