Because two undergraduate degrees and an M.B.A. just aren’t enough, I’m going back to school!
Here’s the story. I worked in marketing and fundraising until my body screamed, “NO MORE!” due to that nasty tumor on my pancreas. While I convalesced after spending New Year’s Eve at Sibley Hospital for pancreatitis in 2005, I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in music with the goal of teaching college. The first week of my final year at George Mason University, I learned that I had cancer, and my life flipped upside-down.
For whatever reason, after my cancer diagnosis, my interests changed — I no longer had any interest in music. I forced myself to graduate a year later (summa cum laude, thank you very much!), but I still had no interest in music. Thinking that it would be a shame to quit that career path and then one day wake up to find my interest returned, I applied to and got accepted into the University of Maryland School of Music as a graduate teaching assistant in music theory. A year and a half into that program my interest in music still had not returned.
This past January I decide to take a leave of absence from Maryland to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and see if I missed music at all. The next day I started writing my book I Have Cancer. And I’ve Never Felt Better! and by the end of the week we had sold our piano. I felt tremendous relief no longer having to force work that I had no interest in and no longer having to feel like a fish out of water among the music students.
I wake up every morning now excited to write blog posts, work on my book, and pitch and write articles, but, ever the overachiever, I want to improve my writing and learn all I can about writing as a career. So a few months ago, when Tommie and I were walking around Old Town Alexandria we both had an epiphany that I could return to school once more. We started out just looking for local writing workshops, but then we found the Johns Hopkins University Masters of Arts in Writing program. I submitted an application in early October and learned this week that I’ve been accepted.
I’ll take one or two classes each semester in my area of study — nonfiction writing — and we’ll see where it leads. I have enjoyed writing about my life and my health care experiences, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to just write about “me” forever. I’m curious to learn what other types of writing interest me and how well I do with them. Most students apparently find first-person writing much more difficult than third-person, but I’m the opposite. I feel somewhat naked when I can’t throw an “I” in a piece. Time to shake up my comfort zone!
So that’s my news. Classes start in January, and I’ll be taking a core class taught by Cathy Alter (who wrote the fabulously entertaining memoir Up for Renewal), where among other things I’ll read a variety of forms within nonfiction and then write pieces in each one. I bet I do well in some and then really suck in others. Should be interesting.
It feels good. Four plus years since my cancer diagnosis, I feel like my health is on track (despite the fact that I’ll probably always have tumors in me), and I’m finally on a career path I love. Now if only it would stop raining so that I could get back out on my bike!