Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Next Year's Words

"For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice."
-T.S. Eliot
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
So here's to next year's words.
Happy New Year.

Another Year Over

As 2009 quickly approaches, I have found myself back in Europe- with my week in the states as a distant memory. Now is the time for new beginnings, new doors, and a bit of reflection now that I finally have the time.

And as for my resolutions, seeing as though it would be careless not to make any, this is what I have come up with...

Study harder, write more, spend less, appreciate the things I have, take better care of the ones I love, live less selfishly, love less fully (as if I would ever be able to do so), wash the dishes more often, be happy with what I have, stop coveting the things I don't, brush my teeth more often, drink less coffee, make my bed, organize my notebooks (i.e. one per subject as opposed to 1 per 3), buy a rug, sleep more, study Gaudi, maintain my faraway friendships, cultivate the new ones, etc, etc...

But when it really comes down to it, as I said to my friend today while seated in one of the pews in Barcelona's Cathedral- 

"I only hope that I do 2009 as well as I did 2008."

And what a great year it has been...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Time to Breathe

Finals ended a week ago yesterday and as I put down my pen and walked out of the classroom that had become my bedroom, kitchen, living room, and study- I swore I wouldn’t look at another computer screen, tap another keyboard, or form any succinct thoughts that didn’t center around food, sleep, and boarding gates for the next 21 days।

My so-called “thoughtlessness” lasted a week- a pretty good accomplishment for someone who never ceases to roll some idea or another around in her mind at any given moment.
Its been nice. However, at this point, I don’t think I could eat anymore…its 5:45 a.m. and I definitely can’t sleep anymore, and to be completely honest- I’m sick of doing nothing.

Finals were ok. I wish I could say that they were easier than I thought they would be but they weren’t. I wish I could say that I did better than I thought I did, but I did just as expected. There’s no bullshitting in quant models. Which ultimately, is ok, because I actually understand what linear programming is and what makes it different from simulation. But enough about exam time- it’s one of those unavoidable experiences that a business school student must face and surpass and if lucky, forget. I’m in the process of accomplishing the latter as we speak.

I made the last-minute decision to spend about a week in Miami after I could eat no more bocadillos and hear no more Catalan. As much as I considered taking advantage of the substantial vacation time and jetting off to an adventure in some far away land, I made the difficult decision to come home, raid my closet, hang with my fam, and sleep in my bed- which happens to be far better than the two rock-hard Ikea mattresses I like to call my sleeping space in my freezing Barcelona apartment.
It’s not all bad though. I do miss my classmates…and Gazpacho.
And being here- emailing my schoolmates and teammates and friends, wishing them happy holidays and knowing they are sitting at their computers all over the world reading their e-mails in different time-zones, I cant help but think how lucky I am to have found myself in this situation…to know, that at this current moment, I have genuine friends eating Christmas lunch in Budapest, shopping in Rome, attending football matches in England, sleeping in Columbia and Argentina, taking afternoon naps in Iran, or simply enjoying (as I am doing) the pleasures of being home with family in any country in the world from Saudi Arabia to Morocco to Canada to Mexico, Brazil and Portugal. And then there are my friends who didn’t go home- who remained in their other home, in our new home in Spain, enjoying the fact that they have finally found the time to enjoy the city we have been residents of for the past four months.

Either way- I woke up this morning wishing that I could be with my friends- my new family- in order to wish them happy holidays- and to tell them myself that “we did it”…
now enjoy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Running To Stand Still

A friend told me the other day that my writing has lost its humor...that it has become too repetitive...too dry...too "MBA oriented." 
Clearly, he isn't an MBA student so I wouldn't expect him to understand.
Either way- I deliberately decided to make my next post a funny one. I was determined. I thought to myself- I couldn't have become that much of a bore in four months. 

I sat through my entire lunch break brainstorming, not about how to approach my quant models exam (as I should have been doing), but trying to come up with something I could write both humorous and engaging but mainly- about anything non MBA-oriented.

It wasn’t a success. I closed my laptop, defeated, and trudged to my next class. 

So here I am, seven days after my saddening conversation- with the distressing realization that maybe I have become a one-dimensional uninteresting individual after all, having not written a word about anything unrelated to the Brazilian natural gas industry (Economics final report), the segmentation and positioning of bottled water in the Spanish market (Marketing), or the break down and assessment of various income statements and balance sheets (Financial Statement Management).

Furthermore, I can't think of anything funny to write. My life, right now, is JUST NOT matter what angle I look at it from.

Except, of course, the fact that I went to speak to the professor whose mid-term I failed and asked for his advice on how to approach the final...his response was- get this- 
"study harder.”

F*cking Hysterical…

Running To Stand Still.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Inflatable Armbands

When I learned to swim, I had a wicked and ruthless instructor that came to my house twice a week and pushed me into the pool along with four of my unfortunate friends.
That's how I remember it.
My mom begs to differ.

