I’ve been going through my grad school notes, deciding what to keep and what to dispose of. On many of my notes are little sketches of scenes in class that I would write when something struck me as interesting, absurd, or annoying. Here’s one I just found, written in November 2004 in my 18th-Century British Literature seminar:
So the man in my class, a middle-aged man with thinning hair who wears striped chambray shirts, jeans and brown shoes, says he is quitting the program because a company has made him an offer to take them public — an offer “too good to refuse,” he says, using those words. Others in the class are alarmed, trying to get him to consider continuing while he takes the company public, or putting off the IPO until the semester’s over.
“Obviously,” he says, the pomposity just below the surface, “none of you have taken a company public.” He goes on — it is a task that consumes one’s life, he says. “You eat, sleep, and shit it,” he says.
And, my god, I try to shift my mind around to try to fathom this. What would make me quit the program? What is that important to me? Money? Surely not.
That last line makes me laugh. If money is important to you, you really don’t have much business getting an MFA in creative writing! It’s not a degree that you earn back in money. It’s one that gives you returns in experience and community — and that is only going to be valuable to you if other things are not more valuable.
I wonder what happened to that man. I don’t remember him very much at all now.