Tag Archives: choices


Having an MFA means, “I am a filmmaker.”

“I’m up to my eyeballs in debt.”

The MFA helps you develop your unique voice and grow as a storyteller.

“Don’t eat. Don’t sleep. Especially don’t fall in love with someone.”

The MFA will help you make movies that move your audience.

“You’ll need a car to move production equipment around. And production—you could basically learn that on your own.”

The MFA is a terminal degree. It enables you to teach.

Or you could do this on your own.


Stranger World

How do you prepare for the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?

You wait. You wonder. You cry. You push it away.

You’re “fine” once you’ve pushed it away. You’re so good you hardly know you’ve done it.

Till something makes you remember, and you feel the jolt, it’s closer now. It’s gaining on you. And it’s going to catch you, no matter how fast you run.

How do you prepare to be caught?

You can think about the other side. You can think of the last time this happened to you, remember that the scariest things turn into the best things. But that doesn’t help until you’re on the flip side.

Really all you can do is know that you made the right choice. It won’t seem like the right choice. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be sad. And you’ll be alone.

Know you made the right choice when it’s about to catch you. Know the price you pay is directly related to the prize you glean. Know pain counts for something. Know it will be worth it, one way or another.

Welcome to the world, stranger.

What If

The clock chimes eleven times. Your back aches, but not so much as your mind. The screen grows relentlessly, twenty tabs open. Your fingers clasp the uni-ball pen, unwilling to let go. Unwilling to give up this project.

You barely remember nights when you slept deeply. The ideas from your thesis come with you to your dreams, wrestling inside your head throughout the night. Your advisor’s words echo, bounce from thread to counterthread. This argument is weak. This idea needs exploring. You know he’s right. You blink, eyes dry. Dry long ago.

Alone in your apartment, working. You’re 29 years old. Your thesis is nearly finished. You’ve been fighting for it for years, ripping apart arguments, consuming and digesting ideas quicker than M&Ms. Your mind is sharp as a whip. Your hand cramped from notetaking. You’ve time for nothing else. This paper must be finished.

The clock chimes. Once. You drop the pen. Press the button. Turn off the monitor. You drop into bed, alone. Right before sleep swallows your mind, you wonder. What if?

You’re exhausted. You can’t move, you’re so tired. And you didn’t even get anything done. Hair in your eyes, plastered to your forehead. One child hanging onto your ankles, another asleep in your lap. You feel heavier than lead.

Dishes weren’t done. You remember when you hear a clank come from the kitchen. He’s cleaning them again, Old Reliable. You stroke the angel’s down head of your babe, admire the soft face, clenched fists, button nose. Your head falls back against the sofa.

A warm hand on your arm. You jerk awake.

“Hey,” he says, a pile of leftovers in hand. He plops down on the couch beside you. “Long day?”

You nod. Motion for quiet, glance at your lap. He eats in silence. You’re pretty sure the little girl on your ankles is asleep too.

Hours after sunset, you drag yourself up to the bedroom. Cranky kids, too sleepy to go to bed. By the time you’ve got everyone settled, you’re a zombie, circles hanging under your eyes. Hubby’s long been asleep. He’s lucky you don’t have the energy to wake him. You collapse into bed.

Right before you’re gone, you remember, for just a moment, all the ideas you had, all the research papers you could have torn apart, all the brilliant academic arguments you could have fought and won. You had so much potential. What if?

You’re still young. You refuse to do anything half-heartedly. Two roads diverge. You look down both. You will choose. One, or the other. There is no both. Not for you.

You did it. The diploma says PhD. The final grades are in. You’re even employed! You feel infinitely relieved, want to shout, “I’m done!” You’re ready to start teaching. You’re the leading expert in your field. Your paper already got referenced. You’re ready to take on the world.

Your kid hands you a piece of paper, late afternoon, your hands in the sink. Colorful crayon marks all over it. She points to one of the circles with the wide grins spreading outside their faces, an abstract tree behind it. “You,” she says.

“Lovely,” you tell her.

The drawing isn’t yours. Ungraded, unfit for academic attack. The kid is a being all her own, grinning up at you. She’s alive.

Choose Your Future – Now!

What would you say if someone asked you to choose what you want to do with the next phase of your life?

The question has been posed to me, in multiple forms, a lot recently. It’s pretty unnerving. The reason is that I’ve decided to graduate a year early from undergraduate college, and have suddenly put myself on the fast track to the future.

Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

Answering that question is key to finding appropriate graduate schools. It needs to be answered so I can form the right kind of future for myself—one I’ll enjoy and thrive in. What if I answer incorrectly? What if I just don’t know?

Thinking back to when I first entered college as a freshman, I had little idea what I wanted to do. I knew what I liked—writing and video—and went from there. I’ve learned about the intricacies of these two professional fields . . . but not enough to be able to see the future.

Perhaps I’d do well to remember that finding a good course or a school that fits is a lot like finding a friend or romantic partner. There’s more than one good fit available, and no place or person is perfect. Experimentation is key to finding out what you really like . . . so whatever career I settle on for the future, I better start today.

Your Ideal Imaginary Career

Two vexing questions torment most college students sooner or later. They are: What’s the best career for me? And how will I get paid for it?

I’m wondering about these things more and more as I approach the end of my sophomore year. I hear a lot about the virtues of practicality—searching out a job that will pay and actually exists. This is surely important, but as I see it, I still have two years of relative freedom to pinpoint the career I really want, whether or not it pays and/or exists. Call me idealistic, ’cause I am. But this approach is practical too—the more I know about myself, what I like and what I’m good at, the more I’ll be able to communicate who I am and what I do to others and find the most appropriate career for me. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay. But it’s well worth my time to hunt down that ideal career now when I can, before I get too distracted, so that later I’ll be able to find the closest thing that actually does pay and exist.

The question remains, How do I find my ideal (if imaginary) career? The answer is this: listen. Be aware of yourself and your innate feelings about different subjects and activities. Notice how your feelings change in different environments—are you motivated to do this thing on your own, or only when competing against other people? (I’m very motivated to do mathematics in a classroom setting, but the motivation suddenly and completely disappears when I’m on my own.) What is it about this subject that keeps you engaged?

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel

You want to find a subject that you care deeply about, and that means you’ll experience a variety of emotions toward it. Sometimes the activities you’re best at and most interested in can be the most frustrating, but that happens naturally. It’s much easier to hate a family member than a stranger. Just make sure that your ideal career is something you really and deeply want, not something you only want to want. It’s a subtle difference, but if you start doing what you think you want to do now, the truth will emerge soon enough.

Search out, hunt down, and find your ideal career. If it’s imaginary, call it a goal. It’ll give you something to work towards, and half the challenge is knowing what your goal is. The key is finding something that you care about.