Lili Török, 32, New York, USA

 

After over a year of indecision, I have to write this post now because it has a ticking clock urgency. Sometime this month, or maybe next month, I will find out if I was accepted to a creative writing program. A program in English, which isn’t my first language. Yes, I have considered writing in Hungarian, and decided against it. The greatest gift of my thirties was to realize that I made the rules in most cases that give me anxiety.

 

Age and everything it means is made up, and yet I feel a palpable difference between my twenties and my thirties. To me, anxiety about the meaning of life has subsided since I turned thirty, but a productive fear of my life abruptly ending one day crept in. It crept in in a good way, like a benevolent whisper in my ear to remind me that I have work to do and that I need to be with Aron.

 

I have developed a laser focus on doing what I like, and spending as much time as I can with the people I love. I just can’t postpone doing the things I think are important anymore. I just no longer want to engage in anything professionally that I don’t think is meaningful. I don’t want to work on anything where there’s no hope for me to one day become best in the world. And — I just want to write this fucking book.

 

When I decided to apply for a creative writing MFA, my life changed, and I changed. I wasn’t just excited to be writing on the side. I was so excited to schedule interviews and descend into the worst and most random parts of my soul. I was excited for _feedback_, my greatest nightmare before. Days would fly by. On one level, I have been happy since I was 20 and met Aron; but on another, I have never been happy like this because I never experienced this most genuine side of me.

 

I was going to wait until I got the results. I would write a piece about the celebration of a new life, the crown jewel of my existence as a New York immigrant if they take me; the celebration of my resilience and self awareness if they don’t (a much, much, much likelier scenario). I had no problem imagining either world, especially a world where I get rejected. Then I talked to my friend who I have been stringing along with this long awaited piece for a year, and she stated the obvious -- I should write both.

 

Writing about working on a book is a bit like telling your friends you’re pregnant when you’re just 2 weeks in. I had a friend who did that because she wanted people to truly appreciate the pain if it didn’t happen. We called her baby the pilot project. So inspired by her, here are two versions of what I would submit to this project if I got accepted at the creative writing program I applied to; and I what I would submit if I didn’t.

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IF I GOT REJECTED

I applied for a creative writing degree because I want to write a book and I have been researching it for years but it’s hard to make the time when you work, and this is what I want the most in the world. It would be cooler of course if I could just shit it out in my spare time, or wake up every morning at 6, but as it happens, I often wake up at 6 for my job, and so this just has to be my way of doing things. I also applied because I am not a native speaker and that doesn’t mean I can’t write in English, but it does mean that I am looking for guidance.

 

I got rejected. I am sad of course because this hope I had kept me going and without noticing, I stopped applying for jobs, I stopped making other professional plans, I was just waiting, like an idiot. I feel a bit overly ambitious for thinking my writing, in English, was enough to earn me a place among real Americans, innovative English speakers who can innovate in English, like David Foster Wallace or James Joyce.

 

But to be honest, I no longer feel that I can’t innovate or that I’m not allowed to write in English. I’ll innovate because I am grounded in four other languages, and I intimately know a language that some of the best authors have used to write wonderful books. That is my language and I can fall back on it and turn it and twisted and lay it out in English. I like a challenge, I like having a goal, and the goal, let’s not get confused, is to write, not to get a degree. I’ll be fine.

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IF I WAS ACCEPTED

I applied for a creative writing degree because I want to write a book and I have been researching it for years but it’s hard to make the time when you work, and this is what I want the most in the world. It would be cooler of course if I could just shit it out in my spare time, or wake up every morning at 6, but as it happens, I often wake up at 6 for my job, and so this just has to be my way of doing things. I also applied because I am not a native speaker and that doesn’t mean I can’t write in English, but it does mean that I am looking for guidance.

 

To my astonishment, I got accepted. It would be cooler if I just dropped a book one day and none of you knew I was working on it. Or not to write about going to school to do this, just go, change my LinkedIn status maybe, or not even, just drop that fucking book.

 

But I want to share this news because I’m incredibly, incredibly happy that this is what I am going to be spending my spare time with for the next few years, and so I’ll do it, because I can. Because apparently, there are people who feel like they can help me.

 

Two years in someone’s thirties is a huge investment, and this is what I choose to do with those two years. Hunter is a generous program and it offers a full ride. It is still a huge investment of time, and a lot of trust in the people who would be working with me (some of whom just dropped a very controversial out of touch book), but I know myself and I know this will get me where I want to go.

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