On Finding the Right Program

“I’m just worried about you, going to New York for a person,” D said. “Because I know you. And if she isn’t who you think, or if it doesn’t work out, and you just go for that, then what’s left after?”
I remember that conversation now, as I sit in the hallway waiting for my literature class to start. For a while there, I was scared she was right. But I just came from, finally, a meeting with my advisor, and now I’m sitting on the tile floor by the elevators drinking a Monster and pondering my life decisions.
The conversation H and I just had is nothing like I thought it would be. I walked into the program’s main office and she was standing there, reshelving a book. Her hair was pinned up with a pencil, a few wisps trickling around her face, and she was standing underneath a free standing lamp. I shook her hand and said “I think we have an appointment.”
“Are you Sara?”
I nodded. She didn’t remember me from our brief meeting at orientation, where we exchanged pleasantries at finally meeting in person over wine and cheese and cookies.
“Come in,” she gestured into her office before entering and sitting down in her rolling chair. She propped her feet up on her desk and turned to face me. “So, how are you?”
My standard response: “Oh, I, um, I’m great. Things are great.” She didn’t know me well enough to get the subtlety hidden in my tone.
“How’s your workshop? Who do you have again?”
I told her the professor and then added, “It’s fine. I mean, I haven’t been workshopped yet. I just now submitted my first piece, and I will hear back on Monday. But it’s not like I thought it would be.”
“Tell me what you mean.” Her face was open and invited me to continue.
“Well, I…I’m just feeling a little lost without feedback. I’m not sure that I’m doing things right, or that I totally know what’s going on. It’s not totally what I thought it would be, but I think that’ll be better now that I’ve had my first workshop. I was cursed by the first letter of my last name to be the last one to go. It’s unnerving.”
“I’m sure you’re doing just fine. What literature class are you in?”
I told her, following up with, “We spend most classes talking about the benefits of regular books versus ebooks. So…What I really wanted was your class.”
“Well,” she smiled, “now that you’ve come to see me and I know you in person, when 25 people sign up for one class, you’ll have a better shot. Because I’ll have a sense of who you are now.”
“Cool,” I said, unsure of what to say.
“So, what else?” She leaned forward, her elbows on her knees.
“I just…I still feel lost. About the program. About what I need to do. How will I know what to do next? Will things get sent to me? How does that happen?”
She proceeded to rattle off a whole list of thing, concluding with: “You’re not invisible. We see you, and we know you’re in the program.”
I sank back into my own chair. Without my even saying anything, she had me completely and totally pegged.
“You’re in the right place, regardless of whatever it is you’re thinking right now to the contrary. And what you need to do now is write. Just write. Everything. On your computer, in a notebook, in the palm of your hand. Speak up in class. Make yourself visible.”
I am still surprised now, as I sit in the hallway, how she knew precisely what I was really afraid of without my having to say. And though my program may confuse me, and my classes may not be what I thought, and the city occasionally scares the hell out of me, I’m not invisible. I’m in the right place.
I picked the right program, and the right person.

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