the countdown of complaints
six days before it’s time for me to move to alabama—i’m riding down i-20 in the passenger’s seat of my mama’s car when i rub my eyes and blurt out, i don’t wanna go back to school.
my mama is paying attention to the road—not me—when she chuckles and asks how you gone pay your car note if you don’t go?
when the decision was made that i was going straight to grad school fresh out of undergrad, everyone had general replies of you should wait /
get a regular job for a little while /
give yourself time to live more
but i’ve never really been good with time and i ain’t really been living.
my granny calls me the next day and reminds me that it’s my life. she says don’t feel like you have to go, you can get a job.
i don’t want a job—that’s why i’m going to grad school.
my daddy says i won’t last a year, let alone another four.
six months ago when i decided to apply, solely based on the revelation that i had no post-graduation plans and no money, i knew that me and school did not need to reacquaint ourselves with one another.
i’ve been in school almost as long as i’ve been alive.
i’m comfortable, ok even, with being a student and i’m tired of being a student. i figured an MFA would at least allow me the extra time to continue starting and stopping what is supposed to be my book.
my mama asks me do i feel like i am ordained to write. i don’t like this word, but i say yea anyways.
i applied to seven fully funded creative writing programs. i wasted a lot of people’s office hours and time allowing them to help me write personal statements and letters of recommendation, knowing i’d rather be shopping for opportunities and/or some alternate impression that solidifies i can make these stories in my head a lucrative career.
i initially got denied and waitlisted. only one out of the seven programs accepted me from jump—the bible belt’s finest, four little girls in remembrance. a football town. the south. the apple of my eye where racism is fried hard and the chicken fried harder.
a woman i admire told me it’s rare for someone to get into grad school straight out of undergrad. she told me my writing is on the right track. my ego subtly sucked this in.
something in me thought i was better than a regular life even when i’m a regular girl.
i just never equated higher education as a means to helping me get there. i don’t think an MFA means bestselling author. i don’t know what it really means and i don’t know why i thought i needed it.
i never considered college an accomplishment, and i still don’t. it just always felt like it was the next step. i live in the motion.
as high school was coming to a close, i only applied to one, and not because it was my dream school—i never had one of those either. i only applied to college because i had a math teacher ask me what college are you going to? bikini bottom?
so i went to a computer and googled “college” + “art school”—found one with rolling admissions—got in, because over 90% of applicants do, and moved to chicago.
i thought i wanted to study journalism—be a music journalist—write about my favorite artists. that didn’t work out. then i changed my major to music business; they told me i had to take both accounting and finance—i told them i didn’t come to art school for all that—moved on. changed my major to creative writing.
i didn’t know what the “creative” part of writing was at first in regards to nonfiction. i wasn’t familiar with these essays that were required of my major. but i learned. essays were just stories i could tell anyway i wanted to tell them. in any form. in any amount of words. they just had to be true. i studied writers i’d never heard of. i got pretty good at writing my truth... i told you i’m a great student.
after three years of writing, i sat down in an auditorium during the national anthem right before walking across the stage to solidify i’d finished something. my family was more excited, because i was the first of my generation. i was proud to make them proud. they were proud i had decided to continue my education further. i think they think i’m going to school for something more important than i actually am. but i had a post-undergrad plan.
something in me thought i was good enough to get an agent and a book deal and an advance, to where i could skip grad school altogether.
i clearly know nothing about the publishing world.
something in me thought i had worked hard enough in undergrad to generate some kind of interest.
this is what i tell my mama in the car. this whole story. it doesn’t really move her.
she says again, all i’m saying is who gone pay your car note cause it’s due every month?
the day before it was time to leave for alabama, i bang my head on the roof of the garage door trying to pack boxes in the back of the truck—hard, concussion inducing hits.
i thought i knocked myself out, but i kept going.
when i did it again, i had to sit down. i had to cry, i couldn’t do it without reason. i’m always moving, always leaving, doing what i am supposed to be doing.
my granny and my mama watch me. they don’t say nothing. they let me cry for thirty seconds and then my mama says, kendra, move so we can put the rest of the stuff in the truck.