Monday, September 12, 2011

Bagel Fairy No More (and Other Identity Crises)

WARNING: This post is long as shit so if you just want the short explanation, scroll down to the part in bold.

Ladies and gentlemen, an era has ended. After three years of slicing bagels, brewing coffee, and sneaking expired souffles in the dish area, I am done. I put in my notice, gave up my store key, and clocked out for the last time yesterday afternoon. I am finished, for the moment, with food service.

I quit for the reasons you've probably guessed: I'm tired of getting up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays, of backaches, and of ungrateful little twats certain customers. I've outgrown my college job (after all, I started just before fall of my senior year and am now nearly 25). Mostly, I need as much time and energy as I can get in order to prepare for what will hopefully be the next stage: grad school and an out-of-state move.

Grad school, that glorious and untouchable promised land of Doing Something Worthwhile, has been in the back of my mind for the last two years. A small part of me wanted to begin right in the fall of 2009, because going to school seemed less scary than getting a real job. But I know a great many people who have done just that; most are nearing thirty, have a Ph.D. in something obscure like Ethnomusicology, and completely lack social and job skills. Oh, and they're about $3,972,313,207,710,695,349,504 in debt.

So I worked. I picked up full-time hours at my college gig, eventually going back to part-time once I landed an entry-level office job. I quickly learned, among other things, that the Real World sucks. I missed the fantasy world that was college, where all of my meager income was expendable, and I could get away with saying things such as, "I'd never want to work in a soulless place. I just want to do what I love." I still craved more education, but seeing as I couldn't even decide what to study, I held off. I began to read more books and articles, write during my breaks at work, and even crapped out 2/3 of a novel last November (thanks, NaNoWriMo). I knew I'd try to go back to school someday, and that the question of when and how and for what would come in time. Instead I took more initiative regarding my own education.

I started this blog, at the suggestion of my sister, to ensure that I kept writing on a regular basis, even if it was only silly bullshit read by friends and family. (I'm proud to say that said silly bullshit is now read by friends and family as well as a handful of strangers.) Prose Therapy was originally intended as an intellectual exercise, a place to discuss writing and literature and to chronicle my post-college existence. By the third post, however, I was already using it as a platform to vent about my job. Before long, I was reading and commenting on at least a dozen customer service blogs, and thereby entering the sphere of Bitching Blogs (specializing in Restaurant Employee Bitching Blogs). And once I did that, I took my name, picture, and whole identity outside of work out of it.

I got a new job, also in customer service, and the bitching continued (though it became less frequent). I have been at that job for a year, and now it's not-so-new and I can feel the famed glass ceiling pushing down.

Over the last few months I've been covering for someone on maternity leave, working out of the main office. I helped out with a few accounts while there, including a group of hospitals and medical centers. After that stint ended, I was asked to write up a procedures guide for the on-site employees on what I did there. I spent about an hour writing the document, constantly obsessing over grammar and clarity as if it were a term paper or creative writing submission. I cared about my words and how they fit. I hadn't particularly enjoyed working on that account, but strangely, enjoyed writing the guide. I even got a compliment about it from the sales executive.

I told all this to my good friend, who herself was a lost graduate with an arts degree until she decided to apply to law school last year. When I sheepishly admitted that I kind of liked writing the thing, she paused for a moment.

"If you liked writing that," she said, "then you need to go back to school for writing."

So this fall I am applying to MFA programs all over the country.

Yes, I could try to get a job at a local alternative paper and try to claw my way up the writing totem pole without getting another degree. Yes, I could finish that novel without an MFA. I could even keep my job and use my vacation time toward a low-residency program. But summer camp, four years at a university, and study abroad have spoiled me and nurtured a "practicality be damned" mind set. I want total immersion - the whole experience. I want to live away from my hometown, for the first time in my life, long enough to learn who I am outside of it. And I want to learn for learning's sake.

All that said, after doing research I have found that an MFA does not have to be a frivolous, expensive waste of time. It can be a job-placing, fully-funded, career-launching experience (note the word 'can': I have no delusions about it being easy or guaranteeing me anything, if I'm lucky enough to be accepted in the first place). So I'm beginning the application process now, and hopefully will start working toward the degree within the year.

Which brings me to the point of telling you all this (yes, there's a point, and you do get a gold star if you have read all this from the beginning):

I am no longer the Bagel Fairy, writer of a Bitching Blog. I will probably still vent about work from time to time, but my job will cease to be a main feature. I titled the blog Prose Therapy because it was meant as a place to vent about and ponder know, the Redemptive Power of Writing and blah blah blah. As my life continues to change, so will the nature of the venting and pondering. For the next six months, much of it will likely have to do with the grueling graduate school application process (as well as serve as a procrastination tool).

In other words, bagels are out of the picture now. Unless I'm eating them.


  1. From Towel Fairy to Gavel Fairy.

    From Bagel Fairy to Weaver of Dreams (both fiction and non fiction)

    We grow up. We grow awesome. Beautiful post. You are the coolest person I know. And you WILL be a success.

  2. I read it all the way through. Gold star for me. I'm excited for you!


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