I must have been about four years old and my only recollections of these lessons are of thrashing around in the water with burning and bloodshot eyes and later, sitting on the side of the pool and coughing while chlorinated water attempted to escape my windpipe.

When the sadistic instructor was finally fired after a number of painful months, my grandpa Louie ended up teaching me to swim with his steady calm and understanding. And ten years down the road, I developed into a water-polo player, competitive swimmer, a diver and a genuine species of fish in any type of water.

This MBA is like learning to swim. ESADE is an Olympic sized pool that I got pushed into from the highest diving board while my back was turned. I have been sitting on the side- dripping wet and coughing for the past few months. Every so often, I get a breath in- just to keep me going. I don’t have a “papa Louie” here to take me under his wing and slowly show me the strokes…to relay to me the importance of kicking- of breathing- of keeping my eyes open.

Finals are approaching. It’s time to swim- and for others to sink.

We have less than two weeks to our exams and I’m left wondering where the first part of my MBA went. I barely remember the day our classes began, and the rest of the hours seemed to have meshed into one long and fatiguing instant…like the middle lengths of a 500-meter swim. They just happen- we go through the passes, the motions- and before we know it, we are at the end of the pool with our hands on the side, ready to pull ourselves out and onto dry land.

Thanksgiving was last week and I have no memory of it coming and going, save for a glimpse of a huge turkey exiting the overworked oven of a classmate and the back of a toilet bowl due to a horrendous bout of food poisoning (not the turkey.)

I hear people talking about their holiday plans- we have three weeks off- and every so often, I open up a flight search engine to begin my planning...but I am stuck. I oscillate between going home and taking the opportunity to travel. Home, in itself can be one of three cities and the latter’s possibilities are innumerable.

I’m at a loss. In so many ways.

I failed a mid-term. That was the first time in my life that I ever failed anything. I had to look at the page three times to actually grasp the sad truth that that the numbers at the top of the paper weren’t inversed. Maybe Managerial Accounting isn’t as intuitive as I had thought.
Procrastination is not for the MBA student who intends to walk away with a degree at any point. As for Spanish, I can’t stop speaking Italian. I conjugate my Spanish verbs with Italian endings and Italian verbs with Spanish endings. I didn’t know the form “Vos” existed and I still think it shouldn’t. Not to mention Catalan. I’m supposed to be practicing Spanish outside of my 7 hours a week of classes but waiters see me as a vehicle to practice their English and everyone else speaks this peculiar fusion of Vulgar Latin, Occitan, Gallo-Romance, and god-knows-what that is doing nothing but confusing me more.

I thought I would find a balance between what I know and what I don’t know- but being that it's t-minus 2 weeks to the first defining moment of the masters, I am starting to realize that the scales are more than just slightly tipped- I’m about to roll off the damn thing and onto the ground- only to be trampled by papers, exams, and fear. Not fun. Not fun at all.

I remember in the beginning, I spoke about a communal enthusiasm- or at least an understanding amongst all of us students that we were about to embark on something momentous together. Well, three months later, and there’s definitely something collective going on- but it’s more of a shared weariness. I see my classmates with their feet dragging on the ground, their paces a bit slower than the first day, their eyes a bit dimmer, and their colors a bit more pallid. As far as I can understand it, I am not the only one who feels almost completely lost.

I keep thinking to myself that I am sinking…. but then I’ve never been a sinker. I’ve always had people around me- who support me enough to know that when my head goes under, I sometimes need “floaties” (inflatable armbands...preferably pink). 
So I’m just hoping that I can learn the Spanish- No, the Catalan word for “floaties,” and make it through this horrendous realization that I’m no good what-so-ever at the numerical/methodical/statistical/logical/disciplined side of life. I’m hoping that I make it through this lap- that I can pull myself out of the pool, at the other end- and triumphantly dry myself off and walk away knowing that despite the odds- I swam.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gazpacho and Gaudí

Clearly, I don’t have the slightest bit of free time to explore Barca. This will change, I am assured. However, this sad fact implies that the continuation of my “things I love about Barcelona” list is on hold for the time being.

Deep Breath.

This doesn’t mean that the lists have to stop. Not at all actually- only the subject matter will incur a small alteration. But I'm an MBA student- a veritable chameleon- I can attack any problem from any angle- I can do this! 
So...below is an inventory of the small pleasures- the tiniest of details that make me smile- or make my heart skip a beat in my day to day life. Because for someone like me, its always been about the small things. 

First off, I want to mention that the Christmas lights are up and alight throughout the streets of Barcelona. Christmas lights make the world a more joyous place (despite the waste of energy, light pollution, complete disregard for the fact that Thanksgiving comes first, and oh yeah- I’m a Jew. (But when has that ever stopped me from eating too much santa-shaped chocolates and buying Christmas trees?)

So, without further ado, here are the small delights I’ve come to hold dear:

-Eating tangerines in class and smelling them on my hands throughout the day (even though my laptop keyboard is perpetually sticky)

-Reading the paragraph long synopses on the left hand side of the front page of the Financial Times every morning and then pretending like I actually know what’s going on in the world

-Listening to Hotel Costes, Vol. 9 ~ Stéphane Pompougnac on my trek home from school between bus 63 and the blue metro line

-Continuing my perpetual search for a comforter cover that doesn’t have bizarre patterns or inappropriate color schemes (its been three months now)

-Walking innocently along the street, glancing up, and remaining astonished by the fact that I am standing next to one of many Gaudi buildings that tourists flock to from the world over

-Weekends in Italy

-Face bubbles on BBM (if you don’t know, don’t ask)

-Skype dates with friends I thought had forgotten me

-Overdoing the pan con tomate and Rioja with friends at Cervezeria Catalunia after 16 hour school days

-Planning extravagant weekend trips…whether they actually happen or not is irrelevant- it’s the prep (the fantasy) that counts. Isn’t it always the fantasy that matters most?

-Arriving at the bus stop as the bus is arriving (as opposed to arriving as its pulling away- which is the case 95% of the time)

-When something is presented in class and I realize I actually enjoy the subject matter. Moreover, when something is presented in class and I have an intelligible opinion I can share with my classmates

-Drinking store-bought gazpacho straight out of the carton while standing barefoot in the kitchen

-Deleting any number of the manifold “mbacareerservices” emails without reading them (although I don’t recommend this as I’ve had quite a few close calls regarding workshops and speaking events), it’s a great stress reliever. Particularly the ones with the “urgent” notification attached. Totally liberating

-Discovering hidden corners concealed within the packed hallways and floors of school between classes in which I can exist in my own world- nothing like the reality of what I am living

As a final note: Barcelona has gotten cold. They didn't mention that in the brochure!
It was practically arctic in my apartment this morning...I woke up shaking and blue. Thus, I overshot my target and showed up to school in five layers of clothing (including waffled long underwear- yes bottom and top), uggs with fur peeking out around my calves, gloves, and coat. I haven’t stopped sweating since I ran after the bus this morning. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MBA identity

No one tells you before you do an MBA that the MBA takes the place of your life- all your interests, your pursuits, your relationships, friendships, the things that make you happy- the things that MADE ME HAPPY. This is what I’ve decided- this is my melodramatic statement for the day…

I knew what an MBA entailed- I wasn’t fooled about this- we all knew business school is no easy task. But more than the content being hard, it’s the time-consumption that’s getting to me- the sheer bulk of daily hours being legitimately stolen away from me. And then I have to remind myself- I am paying for this.

How was I supposed to shift gears? Especially when I’ve always driven an automatic. 
How am I intended to push aside- leave behind- the things that I love? And furthermore, prohibit myself from gaining new pursuits. I am an MBA student. Why does that mean that I cant be anything else? Because right now- that’s how it is. That’s who I am: an MBA student and nothing more. 

Up until this point, I have tried to secede from this identity. I’ve continued to explore my curiosities and rummage through the things that fascinate me- to a lesser degree of course- and this week, that came to a screeching halt. Reality set in and I finally grasped the fact that as good as I am at sorting through my desires and necessary battles, it’s the battles that are winning and everything else that is being extinguished. It’s a choice I didn’t think I would have to make- and a choice I didn’t intend to make. I arrived at school on Monday morning, after a weekend of “being me” and I could no longer put on the face of the student that I am- and fully appreciate every concept being presented to me in my unremitting hours of classes. How does one fight that? How does one fix that?

How do I explain what I feel I am losing? My fervor is being extinguished- I have misplaced myself. Whatever it was inside of me that I could point to and recognize as mine, is gone. I came to Barcelona to acquire new passions, give my heart to other things…I decided to do an MBA because I wanted to explore more of the unknown, to create a broader understanding of the world so I could grow to love it even more. And at this moment, I think all that is lost and I need to redefine my purpose here. 

I know I wont find happiness in career web portals and market data research. As great as this MBA thing is, as much as I am learning and growing, an excel spread sheet will never take the place of a good novel and a revered guest speaker will never take the place of a good conversation. Not for me.

I watch my fellow students- and they are finding fulfillment and satisfaction in being enveloped by this MBA- not only the full days of classes, but the group work lasting until the morning hours, the dinners with fellow students, the weekend club meetings, the mba-related festivals, events, promoted affairs. 

There are couplings of students- budding relationships between colleagues- the possibility of love, the excuse for a distraction, any number of associations for any number of purposes are unfolding before me and within this little society of ours. There are promising friendships- of which I can’t seem to understand because I don’t even have time to work on my old friendships. And both these losses make me sad. There are plenty of individuals constantly reminding me that “things” will calm down second term- that we just have to get through this part- but that’s never been how I live my life- to merely “get through” it. Because who wants that? I don’t want to have an existence that I just “get through” I want to be devoted to every moment to the degree that I attempt to hold onto it with all my might. I want my fingers to bleed from their grasp. Yet now- I’m waiting for tomorrow and the day after and the day after- but for what? The next phase? What about this phase? THIS is what I wanted…this is what I aimed for and consequently attained. And now? I’m trying to “get through” it. 
That’s not how I live my life. And therefore, I have to ask who I have become- what did this MBA do to me? 

I lost the things I knew I would lose coming here- and then I lost a few things I wasn’t prepared for. Now I’m losing myself. Something I never thought possible. And I have to ask- is it all worth it? Ultimately, I know I will “get through” it- but I’m more concerned, at this impasse, about getting through it and coming out at the other end having preserved what I came here with- in hopes of adding more substance to what I already had.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

appropriate ecards

p.s. ESADE ranked 6th in International MBA programs. Go us!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The MBA- a quick update

About halfway through term-one and knee-deep in work. 
Work, in the form of: school work, homework, group work, resume work, and something I totally didn’t expect- work on myself. 
Yes, I am working on myself…or learning to accept the fact that maybe I have some more work to do on myself than I thought at the outset. 
I’ll leave it at that. 

Linear modeling baffles me to no complex end. 
Marketing is interesting but far too time consuming considering the weekly presentations amid SEVEN OTHER COURSES. 
My Spanish sucks so I am grasping for dear life at the walls of level four so as not to disappoint Señora Obragon from elementary school and sink to level three. I am, after all, a Miami native.
Financial statement management is interesting, but we should have had it pre-term. It actually seems that someone mixed up a file somewhere in the mix and inverted the order of pre-term and first-term- but that's another issue altogether. 
Managerial accounting, I am told, is relatively easy- but at 8:00 am.. on Friday mornings- nothing is “relatively easy.” 
Organizational behavior is second-nature.
The Global Context of Management is brilliant due to our small-group professor and the discussions/debates that are actually relevant to the world we live in. 
And finally- economics…the one subject I managed to avoid throughout my educational career and now I know why.

And on other fronts, in the words of a friend back in the States, “you’re missing out on a lot of action here.” 
The global economy is crumbling. 
Words are thrown around merely for shock-value so frequently that they are starting to lose their impact. I hear- and read- and utilize in my own daily vocabulary, expressions comprised of “disaster,” “catastrophe,” “emergency,” “devastation,” “upheaval,” “staggering,” “crisis,” “turmoil,” etc… They don’t make the impression they should be making at this point due to overabundance in daily discourse. Additionally, because I am so focused on learning how to analyze income statements and create linear models that I have had a hard time actually conceptualizing the fact that we are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression (according to the IMF). 
I wont drone on about this- firstly, because it’s no secret and secondly, nothing I can say will provide any more insight than yesterdays Wall Street Journal or the guy who sat next to me on the subway this morning.

And apparently, we have a new president. That was fast. I feel like Obama just arrived on the scene- (I will leave my personal opinion regarding his experience (or lack thereof) out for the sake of this blog remaining unaffiliated.) All I can say is that I hope- for his sake, my sake, America’s sake, and the world at large- that President Obama delivers. He has promised great things and as wonderful an orator he has proven to be, I hope he is half as good in action as he is with his powers of persuasion.

But in the end, change is what its all about. Obama, taking into account all that his election represents- one of the biggest defining factors was change. Change. Change. Change. And as I mentioned before- I am changing, I am learning what I need to change about myself, what I shouldn’t change, how to change what I should, and what use I can make of this change.
I’m just hoping it doesn’t break me down too much before I can build myself up again and put this change to good use. Maybe I’ll take a page out of Obama’s speech-writers book and mention….”Yes We Can!”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Las Canciones De Mi Vida

I recently moaned about the lack of time I have to listen to music. This is a mockery considering that up until this point, music has played a sizeable role in my life. I fear that in the end of this whole MBA/Barca experience, I will not be able to find a list of music with which to compile a soundtrack. 

I’ve always managed to assemble these anthologies- from the boom-box era when I sat around until the radio played what I wanted to hear- and I would rush to push “record” before I missed too much of the song, to burning CD’s that I would later listen to and consequently scratch due to excessive “repeat” on my disk-man, and now the simple pleasure of labeling playlists in my itunes- there have always been compilations of significant songs that serve as the souvenirs of momentous times in my life…

And of all the significant times I have had, I am sure that this is going to be up there with the best of them. A memory without music is a memory lost. For this phase of my life, I believe that would be the biggest shame imaginable. 

To that end, I began compiling a playlist. It’s comprised of the songs I listen to as I walk in the rain (whoever said it never rains in Barca was lying) to the bus stop. Some of the songs are the songs that randomly come on my i-pod as I sit outside the school waiting for my next class to begin, thinking to myself, “this is exactly how I feel,” whether the words match or not. Because with music- its rarely about the words- it’s the fact that every note, every melody, every chord touches something in your soul and makes you feel connected somehow to something you cant see, or touch, or explain- but you know is there. Certain songs possess the beats and rhythms I have danced to at 6 a.m. in Barca’s discotecas- when I should have been dressing for class. Others in hotel rooms on the Amalfi Coast or fashion-week parties in Paris. And a few are the songs that play in my head without any explanation- they just begin out of nowhere and linger for days.

And so these songs will become my soundtrack- a vehicle to carry me back to here- at some point down the road- in a moment of clarity or sadness or nostalgia when I want to feel how I feel now- where I am now- where, despite the rain and the lack of free time, I am extraordinarily happy.

Lastly, there are songs on this list that my best friend, Dana has sent me- in a package full of mixes. Not only did she listen to me when I made an offhand remark about not having a soundtrack- but she heard me...because the two of us have innumerable soundtracks together. She gets it...she named the mixes “Barca Mix 1, 2, and so on” She gave me the gift of the music that I haven’t had time on my own to discover. 

So here goes, the beginning of Barca memories via la musica….

1. Regina Spektor, Samson
2. The Killers, Human
3. Amos Lee, Baby I Want You
4. Ray LaMontagne, You Are The Best Thing
5. U2, Running To Stand Still
6. Leona Naess, Ghosts In The Attic
7. Jehro, All I Want
8. Coldplay, Viva la Vida
9. Rocha, Ya No Te Veria Mas
10. The Verve Pipe, Freshman
11. Eddie Vedder, Society
12. Jewel, Barcelona
13. Me’shell Ndegoecello, Beautiful
14. Kings of Leon, Cold Desert
15. Freedom Dub, Emotional Rescue (Hotel Costes 9)
16. Moby, Dream About Me
17. Patrizio Buanne, Luna Mezz o’ Mare
18. Damien Rice, 9 Crimes
19. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
20. Yves Larock and Jaba, Rise Up (pref. club mix)
21. Black, Wonderful Life
22. Adele, Hometown Glory
23. PhonJaxx, Sensual
24. Coldplay, Lovers in Japan
25. Laurent Wolf, No Stress
26. Ben Harper, Fight Outta You
27. Juanes, La Camisa Nera
28. Thievery Corporation, Beautiful Drug
29. Shakira, Estoy Aqui
30. Black Kids, Love Me Already
31. Stephan Pompougnac, The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti
32. MGMT, Kids
33. GlasVegas, Daddy's Gone
34. Shout Out Louds, Very Loud
35. Kings of Leon, Use Somebody

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows Eve

I remember carving pumpkins on my porch with my father when I was a little girl. We would go to the local patch, seek out the biggest pumpkin we could find and then paint a ridiculously complicated face on him and spend all day slicing and spilling and laughing. 

By the end, I would be covered in sticky pumpkin juice, the seeds would be baking in the oven, and a masterpiece remained on display by our front doors- it was the pride and joy of the Witkin household- for a day at least. I miss carving pumpkins. I miss my dad. We don’t really speak anymore…I wonder if he is still carving
 pumpkins, even if its just for himself.

When I was little, Halloween was centered around trick-or-treating, costumes, and candy consumption. The themes of my world changed during these days. In preparation of, and through Halloween, everything was covered in orange and black, artificial cobwebs with plastic spiders hung from the ceilings of my classrooms, and the neighborhood’s foliage was adorned with ghosts and ghouls and goblins. My mom finally stocked our cupboards with chocolate, which was rare in our healthy household. Bags and bags of caramel, buttermilk, candy corns, and gooey sweet substances were always “hidden” under the kitchen sink in order to be distributed to the trick-or-treaters come Halloween night. It was fall, and the air smelled exactly as it was meant to smell- as it always did in late October- Fresh with the chill of impending winter, but symbolizing the comfort of falling leaves in the remaining autumn sun. 

To me, Halloween always signified the commencement of the holiday season- after the lull of spring’s melting and long summer nights. First came Halloween, and before I knew it- Thanksgiving was upon us, then Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and finally my birthday. “My Holiday Season” and how it worked itself out in my mind. 
It still does.

Halloween has maintained its status as my favorite holiday for this very reason. Contrary to what one would assume, my love for the holiday has nothing to do with scary movies and fake blood- although I’m not opposed. My early Halloweens were the opening ceremonies to everything I held dear…time with my family, the ability to be a child-and nothing else, and a joint feeling of well being and warmth. The holidays- as best as I can describe them- were safe times. It wasn’t summer when I was off on a plane to a summer camp for two months, or sent to a foreign country to learn a new language. It wasn’t early fall when school began anew and our carpools dropped us off and left us in the hands of teachers- and school systems- and girl scout meetings- and piano lessons from dusk till dawn.

The holidays were when I was picked up early from school because someone special had arrived in town, or when we went shopping for new sweaters because our yearly ski trip was approaching- or when I knew that within a few days, I would be sitting in the kitchen with both my cooking grandmothers chopping and frying and slicing- during their annual latke making competition- when my grandpa would be outside smoking cigars with my dad and uncles- and my sister and I would be whispering to each other and laughing quietly in the next room as we made up dance routines to the latest Whitney Houston C.D. 

This was a time when everything was good- everyone was happy and healthy- this was life. We were living it and there was no future. There was only then- all of us there together with a shared understanding that time had stopped- if only for that evening. No one thought of the pain we might bear in the coming years, the losses we would all endure, the changes we would undergo. There were no flailing economies, MBA anxieties, illnesses, worries of global warming. There was just us- and our pumpkins and smiles and innate and true love for one another. Maybe this is how childhood is defined- or maybe it is specific to my childhood- whichever the case, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

Every Halloween, my mother would take my sister and I to the costume store- and every year, without fail, I would become so overwhelmed with the approaching choice I knew I would have to make. This still happens to me- it’s why I can’t shop in large department stores- and why I must choose my flavor before I enter the ice cream shop.

I would look forward to costume shopping for days, and inevitably- upon entering the store, I would lose focus- wander away- and spend hours fingering anything with sequins or brightly colored feathers. Every year, in the end- I would dress up as a devil because I never made my choice in the allotted time. Devil was my default. 

So guess what I’m dressing as this year? 
A devil. 
Of course… 

Ask my friend Sebastiaan, who accompanied me on my Halloween shopping excursion yesterday…same thing happened. 20 years later and nothing has changed. I should have warned him before he accepted my invite to come along with me.

More than costumes though, Halloween was about the candy. The excessive consumption of sweet substances- sugar highs- sugar lows- and stomach aches. Moreover, it was about the competition for candy. Who is the best trick-or-treater? Who can get the most out of the plastic jack-o-lantern? I loved competition and I loved candy and I loved being able to stay out past dark- even if I had to be accompanied by someone’s mom. What could be any better? And even though I was a shy child, I was in a costume so I could easily step out of my comfort zone and ring the doorbells of strangers, while begging for miniature colorful packages of the chocolates I was deprived of the rest of the year. And then once it was all over, when our feet were tired and the makeup had run from our cheeks to our chins, and the sequins had fallen off our leotards and dresses- we would go home. I would sit myself on the floor, in the middle of the living room, and dump out my findings- separating and calculating my earnings for hours on end, while eating as much as I could without vomiting. 

Halloween, as most things in life, has its phases. Like growing up- the transition from childhood to adulthood was pretty abrupt. One day, I’m trick-or-treating in peace, and the next? I am told that I’m too old to be a trick-or-treater. I have to admit- I was gutted. It broke my little heart. I think the hardest part about all that, and one of the first lessons of age inequality, was when I was forced to watch my little sister get dressed and go out trick-or-treating with her friends.

But not all was lost. As it never is. A few years later began the new phase of Halloween. I could sugarcoat (literally. Candy corns and all) the essence of teenage/young-adult Halloween, but instead- I’ll be honest. Halloween is now, and has been for the last ten years, about dressing in as few clothes as is legally possible and getting drunk. 
Maybe my mom should have let me trick-or-treat a little deeper into my developmental phase, after all. 

So tonight, in keeping with the tradition that has remained ever since I was too old to knock on strangers’ doors and beg for candy, I am attending a large party. Yes, even in Spain- we manage to capitalize on the American tradition of All Hallows Eve. This evening will be a combination of hundreds of intoxicated MBA students from different programs around Barcelona, friends, local partygoers, and a bunch of random individuals who care enough to share this wonderful American tradition of dressing inappropriately and drinking excessively. 

And as an homage to my childhood- I’m dressing as a devil. Halloween 2008 will undoubtedly be fun- of this I am sure- but it wont hold a candle to pumpkin carving in all my innocence and peace. I miss those afternoons on the porch, and the holidays that came after. And I will continue to miss them, because 
Halloween will carry on, year after year- but those days- the pumpkin carving days- I will never have them back.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The A, B, C's...revisited

In my anxiety and distress, I have been reaching out to anyone within corporeal distance. I’ve been grasping for some local sense of security, or advice, or maybe even a bit of sympathy. Of the latter, there is an abundance- and if not sympathy, then it is empathy- and considerable amounts of commiseration. I’m actually getting sick of wallowing in my own self-pity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m beginning to irritate those on the receiving end as well.

Therefore, when I heard back from my friend Andreu, who has accomplished everything in his life that I hope to accomplish myself one day, I took his advice a bit more seriously than that of other students or friends- with biased or subjective opinions.
Andreu wasn’t sympathetic…which was perfectly fine.
Sympathy is overrated.
What he did do though, is give me a framework within which I am meant to assess and organize my thoughts and pretty much, my daily life.

I cannot say that I will be able to follow this advice, but it was excellent nonetheless. Maybe it will be of aid to individuals in my similar position (i.e. MBA students, mid-20 somethings attempting to combine their dreams with their realities, and anyone else just a little bit lost).
Actually, I have no doubt that it will be of use to someone, somewhere.

He wrote:

“ Write down your goal on a piece of paper, frame it and put it somewhere in your bedroom, in front of your desk, or anywhere where you will see it often.
All the things that you do in life are in one of these three categories:

A) Things that are basic needs for living (i.e. eating well , sleeping, washing, defecating and a few others)

B) Things that will help you reach your goal (attending classes at ESADE, studying, reading The Economist, going to the library, planning your studying time, spending time working with people who are focused on the same goal, etc…)

C) Things that are irrelevant to reach your goal (going to parties, traveling to Rome, drinking alcohol, answering e-mails from friends, browsing irrelevant web pages on the internet, talking about irrelevant things with others, and a million of other things we all do in our lives….you know what I am talking about…)

Every time that your do something think in which one of these three categories you are and do the following:

If you are in C then you are not focusing. Stop doing C and go to B.
If you are in B you are focusing, stay in B and persist.
If you are in A, finish soon and move to B.

Spend your time, or better said, invest your time in things that are in the B category. And from time to time take a break to do some things on the A category.
The more time you invest on things that belong to the B category, the closer you will be to your goal.

Easy… isn´t it? But not so easy to implement. 
Especially for a woman full of heavy duty artillery like you who adores life and has an inner power to enjoy everything, do everything, meet everyone, etc..

Don´t you agree?”

Not only did I agree, but Andreu’s final words proved that he really does know me- and get me- and after all that, still speaks with me! “Heavy duty artillery”..,love it…had to include it. In fact, maybe that’s why I liked the advice so much.

However, there is something to be said for this plan. And then, there is something to be said about how incongruous (as stated) this agenda is based in view of the context (context being me).

I responded frankly, quickly (because responding to e-mails from friends is in category C), and bluntly with:

“I like this advice, although it is going to be quite difficult for me to follow it.
I have to all makes perfect sense.
Here’s my problem: sometimes I can’t see beyond B. I know where I want to be...but I have a problem when it comes to "living for the future". To me- come siempre- it has always been about the NOW aspect of my life. Today is where I focus. Not tomorrow and definitely not yesterday.

I couldn’t care less about the A's....because they get done regardless of our desires. The C's are where I reside- and the Bs? I have a hard time visualizing the advantages of surrendering the C’s.

I do know what I want, I have a relatively good idea of where I want to be, and I sort of know how to get there…but I often question whether I will ever get “there”- so I inadvertently choose to focus on the Cs and hope that the Bs will come- naturally. By default. Everyday, I hope for the theoretical result of living by the B’s while concocting some type of formula of the necessary A’s, a few B’s, and an abundance of C’s.
With that said. I love the Cs....I live a C-focused life. I was born to be a C.
Now, how does one convert to B?
and yes, being someone like me- this theory is exactly that, great in theory...but implementation may cause a few problems.

What about defining my goal? What is my goal?
There is SO MUCH…too much for a plaque on my wall or an inscription atop a notebook. Maybe I want so much that subconsciously, I know it will never happen and then the B’s become immaterial. So why waste my time?”

It’s funny. In elementary school, during the very first part our preliminary educations- we learn the “A, B, C’s.” As we were learning them, as best as I can remember, we feel a bit burdened. It’s exasperating- protracted- but once we have them down-pat, and with a perfect understanding of their usage, they become imperative in everything else we do- the basis for the remainder of our educations. We never forget these lessons- no matter how difficult they were to accept or appreciate.
And now, Andreu has outlined an entirely new series of “A, B, C’s”- The basic groupings of our daily activities- the actions that fill our days and define our futures- where we will end up. Maybe its best to bring it back to basics- everything in life is cyclical right? Accept these new A, B, C’s as universal truths- common understandings that we need to regulate and classify with a necessity for acceptance in order to succeed.

And like our first ever A,B,C’s, these new A,B,C’s will become the basis on which everything else lies…and sorting through them in our minds- and defining the framework for ourselves, will be the way in which we operate within the world- and more immediately, within the MBA.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vision Versions

In ESADE’s hopes of turning us MBA students into great leaders, we have all found ourselves in the midst of a “Leadership Assessment and Development Program." As described by the school, “The Leadership Assessment and Development Programme (LEAD) is personalized and provides each students with the tools he needs to improve his leadership abilities and to incorporate new competencies during his career. The programme detects those skills that individual students particularly need to enhance. After completing the training and evaluating the results through group activities, coaching sessions, and teamwork, participants are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, helping them develop the skills that will be vital in their chosen careers.”

One of the first assignments, amongst a number of evaluations, questionnaires and presentations in the past few weeks- was to write a “Personal Vision” statement of around 10 pages. The first draft was due a week ago (final draft to be handed in by the end of the month) and from what I observed, the deadline created more anxiety amongst students than any one of our four-hour finals.
Ah, the irony!
Either way, in this “Personal Vision” statement, we were meant to define where we see ourselves in the future- taking into account all we have encountered in the course thus far- our learning styles, values, and so on and so forth. 

My written response, of course, danced around the question with shapes and figures rarely present in the context of an MBA- it was a waltz- an unintentional waltz, but a waltz nonetheless. If my “coach” manages to extract anything of use from the ten pages of adjectives and metaphors I finally handed in, she’s a certifiable genius. 
I wish her luck.

