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A lot has happened since I last blogged, which I guess is par for the course when you blog maybe 10 times a year. I’d like to say I’m trying to improve on that ratio, but the reality is I’m not trying all that hard. If you’re really antsy for some SMTT updates (and why wouldn’t you be? I’m fabulous 😉 ) the best way to stay up to date is to follow my instagram accounts. The horse one is @laurenandapoet which chronicles baby Po’s journey, and my personal/writing account is @laurenumauldin. But! This is a real, honest to goodness blog post and not an instagram plug, so let me get to it.

In June, I graduated from my MFA program. The commencement was actually a few weeks before my last post, but it didn’t feel official until I wrapped up my studies and teaching obligations. About two months out from school, it’s hard to say how I feel about the experience. It was both the best and most frustrating thing I’ve ever done.

I’m proud of the work I accomplished there. During my two year program I finished my memoir, started a second, wrote several personal essays, and published a few pieces. Forgive my not-so-humble brag, but I graduated with a 4.0. It’s not like my classes were biochem or advanced physics, but I had to push myself out of my comfort zone a lot. Most quarters I read one to two books a week, wrote ten pages a week of new material, revised, taught up to 75 undergraduates at a time and gave feedback to my colleagues. Even though this was a sissy, liberal arts degree, it was hard. I worked really hard, but I loved most of it. That kind of effort was what I moved across the country for and sacrificed a lot to do.

But academia? It’s frustrating. Hard work isn’t necessarily rewarded in that space. There were times where I felt under appreciated or frankly, overlooked. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have success, I did. I met great people and discovered valuable mentors that I will appreciate for the rest of my life. But there is a general attitude with some students (and faculty if I’m being honest) that befuddled me.

I think part of it is my experience in the corporate world before school. For ten years, my hours were controlled by someone else. I had to sit in a chair and be accountable for all sorts of things, and if I weren’t, there were consequences. In academia, especially liberal arts academia, it seems you can cry your way out of a lot of things. I won’t go into details, and I’m probably already being too much of a curmudgeon, but it was pretty shocking for me. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

All of this is to say that I decided to forgo my school’s 3rd year option, and come back home to Texas to the real world—whatever that meant for me. I refer to graduate school in California as my life sabbatical. I took some much needed time for myself to think, invest in myself, and heal from everything that happened to me. There’s still healing to be done, and losing Simon certainly pushed me back a bit, but I’m glad for the experience. I learned a lot about myself from moving and getting that degree. I’ll never regret it, even if it wasn’t exactly what I thought it’d be.

So now I’m back in the same house I lived in Austin previously. While I was in school I had it rented out, and now am trying to get things back to my standards.

It’s been a weird feeling unpacking and moving back into a home that feels so familiar, but also foreign. The last time I lived here I had two roommates, who were (and still are) dear friends of mine. The house felt vibrant, always full of people and dogs and lots of laughter. Now it’s quiet, the rooms are empty. After a month of thrifting new furniture off of marketplace and re-settling here, I feel a bit better.

However, it’s a hard thing to unpack your life into a big, empty house when you feel so unsettled about where the future is going to go. As I started to fill up my beloved bookshelves with books I’ve collected, photos and knickknacks from my life, I realized that most of my images and keepsakes are either of Tim, Simon, or my dead dogs. I refuse to pack these things away. I’d rather look at them and force myself to remember all of the love that proceeded their lost, but sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by ghosts. I’ve been pondering about how to put this feeling into an essay when I start writing again.

One real joy is my job, which I still have to pinch myself that I have. After working part time for The Plaid Horse through school, I took a full time position with them starting this summer. I get to do a whole host of tasks that support my true passions in life, writing and riding. As an added bonus, I truly am behind the company’s mission in providing quality content for our community that not only showcases pretty ponies but also stands up for what’s right. It’s not an easy job. I’ve never worked harder, but I love what I do and feel lucky every day.

Speaking of that true passion, I know y’all want to hear a lot about a certain dapple gray gelding, but that’s going to have to be the subject for another post.

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