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.