Dear Cohort

Dear Cohort

Dear Cohort,

I’m not sure I ever told you this, but I never thought I could be a writer. Yet here I stand today, almost at the end of this journey with you. But honestly I was so unsure about this program. The only writing I did was for myself. I’d only written a few stories for public consumption before. I’d only won two awards as an undergraduate, at Western Illinois University, for storytelling.

But still…still I didn’t think writing could be the path for me. Even after I was invited back to WIU for a conference to read my nonfiction piece, about coming out as queer, to a room full of mainly strangers, I kept my reservations. Me a writer? Never. I had not spent my time reading the “right books.” I had not read Toni Morrison until my first year of graduate school. Sula subsequently broke my heart, and held all the words about friendship I’d never known existed. I’d never heard of Albert Camus, but after one of my stories was compared to the The Stranger I read and loved him. William Faulkner still remains on my book list.

I was embarrassed. Coming to that first workshop where name-dropping was like show and tell, made me shrink back where full on regret strangled me. I came home (home at that time was still in the suburbs with my parents) lay down in my bed and stared at the ceiling uncertain. How was I going to catch up to these English majors, lovers of classics, and readers of writers far more advanced than the ones I’d chosen to immerse myself in? What I knew was that that wasn’t going to help. And really, what was reading a bunch of dead white dudes going to do for me right now? Cohort, in the beginning I didn’t know you. I didn’t know that it was OK not to know things. But when I started to let myself say it out loud all I got was support from you. The scoffing glares were actually encouraging nods, and a lot of suggestions, excited recommendations and the willingness to hear what I’ve read in return.

I felt that I could do this, that I wasn’t behind. I was learning something new every week, something we all didn’t understand. Together we grew. Each year we made room in our lives outside of class for one another. I got to write with you in the summer. Got drinks outside of class. Texted our woes to one another about upcoming projects that seemed to last well into the night. We took a random trip to IKEA. Threw parties. Danced. Got tattoos (well I didn’t, but I’m still planning to!) All of us are not together all the time, but we all have built connections with one another in our own ways.

We are all here with our theses spread out around the floor, on the counter tops, across the walls, with sections that are still blooming in our thoughts. But it’s here, it’s all here. I am so proud of us, of myself for choosing this journey. Cohort, with only a few more weeks of classes I’m a little sad that I won’t be going into workshop with you next year. That I won’t get a weekly dose of unexpected laughter from you. It’s all right though; I know I’ve made friends and colleagues I can turn to. That won’t just tell me a piece is “really great.” But instead will say “yes, but have you considered”…and I’ll get right back to work. We are moving on to the next step, and I cannot wait to see what we all do.