It seems that often what motives us to do, or not do, something is fear: fear of missing out, fear of heights, fear of danger. Sometimes these fears are justified and keep us from doing things we do not want to do, and will serve no purpose for us. While this topic can be wide ranging, I am going to focus on a fear I think most afflicts students: the fear which comes with decision making. Students are faced with a myriad of choices, programs, courses, electives. These decisions are “life changing” as we are often told. “We are deciding our future” so, no pressure.
I have been bumping back my decision about whether to continue on to a master’s degree or forge my own path for awhile. In this choice I have had to confront my fears and attempt to understand what was going to be the best choice for me, in this moment. I needed to consider what was motivating my decisions. What was my gut feeling (though this seemed to change with every breath). How can we know what our gut is telling us? How do we know which fear is motivating us and which is holding us back? Do we jump off the proverbial bridge, or keep our feet planted firmly on the ground?
Through my studies I came to understand how to question my motivations: me, or societal expectations? I learned to consider my thoughts and actively question why I think that way. When it came to making this decision though it was much more difficult. Wading my way through my fears and coming to understand which one to listen to was a challenge, more of a challenge than any similar I had faced before.
In both corners I had a fear of failure. I feared applying to an MFA and getting rejected, I feared getting accepted and learning I wasn’t good enough. Pursuing writing without an MFA presented me with a fear that my writing would not be accepted. I feared I wouldn’t get picked up and I would be forced to “face the music” early. I can’t allow fear to dictate my choice, but which fear did I need to push beyond, and which was only a façade? Which was serving me no purpose but to make my decision more difficult?
When making these choices, no matter how hard we may try, no one will be able to tell us what to do. Some may try, but this is a choice we have to make ourselves. In my case, after months of consideration. I came to understand my fears, I took a critical look at both sides, and the feelings each gave me. I feared failing, this thing I am pursuing has been a dream of mine since I can remember. I started my BA because of this dream, and to quickly learn that it might not happen was too much. But an MFA, while I may pursue it in the future, will only prolong my debut into this world. And, in my gut, prolong the chance of failure, well, unless I got rejected from the master’s program. But the MFA was giving me an out, a way to still be working toward my dream in the safety of a school-setting.
I told myself early I would not let fear stop me. I just needed to learn which fear was stopping me. As I let the thoughts percolate I understood that my fear, the one stopping me, was the fear that I would enter this world of publishing and writing, and flop. I felt like the choice about an MFA was one I needed to make now. I couldn’t wait an extra year, or two, it was now, or never. But this is not the case. There is the possibility that I will lose some of the letters of recommendation offers I received near the end of my degree, that I may lose contact with some that offered to help. But, there will always be the option to go back, and to go back when I feel ready to take on a master’s degree.
I have had my head buried in books for years and I need a moment to breathe. I learned from my late-start-BA that undertaking a degree when we better understand what we want means we get more out of it. So, right now I am facing my fear of stepping into the world of query letters, novel-writing, and pursuing publications. There may come a time when I choose to pursue an MFA. But, for now, I need to write, I need to find my voice; I need to face my deepest fear and step off the bridge.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature