10 years

This weekend was my 10th reunion from business school. I’ve been reflective, thinking about the choice to get my MBA, about the two years I spent on campus, and about what the experience has meant to me since graduating. I did not attend much of the formal reunion, only going to my section dinner on Friday night.

I don’t remember much from my time at business school. Specific memories of the classroom are even sparser (probably because by October of my 1st year I had figured out how to read all the cases for the next day in the current day’s classes, assuring no homework). Socially, I was disengaged, mostly because I spent most of my weekends in New York where Matt lived. Intellectually, I had trouble finding much that inspired me. Emotionally. I was not fully invested in my relationships or the experience. I wonder now if my subconscious knew that it was unlikely to find a home this world – the business world, the MBA world – and therefore that it resisted complete engagement.

On Friday night there was a slideshow of pictures both old and current. One photo, taken from the door of the opposite half of the classroom, riveted me. In the picture I am sitting in my second semester seat (we were assigned seats, one per semester, and sat there all day every single day, building a real intimacy with those people sitting next to you), laughing hard, my head thrown back, my mouth open. I am clearly highly amused by something the guy sitting next to me (Nameer), had said. I was surprised to see that girl, happy, literally laughing her head off. Part of me wanted to be her again, back in a simpler world. Mostly I was glad to see evidence that I was, at least occasionally, happy there. The professional frustrations and changes in my life since 2000 have often occluded that, and the reminder made me smile.

One thing I know was fun was our trip before graduation. Most of our class went to exotic places, Asia, Africa, Macchu Pichu. My four friends and I went to Vegas (for one night, plenty, in my view), to Millie’s cabin in Utah, and to surfing camp. In Vegas we went to O, the Cirque de Soleil show, but all I remember is that I fell asleep in the audience. In Utah Millie and I rode horses in the rain, desperately trying to help her neighbor round up some cows that had gotten out of their enclosure (never mind that the last time I rode was when I lived in England, and in a slightly more formal setting than on the rainswept Utah plain). In La Jolla we stayed with Millie’s in-laws and experimented with surfing, which is really hard. I will never forget that week.

Sitting here, on a humid and muggy Sunday, I want to be gentler to myself for having gone to school in the first place. I’ve spent so much time beating myself up about that decision, but I want to have compassion for the misguided 23 year old who was powerfully persuaded by the world she was in to go get her MBA. I was not wise enough to know my heart then, and I feel sad about that. But as some have said, it took that experience and the 10 years that followed to get me here. And that is reason enough to honor the choice, as much as I may doubt it.

And these two women? Very, very dear to me. Let me not forget the value of that.

10 thoughts on “10 years”

  1. I really loved this post, and the pictures just look so care free and happy!

    When people go to graduate school it seems like such a big investment, and I find that people convince themseleves that it is exactly what they want to do even if it isn’t. After writing a bunch of essays about why an MBA is right for you, it starts to grow on you.

    But grad school is not like undergrad when you can change majors or wiggle around. It’s serious! (or that’s what everyone tells me anyway)

    I liked you honesty in reflecting on your choice 10 years down the road 🙂

  2. I am truly torn as I read this. I always kick myself for not going to B-school. I was accepted at some of the top schools in the country but chose to get married and have a child instead. Do I regret that? No but I keep thinking I should go back to school. Now, I read this and think no, I should not go back to school. I truly do not know.

    It is good that you can find the fun and good in that time when you look back!

  3. Dear Lindsey,

    The choices you made were, as you know, what brought you here. Here. And they are, in essence, part of your map. Stops along the way, the route you took.

    No need for regret….


  4. Man, I still beat myself up for stuff I’ve done decades ago. I wish I could just let it go, for heaven’s sake. I’m glad you have some bright spots and good friends that you can turn to when you’re tempted to get lost in regret.

  5. I think of Elizabeth Strout (another of your favorites, I think?) who graduated from law school before she published her first short story. No education is wasted, at least not for a writer. Because long after you have abandoned the career it launched you into, you will have the knowledge of that setting, the mix of those characters, a gold mine of stories and characters and ideas.

  6. I had similar feelings about my high school reunion. Not the “should I have done it” type, of course, but the wondering whether I was really happy. I think that during high school I was happy–I have memories of saying “I don’t want to leave and go to college, I have enough friends”–but when I go back or think back on it I always feel conflicted. Like something was off, like I wasn’t as happy as I thought I was. It’s hard to know which is reality. I think now my judgements are clouded by the way I feel about so many of my classmates a decade later, but it’s so comforting to look at old pictures and see that that teenage girl, she looks content. Happy, really. Joyful. Something must have been going well…

  7. i’ve finally situated the same regret and angst in my own life by noting that i am – and always have been – an evolution. every decade i can look back at decisions i made and think myself immature and wonder what i was thinking. then i try my best to think of at least 3 things gained, and i can finally leave, having convinced myself once again that nothing is wasted.

  8. Isn’t it funny how pictures tell such a different story from the one we sometimes remember. I have, at times, regretted NOT going to grad school, on days when I wish I could play by the rules. My memories of college are fleeting and vague at best. But I’ve never questioned how a flower unfolds. Why should I question how my life does? Why should you? It’s gorgeous, your life. Every single facet. Truly.

  9. I second those who endorse the no education is wasted on the writer notion… it’s just a matter of time before you figure out how perfect is you path.

    Aidan’s note is particularly inspiring as her law school seemed to be part of her realization that this was not her ultimate path.

    I know that having studied film has made me a better psychologist, and having studied and practiced psychology has made me a better writer (and could even make me a better filmmaker once again in some distant time).

    Here’s to putting it all to good use (and I can only imagine that B-School might come in handy for parenting, but only you might be able to tell me how).

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