U Minnesota: My First, My Last, My Everything?

I'm almost positive I'll be heading to Minnesota in the fall, and I'm incredibly excited about it. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not, and I know that that's probably the impression I've been giving lately---what with all the whine, whine, whine. I feel ungrateful.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: like many others going through this process, I started out feeling like my chances of getting in anywhere at all were slim to none. I stand in awe of the mysterious combination of circumstances (what they were, I have no idea) and the huge amount of luck that led to an acceptance for me.

The only thing keeping me from going ahead and accepting my Minnesota offer right now is the fact that it's in, well, Minnesota.

I'm a little bit scared of the Midwest. The only experience I have with the region is this: When I was almost eleven years old, my family set out in a rinky-dink little used RV, leaving forever my grandparents' house in Watertown, Mass. and heading for the vague and distant "West." On our way, we passed through Kansas. All I remember about Kansas is flatness, a lack of grocery stores (we couldn't seem to find bread) and a strange profusion of car washes. I'm sure there's more to Kansas than that, but that's what I remember. Also, I'm aware that Minnesota does not = Kansas, and that they are in fact quite far apart.

What is Minnesota Nice? Is it real? Just a stereotype? It sounds kind of scary. Wikipedia says:

Minnesota nice is the stereotypical behavior of long-time Minnesota residents to provide hospitality and courtesy to others. The term is also sometimes used in a derogatory way, to connote a sort of smiling stubbornness, forced politeness, false humility or passive aggressive hostility.

Stereotypes of Minnesotans often overlap with qualities of other people from the Upper Midwest, including the perception that many are quiet and do not wish to offend others or cause a disruption, even if it's for their own benefit. Writer Garrison Keillor played with this image in a piece written for the radio program A Prairie Home Companion called "Wobegonics," the supposed language of Minnesotans which includes "no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference, you know." [...] The generosity of state citizens has gained respect—the heavily-reported influenza vaccine shortage of fall 2004 did not strike the state as hard as elsewhere since many people willingly gave up injections for others.[1]

Minnesota Nice is a 2003 28-minute documentary by Jeffrey Schwarz about the Coen brothers' movie Fargo, a movie that displays some of the stereotypical behavior.

Here's another link about the supposed phenomenon in relation to the Twin Cities.

The cold I can probably handle. I know it's the cold equivalent of the heat here in Tucson (eyeballs-frying-hot), but I much prefer being cold to being hot. You can always bundle up, but there's only so much you can do about burning flesh. I dealt with Boston blizzards, even kind of enjoyed them---felt like an adventure. I know MN is going to be much worse, but I think I'll be less miserable than some might be.

In other ways, Minneapolis sounds great, like the "Boston" of the Midwest. If you haven't noticed, I'm in love with Boston. I spent the younger days of my childhood moving around between suburbs of Boston (Watertown, Concord, Belmont, Lexington---and a strange interlude in the boondocks of Clinton.) I have many happy memories of dancing around outside the Au Bon Pan in Harvard Square, listening to the street performers and watching the crazy old men play chess.


Apparently Minneapolis is a big literary and publishing center, has lots of museums, bookstores and all that. People say you can get by without a car, which is VERY important to me, since I don't drive. Some pointed out that it sucks having to get groceries by bus when it's snowing and a billion degrees below zero, but I dealt with some of that in Boston and did fine with just the T.


My overactive imagination/raging sense of curiosity is another part of my hesitation. I feel like I should wait until I've heard from everyone. That's the standard process, isn't it? I'm bad with decisions and I feel like I need to have all the information first. When I got the call, my first instinct was to say Yes, yes, I'll be there! I can come tomorrow! But I had to bite down on that urge and try to be sensible about it.

I hate to keep them waiting, though. They've been so good to me. I guess they expect it, right? They know we've all applied to multiple schools and that we're waiting to hear back from the rest. Maybe I should send them chocolates.

The funny thing is, when one of my letter writers asked me (around the time I was sending out my first applications) which school I was really pulling for, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was: Minnesota. I wasn't even sure why, but that was my natural reaction. I said, "Actually, I'm really excited about the program in Minnesota." He seemed a little bit surprised. He wanted Cornell (yeah, right) or Rutgers-Newark for me (because of their diversity focus, which I also find attractive.)

I explained how I really like that Minnesota encourages genre-blending/cross-genre experimentation. This is from their website:

The program encourages experimentation across genres, fostering the discovery of new and varied forms for a developing voice.

I also love that they have social writing programs that focus on young writers (SASE Wings) and women of color (Voices from the Gaps.) I'm so interested in programs like these, and I would love to have the chance to get involved during my MFA.

And the faculty, of course, is amazing. I've been reading their books, and I'm just so excited.

Maybe it's fate. Maybe Minnesota and I are just meant to be together. It must mean something that I felt strangely drawn to the program, and they must see something that they connect with in my writing. That's an incredibly good feeling, knowing that. What more could I possibly ask for?

Anyway, again.

I'm going to the prospectives' weekend, March 26-28. I'm in touch with a couple of other admits who are going, as well, and I can't wait to meet everyone, see the city, explore the program on the ground. Minneapolis, here I come!


I'm spending way too much time on this blog. I have homework (writing!) to do, and I go back to work tomorrow. Did I say that my shifts start at 6 am? I need to calm it down, here. But I probably won't.

1 comment:

Ms. Sushi said...

I still think you'll get in many other place, but it might be easier not having a choice. We've never been good decision makers!

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