The Light at the Beginning of the Tunnel
Hello, blog world – hi – is anyone still out there?
I’m brushing off the dust and airing out the house over here as I’ve let this blog sit dormant for longer than I can remember. I am so upset by that!
I promise moving forward I will do better and am vowing to post with more regularity!
Part of the reason I’ve been MIA was that I was buried deep in grad school.
About this time last year, I was working for a large corporation and wanted to add some credentials to my resume that would help me stand out when I went to jump departments. And so, I signed up for the GMAT and began the process of applying for MBA programs. By mid-August, I was enrolled and attending orientation. Classes began in September; it was a whirlwind.
I loved the atmosphere. There was something about being surrounded by people with similar interests, who were also all interested in learning, discussing ideas and current events and business strategy that lit up a part of me that I wasn’t quite familiar with until recently. My whole life I was “bad at math” and followed my interest for reading and writing, all the way up to my undergraduate degree in Theater (with a concentration on management; an actress I am not.) Once I left the theater industry and entered office work I grew interested in the world of business. I had grown to enjoy and be excited by articles I read or conversations I overheard at work. So, down the rabbit hole I went.
Semester one came and went with what felt like the exhaustion of 1000 nights. It is safe to say I struggled hard with one of the classes. But I persevered. But as my second semester’s end came into sight I was drowning and was sure I was going to fail and be asked to leave. I busted my butt, battling traffic, rogue trains, and my own obstinance. Despite that, I still felt like I wasn’t meant for what I was doing. I got really down about working so hard to only get, what I was sure would be, a failing grade.
One afternoon at work, the day after my last final, I thought to myself, “what happens if I don’t get asked back, what does that look like?” And so I thought about it. I reasoned I would have more time for my writing. I could take my summer tuition money and pay off my credit cards and still have some left to travel. I could attend all the things I’d been saying no to that had fallen on class nights. Wow – that didn’t sound so bad….it actually sounded pretty good, then I thought, “what if I don’t go back either way?”
Woah – talk about a light bulb moment. The second I thought it I felt a huge load come off my shoulders and I could breathe easy for the first time in months. Not so fast I thought….is it worth it to choose to leave? Now I know there will be varying opinions about what comes next but this is what was true for me - I looked at what I stood to gain from staying:
I was no longer at the big corporation, so my original reason for enrolling was no longer relevant. There was a trip but I’d already figured out I would be able to travel on my own (and actually go where I wanted to go). There were the people I’d started getting to know that I’d be leaving behind – that reason stuck, but wasn’t enough to sway me. In the end, I realized any benefit I felt strongly about could be obtained elsewhere and I actually stood to gain more by leaving.
My goal always and since forever has been to be a writer. I’ve zig-zagged my way around it and certainly haven’t taken a conventional route, but that has always been the goal laying deep inside me. Everything else was a stop along the way or a brief detour but that was at the root of it all. And so I decided that if I left I would dedicate those 4-5 classroom hours per week to my writing and other goal-related activities. I’m currently writing this during what I’m pretty sure would have been my last class of the first summer session.
The final nail in the coffin was when a summer professor sent an email out. I opened it up and actually felt the bile start to edge its way up my throat at the thought of having to deal with the upcoming semester. I dropped my classes that afternoon. By the end of the week, I had completed the withdrawal paperwork.
I got my grades, I got straight Bs. That was a nice feeling, my effort had paid off, but it wasn’t enough to make me regret my decision. In fact, it strengthened it, because it was, in fact, my choice.
I had no idea how miserable I had been until I wasn’t anymore. These last weeks of freedom have been the lightest, happiest weeks I’ve had in a long time. They’ve also been some of the most productive. There’s a lot of talk right now about mental health and self-care and I want to wrap this up by taking a second to acknowledge that my solution is not for everyone – there are plenty of paths and people where the decision to stay would have been the better fit. I also am aware that school, especially grad school, can and should be challenging, even a struggle, and can make those going through it feel a certain level of misery. But, what I was going through was inflicting a different brand of misery. I was crying at the thought of school and it felt like I was just sinking lower and lower with a myriad of thoughts circling around in my head. I am the first to see the value in education but there is no value if that education falls on numb ears attached to the shell of a person who is trying to keep up some pretense. And so I left. Again, this is not the right solution for everyone, but for me, it was the choice that opened the door and let in the light.
I’m still interested in business and continue to read all the news. I just found a podcast put out by the Harvard Business Review and I can’t wait to add it to my commute rotation. Meanwhile, I’m smiling, laughing and remembering how to live my life out from under the thumb of classwork induced stress.
So get ready for a lot more blog posts coming your way because I am back and I am here to stay!