It was the night before the application deadline. My cursor blinked beside the final period of my personal statement and I hit save for the 50th time that day. Before me were all the reasons why I wanted to go to graduate school for creative writing, all wrapped up in perfect paragraphs tied with strings I hoped were eloquent and inspired. I read the 1,000 word document again and again, realizing with each and every sentence that this essay wasn’t written for the admission counselors or the alumni–it was written for me.
I always imagined myself going to graduate school. I pictured an old East Coast college prestigious and pretentious, then dreamed up late nights in the library drowning in seas of coffee and books. I could see my oversized glasses and my undersized social life. I welcomed the idea a two-year reprise from reality, replacing an office cubicle with a wood chair beside a round table. The idea of joining academia was always a romantic one shrouded in mystery and wonder. From the time I first discovered I wanted to be a writer, I had planned on going to graduate school.
But here I was, recommendation letters sent, financial aid packages requested, portfolio attached with hands shaking, unable or unwilling to hit submit. Had this not been what I had always wanted? Wasn’t this the next step in the six-year plan I had devised my freshman year of high school?
All of a sudden the reality hit that, should I get into any of the schools I was applying to, I would have no choice but to go (one does not turn down an opportunity to study at Brown or Columbia). In hitting submit I was potentially signing away the next two years of my life. I would be forced to give up the career I was building slowly but surely in fashion journalism and retreat behind the high bookcases of academia with the possibility of never returning.
Though real life turned out to be anything but easy, it did find me writing in New York City. Sure, I wasn’t writing short stories or laying down the foundations for a novel, but I was starting to really enjoy nonfiction writing. While writing fiction is kinda like drinking cough syrup–painful all the way down but worth it when it’s soothing your soul throat–writing non-fiction turned out to be more like eating a cupcake: short and sweet with the potential of a temporary sugar high. The more I wrote personal essays and quippy fashion articles, the more I craved them and the easier it became to picture myself not in oversized optical glasses but in oversized Chanel sunnies standing outside a tent at New York Fashion Week.
Suddenly there was this option of a career that I had never even fathomed before.