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making a living, mfa, how old is old

updated wed 20 oct 04


Lili Krakowski on tue 19 oct 04

I was so distressed by all this MFA and tenure job and how old is too =
old, and like that I saddled up my to-me-new 1993 pickup, and headed 72 =
miles north up Erewhon road to Small Minds. There Hob and Mrs Goblin =
met me with hot cocoa, much needed.

Hob and I sat by the fire and talked. We made charts and diagrams. We =
drank cocoa, ate apples. Mrs Goblin kept poking her head in, saying =
"Doesn't anybody but me have WORK to do?" As usual, subtly, she hit the =
nail on the head.

What WORK do you have to do? We heard from a bunch of lovely women who =
said I studied, married, had kids, returned to work, retired, found my =
way into clay. That is called "living one's life." That is doing the =
WORK one is meant to do. It may not be one straight continuum. It may =
be full of detours--but they all lead to the same place. Primalmommy =
has absorbed lots of credits, done different work, now is raising =
incredible kiddies not to mention snakes, toads, chicken, dogs, cats, =
and I hate to think what else. After all that work has gone into =
building HER inner core, and her work in clay will be that much more =
informed, that much more Primalmommy. =20

Those of us who remember racial and sex descrimination know the detour =
often was booby trapped. We could not get the jobs we were "entitled" =
to struggled longer and harder for the positions and income which would =
have allowed us to retire earlier and better.

Still. Louis Katz is right in more ways than one about the Jewish =
dictum that one may not put one life above another. This is as true =
about your own personal life. You should not sacrifice one part for =
another. There is a time to study, a time to do. Women (yes, Earl, =
those hateful critters!) cannot put off forever having kids. There =
still is a discrimination in marriage--men still tend to marry younger =
women, not vice versa. Ergo: the woman who stays in college till she =
is 30, and then looks for a spouse is less likely to find one than the =
man who does. And the woman has less time to have kids, than a man her =
age would. (I am extremely concerned that, the way academia and business =
are set up, we are sterilizing some of our best and brightest young =

If you have led your life, and want to study more, why not? Is an MFA =
what you want? Possibly not. Possibly you want to study abroad, attend =
all the workshops coming up next Summer, or build an outrageously =
gorgeous kiln. The MFA, I think, is meaningful only if you feel you =
MUST teach at the university level, and, with all due respect, accept =
and swallow all the hooha institutions hand out. Do you want to invest =
that much time and money in a degree, even if you may not get that job? =
Do you want the MFA or is it some goal others have set for you? Dare I =
say an idol too many worship?

I see all this discussion of MFAs--but what about the alternatives? =
Which may be as modest as having dinner out twice a week so you have =
more free time, or building a really decent studio for yourself, or =
cutting your day job down to half time so that you can work more.

My point being that it is the WORK, only the WORK that you personally =
NEED TO DO that matters. We are so hung up on degrees and titles these =
days one forgets it is ONLY the work. =20

One of the few things I remember as worth remembering from reading =
Sartre is this: that by chosing the one we ask for advice we indicate =
the decision we already have made.

Lili Krakowski

Be of good courage