At the end of March I got the letter that I have been working towards for the better part of 15 years. I didn’t need to read the entire thing, although I did, and have, countless times. There, in my Yahoo! feed I could see the address: Creative Writing, the subject: SFSU Creative Writing MFA program We, and the preview of the body: March 26, 2014 Dear Jason Franklin, Congrat. I have received 15 letters similar to this over the last two years but even with the words incomplete I knew this one was different. All of rest were a variation of ‘thank you but better luck elsewhere.’ I had been rejected so many times that I had honestly given up hope. I was sick of thinking about it, planning it, working toward it, writing for it, reading all of it. Everything, graduate school, writing, was just going to have to remain a dream.
But then I got into San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts Program. (Damn it’s a lot when you actually spell it out.)
Now everything is exciting, even the sorrow. There is a genuine sense of my time here on the Western Slope coming to an end. Every beer at Kannah Creek, every slice of Hot Tomato tastes better. And I have to admit there is melancholy around every moment now. I have never really left Grand Junction. The truth is I love it here. Yes, I wish it had more of an art scene, better concerts, maybe a non-sushi restaurant that isn’t part of a chain but that is a small price to pay for the mountains and canyons and rivers all around us. We have so much space here. Where else can you pick up after a shitty day of work and disappear into the pinion-juniper and still be back in time for supper? No, I have always been proud to call Grand Junction my home. I don’t mean to be mellow-dramatic but it is a real possibility I don’t make it into Chili’s again, where I proposed to my ex, or the Ale House where I fell in love with my current girlfriend, or Lowe’s where I first met my dog. It is all bittersweet weirdness these days. The future has crashed into my past and I am constantly soaking up each moment. Everything seems to have a grandness to it.
And since March 26, I’ve been pouring over maps of Northern California instead of Western Colorado. Trading research of new hiking loops for research into neighborhoods around campus. Mountain bike trails for trolley routes. It is as exhausting as it is terrifying. Giving up a place I know so well, to chase a dream in a place I know nothing about.
I have noticed that my community has fallen into two groups of people: those who have lived out of state and those who haven’t. My friends that have made a living outside Colorado, especially the ones that have been to San Francisco, are ecstatic for me, even jealous. I get to spend the next three years as a broke ass writer in the second greatest city in the world (only behind New York) and they appreciate what kind of opportunity this is. Those who have been lifetime local think I am doomed to die with some kind of heroin habit in an earthquake while getting raped by hippie/drag queen hybrid. The ridiculousness of it is hard to fathom. I should just shut up, go to work, get married and avoid the ridiculousness of California altogether.
But I can’t do that. I need to go. I agree with everyone that my life here is better than most. There is nowhere I can go that I am not loved. No silent moment that isn’t crushed with laughter. No pain I feel that isn’t healed by friends. I am the luckiest thirty-six-year-old-kid in the world and I’m going to give this all up to go chase a dream. The dream of walking the same streets of Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia, and Clint Eastwood. The land of the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight and Ashbury, and McCovey Cove. Not to mention, this struggled to graduate from Rifle High School hick earning his master’s degree from an institution in one of the most cultured cities in the world. Yeah, I don’t need to go…I have to go.
So if we cross paths over the next couple of months be sure to shake my hand, give me a hug or better yet…buy me a beer! I’m saving up for the adventure of a lifetime. You don’t have to say goodbye but you should know that just like the rest of Colorado, I already miss you.