First, of course, there is the academic strain. Yesterday was an information dump. I attended orientations for the paperwork we're required to file which will track our activity and progress throughout the four (or five) (or six) semesters, the computer system which functions as the virtual gathering space and discussion platform during the five month project period that follows every ten-day residency, and the genre writing workshop in which seven of us (plus the teacher) will meet three more times over the next week to discuss the 20-page writing samples we submitted two months ago. In the morning I attended my first seminar (Reading Like a Writer -- based on the Francine Prose book of the same title), and in the evening my first student and faculty reading (a combination of poetry, writing for young people, and a work of fiction with a lengthy and detailed sex scene).
In between these academic events were social gatherings. There was the Buddy lunch, where I had the opportunity to connect with a writer who is further along in her MFA studies, also in the Creative Nonfiction track. It seems impossible that our match was random -- she too is a chef, a runner, a yogi, and her daughter rides horses -- yet she assured me that the program truly doesn't attempt to match buddy interests. Later, there was the Tostado dinner where some first-semester students and I had time to connect. I feel that we are creating a little community here. There is the housewife with the Harvard Law degree, the mother of six who recently left the Mormon church, the Jewish math teacher whose husband is also a recovered Mormon, and the other Jewish woman whose marriage to a Latino man is not recognized outside of West Hollywood. There is the recent college graduate with the fresh face and long blond hair who thinks her interest in writing about the darker side of life might be a result of her Las Vegas upbringing. There is the woman who moved to the States from Belarus six years ago and has mastered English enough to be in this masters program, and the other woman who speaks Russian, Armenian, and Hebrew.
And then there is the last thought that has been spinning around in my head: the one about fate and coincidence, that wonders at the oddity that six years ago I visited this very building, this corporate campus with the parking garage, to pick up my then-husband who worked for a company whose offices were housed in this very complex. Driving the roads to get from my life with Darby and the girls in our sweet house in the Valley to the Antioch campus, I've been crossing through the Mid-City neighborhood where I last lived with my ex, where I deepened my yoga practice and engaged in creative endeavors that had no career objective, where I unraveled the inauthentic life that I had been living, where I awakened in the pages of my journal and in long moments of silence, where I faced fears of loneliness and lost dreams, and finally, through clenched belly and tear-stained cheeks found the courage to leave that inauthentic life I had created out of blind, grasping fear, scrape down to the very bedrock of my soul, and begin the long, beautiful process of building the life that truly inspires me to live.