Thirty-three years I spent in the IT industry running multi-million dollar projects; so why at the age of 53 am I in the MFA program at Emerson College? I could tell you that the reason is I love learning and will always be going to school in some capacity. I could tell you that the reason is I love discourse and rhetoric—and discussions with a new generation of bright minds is a thrilling experience. I could tell you that the reason I’m in a formal education program is that coursework provides me with focus and motivation to learn and excel in all aspects of my life. All of these things are true, to one extent or another—I do like speaking with bright young people, but I want them off my lawn, for example. But the real reason I returned to a formal graduate program is to see if I could become part of the social, well-thought-out desperately needed in the world today. Sound strange? Hang in there.
Two years ago, my life was upended by a series of catastrophic events inclusive of cancer. I had also suffered, during emergency surgery, a series of two dozen strokes that completely changed the functioning of my brain. Especially impacted were cognitive functions critical to do my IT job. I faced my own pivot point—I could wallow in self-pity, mourning the loss of who I was, or explore this “new me” and figure out something completely different. While I was relearning to walk and talk, I was also engaging with the neurology teams at Brigham & Woman’s Hospital to map out, in detail, what was left and what could be relearned. The method used to make this “mind map” was more trial and error—and there were a lot of errors. I tried things I never would have previously—cooking and painting are two examples. To continue my cognitive rehabilitation, I read and wrote. At first, I was only able to focus on a paragraph or two in simple texts while composing a sentence or two in a journal. Eighteen months later, I was reading Marx and Foucault while studying works by Nnedi Okorafor, Margaret Atwood, and Basma Abdel Aziz all as a part of my MFA program.
Before I started the MFA, I purchased and read many books on the art of writing (Stephen King’s On Writing and Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook are two of my favorites). I took a few online courses via LitReactor and StoryStudio in Chicago. I watched the copious amount of YouTube videos available on the Internet—inclusive of many free MFA level courses. I was comfortable with the media and mechanisms of learning. Until November of 2016.
The election and “Covfefe-esque” aftermath had me thinking about doing more to help change minds and hearts, to do something different moving forward to help. I wanted to return intelligence, compassion, and discourse into our daily conversations. I spoke about my thoughts with Richard Thomas—a contemporary dark fiction writer and teacher, as well as a good friend and advisor. He suggested more education—an MFA perhaps that would hone my writing skills while teaching me how to be an educator. Once trained and formally certified, I could then go teach the next generation about Marx and Foucault, composition and critical thought.
And now for something completely different—the corporate career and who I was is behind me—an MFA (class of 2019) and an opportunity to make a difference is ahead of me.
R. B. Wood is a technology consultant and a writer of Speculative and Dark Fiction. His first novel, The Prodigal’s Foole, was released to critical acclaim in 2012. Mr. Wood recently has been published online via SickLit Magazine and HorrorAddicts.net and appeared in the award-wining anthology “Offbeat: Nine Spins on Song” from Wicked ink Books. Along with his writing passion, R. B. is host of The Word Count Podcast, and is studying for his MFA at Emerson College.
R. B. currently lives in Boston with his partner Tina, a multitude of cats, and various other critters that visit from time to time.