I’m heading into a new season this fall, beginning my two-year full-time MFA program in Creative Writing at UBC. We’re meeting in person, which will be a huge change after moving online for the the last 18 months of my BA. With vaccinations available to everyone aged twelve and up this summer, it seemed possible for a “return to normal” in September, but classes begin next week and the variants are still spreading at alarming rates.
If we’ve all learned anything during this never-ending pandemic, it’s to expect change at a moment’s notice. We plan, and we hope, getting vaccinations when they are offered, wearing masks indoors to stay safe, thoroughly washing our hands, and trying not to take unnecessary risks. We have no guarantees, and we try to manage our fear.
In any new season, I usually feel a mix of joy and dread. This fall, I have lots of different emotions crowding to the surface. I’ve loved my five month break from academia. I’ve read loads of mystery and crime novels, slept in, watched some great TV, played cards with Jason and the kids, walked, practiced some yoga and wrote. My three guiding words in this season were: rest, relax, rejuvenate. I wanted to be prepared and ready for the new challenges of being a full-time MFA student.
Part of me mourns the end of the summer. The other embraces it with open arms, as I feel like I prioritized rest and leisure, so I hope I’ll see the rewards once I jump back in to classes and assignments. I’m also going to be a TA for the first time for an undergrad writing class. This both excites and scares me. We never really know if we are up to a challenge simply by thinking about it. We have to jump in and do it in order to really find out.
We have another unexpected change in the form of Ava taking a gap year before starting at University of Victoria. For an entire year, I’ve been emotionally preparing for her to leave home, grieving for her while she was still here living with us. And then at the end of July, we found out that she wouldn’t have a place to live on campus, so after a flurry of searching for off-campus housing that didn’t exist or was ridiculously expensive, Ava made the decision to defer her admission for one year. So she remains at home, working a couple of part-time jobs to save more money for school next year.
A lovely surprise because I don’t have to let go of her quite yet, but still a change that I wasn’t expecting. Next week, William starts grade 10 at a new high school in our district, so for him it’s a new season as well. Something in my nature loves predictability and certainty, but too much stability becomes stale. We do need a bit of variety and spontaneity to keep us engaged and growing.
The older I get, the more I understand that I can’t think my way through change. I just have to walk it out. Trying to forecast exactly what will happen is a fool’s errand. Situations are too complex for that type of guesswork. As we say in the recovery movement, an expectation is a premeditated resentment. I’m trying to “cherish no outcome” as a friend of mine says. Instead I choose to believe I’ll have what I need for the challenges ahead at the moment I need them. Not before and not after.
Tomorrow the calendar turns over to September and a whole new season begins. What’s in store for you this fall?