The hard truth about college departures and other stories regarding Persephone’s descent into Hades.
Written by CIIS MFA Candidate Noelle Correia
In the month of September, I dropped off my daughter at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and commenced an MFA program at CIIS. The closing of a sweet nineteen-year-long chapter of roller coaster parenting by the seat of my pants occurred, as well as a new opening to my creative inquiry.
As I entered this sacred phase of diving deep into my artistic career from the roots up a hard truth emerged: the post-parenting stage is met with exhaustion.
I am exhausted from the nineteen years of not knowing and knowing all at once, making fast decisions without second opinions and barely keeping my head above water in order to hold my child far above fluvial dangers. This shift from racket parenting to inner research and revealing the reasons behind my art-making is a massive change.
My MFA program commences with 6-day residencies each semester — and the first fueled and inspired me. I came home motivated to get started on my MFA tasks such as visual mapping daily habits, collaborating on a children’s book, and considering the beginnings of a graphic novel. I was thrilled to get started on focusing my life on art-making again. I spent the initial week clearheaded and held the space for the seeds of creative inquiry from the intensive to grow. During the second week away from the end of the intensive, the creative harvest stopped cold in its tracks.
Persephone’s descent into Hades provoked a sadness in Demeter’s chest that led to long days and nights of wandering and ruminating. It occurred to me that the hard truth of releasing your child into adulthood might not be discussed enough.
Separation anxiety that once belonged to the crying child behind daycare windows is now embodied by the parent. These lessons are hard to learn alone; I longed for a partner, a community or a culture that did something other than celebrate when a child leaves for college. Like Demeter who wandered the earth’s surface in despair looking for clues of the return of Persephone, I was lost in a state of depression and longed for the past routines of motherhood.
To make a way through this rite of passage and despair, I decided to apply this memory chasing to my MFA work at CIIS and my art-making. This is the beginning of a mixed media series of portraits of my daughter and I before the nest was a dorm room. This art-making I share here is a visual excavation of the chaos that came with being a single mother.