April 14, 2014 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
You remember that scene in Jumanji in which Robin Williams emerges from the board game after 20 some-odd years and has NO IDEA what’s going on in his hometown?
Other than the whole trapped-in-a-jungle-board-game hell, I can completely relate.
In November, I started my first semester in the Master’s of Fine Arts program at Spalding University. My concentration is creative nonfiction. I’m not gonna lie — I thought this would be relatively easy-peasy to fit into my life. I was a journalist. I have a food blog. I got this creative nonfiction thing in the bag, I thought.
Holy shiitake, was I wrong.
I underestimated how challenging grad school would be, even if it was studying a topic that I loved in a low-residency/independent study. And I was naive enough to think I could “have it all” and go to school, blog, freelance, work a 9-to-5, play with my dog and give my husband some attention. That meant the blog went dark for longer than I anticipated.
Fortunately, I’ve just sent my last assignments for the semester, so school will be on hold until the fall. I’ll be back on the blog, eatin’ cheap and writing about it.
Before I dive right into food blogging, let me share a few lessons I’ve learned from my graduate school experience thus far:
- I’m too old for all-nighters. I stayed up past midnight two nights in a row before one of my deadlines. I was tired and cranky for four days after that. But when I got my undergrad, I was staying up until 3 a.m. at least two nights a week and would turn around and go to class the next day. These days, mama needs a proper bedtime.
- Coffee is king. My heart has always yearned for coffee, but the addiction has only solidified this semester. A little math:
- Instant coffee > no coffee
- Bad coffee > no coffee
- Reheated day-old coffee > no coffee
- Shame = 0
- Pizza is the perfect food for higher learning. Pizza incorporates major food groups (if you get a supreme), you can get it just about anywhere at any time, and it’s good lukewarm. Nuff said.
- Friends are important. My grad school friends get me. Not just because we’re tortured writers committed to documenting life as we see it (seriously, these are the conversations we have), but you need someone to bitch to in a Facebook message at 11 p.m. when you have no idea how to end an essay. Non-school friends are equally as important, especially when they forgive you for flaking on plans to stay inside and peck at a computer.
- So is a supportive life partner. Poor Rob. At best, I’ve been inattentive. At worst, I’ve been a terror to be around, especially if caffeine hasn’t hit my nervous system. Rob not only restrained himself from fleeing in the night, but he has also been the most encouraging husband a gal could ask for. /mushielovetalk
- Writing about food is easy. Writing about myself is hard. Need me to write a 500-word essay about the joys of a Panera bagel? DONE. Need me to write an essay about what my parents’ marriage taught me about love? HOLD ON THERE WITH YOUR HIPPIE REQUEST. Creative nonfiction is a lot of self-reflection. I could float by and get a degree by writing a grand piece about the joys of oatmeal, but higher education is supposed to be about challenging oneself. (Look at me, using words like “oneself.” Who do I think I am?) So please forgive me if I’m a little more reflective, self aware, and a general pain in the ascot.
- Antiques Roadshow is the perfect program to play in the background while you write. Give it a try. That show is GOLDEN.