March 15, 2006

The MBA Blues

I'm in kind of a bummer of a mood today. To keep this blog from being a complete and total downer, I figured I would throw in some random Internet photos to lighten things up.

Last year, at this time, I was spending most of my time here:

This glorious feat of postmodern architecture is the business building at UNR. Last spring, I was spending a minimum of four evenings a week inside its walls, studying to be a businesswoman.

I didn't dress nearly as sharply as this woman, but I probably had a similar, faraway stare much of the time. I wasn't getting enough sleep. I definitely wasn't getting enough vitamins. In addition to school, I worked at least 40 hours a week, usually more, due to my lousy time management skills.

In literature and drama, there is usually a single low pont, a nadir, in which the protagonist realizes just how bad things can become.

Real life is not so well organized. That semester, I had three of those.

Low Point #1

It was late February when my logistics project crashed and burned. I saw the writing on the wall when, the night of our big presentation, my teammate (who we thought was preparing our PowerPoint) showed up with a scrap of paper on which he had scrawled "Stuff to talk about."

It was all downhill from there. Disappointed with our presentation and several others, our professor unleashed a tirade that would have made a sailor blush. He didn't just berate us for our lousy presentation skills; he made sure to criticize our intelligence, character, and weak upbringings. I think every woman in the class cried at some point that night. On the plus side, there weren't too many of us.

None of us looked nearly as confident or sassy as she did. Although, come to think of it, the men didn't fare so well either.

Low Point #2

In my desperate attempt to cram four classes into a single semester so I could graduate, I'd signed up for a financial analysis class far outside my interests or abilities.

I nearly killed myself working on the midterm for that class. I'd even gone so far as to miss a Friday night happy hour working on some very ugly regressions.

No, not the kind of regressions where someone hypnotizes you to recover lost memories of alien abduction:

That would have been far more exciting. No, I'm talking about the kind of regressions where you put a bunch of numbers into a spreadsheet, only to realize that the stock market correlates to nothing.

The low point arrived when my professor handed back our midterms one Wednesday night. I don't remember my exact score, but it was below freezing temperature. I spent the next 30 minutes performing some calculations of my own, realizing that it was mathematically impossible for me to score higher than a C in the class, and even that required me to suddenly grasp the concepts being taught and obtain all possible points for the remainder of the semester.

The following day happened to be UNR's deadline for dropping spring classes. I took it as a sign from God.

"I think I'll be dropping the class," I told my professor at break, half expecting him to convince me to stick it out.

"That sounds like a good idea," he told me.

I went home and let it sink in that I wouldn't really be graduating in May, but would have to make up my final elective credit in summer school. Then I realized that it might be entirely possible to live the rest of my life without performing another regression analysis. Immediately, things started to look up.

Low Point #3

The logistics professor from Low Point #1 gave us one last shot at redemption before branding us with a failing grade and dooming me to a fall semester. He invited us to redo our presentations at a special class session. It was scheduled for 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the weekend of my birthday.

The real low point happened Friday night. Having sworn off all forms of trust and teamwork, I had hijacked the compilation of our team's paper and PowerPoint. I studied shipping databases and maps of China until it made me physically ill.

I worked on it at the office, so I could take advantage of the heavy duty stapler when all was said and done.

The paper was an ungodly behemoth, almost 40 pages long and filled with five people's disjointed research and conclusions which I had desperately tried to weave together into a cohesive whole.

I finally got home around 10 p.m. Sam was still awake. I asked him to dust off his English major sensibilities and proofread the paper.

He was drunk, yet still a better reader than I. He picked out the poorly constructed sentences and read them aloud, laughing so hard he nearly cried. I could have been angry, but instead I decided to laugh with him.

Sometimes, those are the only two options. I chose to laugh.

I also chose to stay up all night rewriting that bastard.

Saturday morning, I arrived at the University at 6:30 a.m., dressed in a business suit, and ready to give a top notch presentation. One of our group members (you guessed it, crumpled paper boy) was still drunk from Friday night. I essentially ignored him and did all the talking for my group. It went better than I could have ever hoped. My professor asked if he could publish our paper on his website as a shining example. We earned redemption. Then I went out and celebrated my birthday.

Low Point #4
Wait a minute... If you were paying attention, I only promised three nadirs in the story of my spring semester.

The fourth one is right now. I miss being in school. I miss having a direction in my life, forward momentum, something compelling and interesting and full of drama and stress. Ironically, now that I have the time and energy to write, I have no drama to write about.

Well, OK, maybe I don't need that kind of drama.

Being in college or grad school allows you to defer life direction just like you defer your student loan payments. A year ago, people would ask me about my plans, and I would casually reply "I'm working on my MBA, and then who knows what the future might bring?" or some similar corny remark.

Now, it's the future. I'm here.

I don't feel like I'm going anywhere. I don't feel like I'm advancing or pursuing a goal or bettering myself in any way. My everyday life is basically the same as it was before I graduated, except now my evenings are free to watch television and write blogs.

I miss school. I'm bummed. I'm afraid I might do something drastic, like sign up for a class that involves regression analysis. I suddenly understand how people end up becoming lifelong students.

OK, that's enough of my existential angst. Thanks for hearing me out. I promise that my next blog will be light-hearted and easily digestible for all involved.

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