1. Your friends from high school and college are either getting married (intentionally) or having children (not-so-intentionally).
2. The kids you babysit for have no clue how old you are. They just know you're old...like 30? Adults have clue how old you are. They just know you're young...you must be just about ready to start college, right? I cannot tell you how many times I've been mistaken as a 17-year-old in the past three months. I'm 22. Apparently have a baby face.
3. You don't like the taste of lemonade as much as you used to, but it fits nicely into the grad school food budget, so you buy it. (Kool-aid still tastes good, so you buy that too.)
4a. You pay bills and rent (and then proceed to complain about having to do so to your parents, who remind you that if you actually do go broke, they will help out. However, you're not broke yet. They know this, because even though you're a grown-up (perhaps legal adult is better phrasing in this case), they still have access to at least one of your bank accounts, so they can put money in if needed.
4b. You have a bank account that is entirely your own, not connected to your parents whatsoever.
5. You still think you should be going back to your undergrad institution even though you graduated. To combat this, just realize that the Class of 2016 has just moved in--you know the 17 and 18-year-olds you keep getting mistaken for.
6. Your former profs add you on facebook. Some even tell you to let them know when you're in town again because they want to take you out to lunch.
7. You work three part time jobs (or in my case, worked three part time jobs until you moved to a foreign country.)
8. You miss the cafeteria food because cooking a balanced meal for one person is hard. Also, everyone in the cafeteria knew your name, which was a plus. You also miss eating meals with your college friends. And themed days!!!! Theme days in the Hendrix cafeteria were the best.
On a more serious note, graduating and then moving to Vancouver has given me reason to reflect on my life, specfically the choices I've made and the people I've met. So here goes...
I've been asked why Canada or why creative writing? For me, it's simple. I love to write. I've been writing stories since I was five. It comes naturally and is as much a part of me as say working out is. The only difference is no one really stops to ask me why I workout everyday, sometimes twice a day, but as soon as I mention creative writing suddenly I'm not just a writer, I'm also a hippie, vegetarian, flaming liberal and all these other stereotypes that come with being a "writer." As for why Canada? UBC has a phenomenal program that has been around longer than most of the US programs. Also, most MFA programs require you to choose a genre: poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. UBC requires students to study more than one genre and it offers more genres than "the big 3." I will be studying Children's/YA and nonfiction. I will probably take a fiction course at some point as well. While I understand the benefit of specializing in one genre, in today's market, diversity is crucial. UBC's program reminds me of my liberal arts education. One of the many things I loved about Hendrix was the liberal arts format. Students were required to take one science class, one science class with a lab, a math class, a relgion or philosphy class, a foreign language class--you get the idea. Then, in the last two years of our education, we focused on the courses within our major. I loved that. I know liberal arts isn't for eveyone, but I love being able to study a broad range of subjects, so UBC seemed like the best choice. Also, over 300 students applied. Of those, the applications were narrowed down to approximately 125 and then again to roughly 22 students. I was one of the 22, and I got a scholarship. They loved my Children's/YA writing sample. That's the genre I want start my career in, so why wouldn't I go? That's the real question.
Plus being a writer has its benefits. I will never be an Olympian or a rock star, but I can write about them. Also, I can kill my characters off and not face jail time for it. :)
As for the people I've met, I made wonderful friends at Hendrix. I also met a great group of people a little over a year ago now at Grand Master Han's Martial Arts. I started because I enjoyed self-defense class and wanted an activity I could continue on with after college. (You can't throw shot put forever. However, I fully intend to try master's competitions once I'm 30+) Sometimes what you're looking for and what you find are two totally different things. I found what I was looking for. I also found something I didn't expect: a community. I've been on countless teams over the years, but when a group of girls all of the same age is fighting for starting spots, there often times isn't a sense of community present. So while I was friends with my teammates, I can't say I ever felt the community vibe. Grand Master Han's is different. You walk in and there are at least five people beaming at you as you walk in the door. They're happy you're there. Truly happy.
Martial Arts is a lot like life in some ways. Each person has their own journey, but no one goes it alone.
When I think of the groups I have been involved in over the years, not all groups offer a sense of "community." So what makes a group a community? For me, the "it factor" is a sense of family. The Hendrix community and GMHMA community are like a family to me. Now I realize that not everyone has the same definition of family, nor will every person agree that the two aforementioned groups provide a sense of family and that's fine. Hopefully those people are cherished as part of another community.
A community accepts you as who you are, and they are there for you no matter how far away you go (just like a family). You don't leave a community. I'm no longer in Conway, Arkansas, so yes, technically I've left, but you only really leave a community if you don't take what that community stands for with you (and if you don't take what it stands for with you, chances are it was a group, not a community, because a community shapes the person you are. A community positively impacts the person you've become in a way you cannot leave behind. Communities are positive. They aren't perfect, but they are a positive influence.)
I love that the Hendrix community is open-minded, accepting, and believes that learning can occur outside of the classroom. I've taken that with me. GMHMA also has tenants: the six training principles, plus the motto of never give up. I've taken those with me too. So I will repeat: you don't leave a community; you take it will you. That's the difference between a community and a group. No matter how far away you go, a community is right there with you in spirit. They've shaped the person you are and have impacted you in such a way that transcends the physical distance between you (again, like family or at least my definition of family). Communities grow. Groups don't often survive long distance relationships. Groups may stay in touch, but they go their separate ways. My high school sports teams were a group. The teams still exist. They resurrect each year with a new roster, but they are a group, not a community. We shared common interest, sport, but that's where things stopped. Communities shared a common interest as well as common ideals. You don't have to agree on everything. In addition to being next to impossible to get a large group of people to agree on everything, it would also be boring. Therefore, groups embrace what makes its members similar. Communities embrace the similarities and the differences of its members. After all, we all have our own individual journey. It just so happens that that journey is not one we walk alone.