On the other hand, one of my closest friends in the program sent me her first line and I absolutely had to blog about it…seeing as though it would be wrong to plagiarize. She revealed that she is writing her personal vision, “In the hope that I can sort out some of the noise that fills my head and organize the brilliant yet sporadic moments of truth that come and go often too soon and sometimes too late.”

Now this is truth. This- I love. This is where I am coming from. 
She is so right, not just in the context of the MBA- but in life. There exist these moments of truth- of recognition…and if we are lucky enough, they don’t pass us by. Because as she mentions, “they” come too quickly and oftentimes, a bit too late. 

Furthermore, these points of reference are fleeting. Whether it be sitting in class and finally understanding a new concept before it evades me once again- or like last Friday night, on a private boat- sailing at 1:00 a.m. in the eye of a storm leaving from Sorrento to Capri, amongst some of the people that make me happiest in the world- there is truth. It lies in these moments- we see it, and feel it- for a split second, and then it is gone. And with these momentary sparks that dart in and out of our lives, we are meant to decipher our hopes and aspirations- our “personal visions.” 
Now, can someone tell me how to do that? 

Because these moments are rare- and disorganized- and in dire need of not only order and regulation, but of longevity. If only we could take one of these instances- and make it permanent- prolong its existence for enough time to understand it. If only I could bottle these moments- and keep them on a shelf- just to know that they are there- that I had them once. Then again, maybe doing just that that would kill them. 
Like fireflies. 

When I was little, in summertime, the yard would be full of fireflies- the enchanting nocturnal bugs that intermittently light up and shine just for half of a second to let you know that they are there. I tried to catch fireflies once and put them in a jar- because I wanted them to shine in my room as I slept…and by the time I woke up in the morning, I had killed them.
Maybe that was a lesson, not only as a lesson then in losing something you love, or being kind to nature- but a lesson for later in life. In that- sometimes things will exist and then they are gone- and that’s just the nature of what they are- that’s what makes them special. 

So now its up to me, and people like me in this MBA- to take the shadows and echoes of these moments- once the light has already flickered and died- and turn them into something concrete…a future, a plan, a vision.

Now as for my "personal vision," after ten pages of words and theories and disjointed thoughts of potential goals, I concluded with;

“I hope to be challenged everyday- to find myself on a career path where I am confident in my skills. I never want to question my capacity to do my job and to lead others. I hope to make a difference. I hope to leave a mark. I hope to be surrounded by people who both stimulate me and appreciate the stimulation I provide them. 

I must be passionate about what I am doing. I want to use my creativity but at the same time, I want to know that whatever it is I do daily- is actually making an impact. 

I want enough time to pursue my passions but at the same time, I want my job to include my passions. I want to fuse that which I love and that which is lucrative. Again, if I knew what that was- I wouldn’t be here now…I’d be doing it. I don’t need all the money in the world, but I want enough to allow for comfort. I never want to worry. I don’t plan on a family at the moment, but if and when I do have one, I never want my children to be in want of anything.

I hope to travel- and most likely, to live internationally. I hope to work with many people from many cultures- and spend significant amounts of time in different parts of the world. I hope to constantly be learning- not only a propos the subject matter of my job, but exterior things as well. I hope to have people around me that can constantly teach me- teach me about themselves, about the world, and ultimately- about myself. I don’t want to be forever shifting, but I don’t want to ever feel stuck- maybe I will be in a few places long enough to call them home.

I hope to be a leader. I hope to be adept enough- at whatever it is I am doing- to be in a position of leadership. I hope to not only direct, but also to guide. I hope that people who work for, or under me, will gain something- will be inspired by me. I don’t expect to change people’s lives, but I intend to make an impact. I hope to one day impart some of the wisdom that I have gained through my many experiences in friendships, jobs, and in life. 

I hope for enough freedom so that I never feel trapped, but enough security so that I never feel unsafe or unsure. I like the unknown. I never want to find myself in a career where I am 100% sure that I will be in the same seat, doing the same thing years down the road. I want to always be challenged, and it is not important to me if I don’t exactly know what is around the corner- as long as I know there is something awaiting me there. 

I want to work hard, but I don’t want it to be for naught. I want to see results- changes. I never want to race against those I work with- only with competitors. If I work in a team, I will do my best to make it cohesive. I hope that everyone will seek the greater good of the group- and not the individuals. 

I hope to learn something everyday- but I also hope to teach someone something everyday. I hope to be respected- I hope to interact with others, to understand them and to help them understand me.

I don’t have any strong desire to change- but there are a few qualities in myself that I would like to tone down or build up. I hope that after this MBA, I will be more patient- with everything- with myself and with others. I hope I can learn to be a bit more selfless- a bit less judgmental. I see the good in others- but I have to learn how to better extract that good and apply it to my own growth. I hope that I can learn to be a bit more diplomatic- less candid- less aggressive. I hope that one day, I will be more organized, more direct. I hope to learn to prioritize in order of importance- as opposed to prioritizing in order of desires. I have many flaws- but I also know that these flaws can sometimes be assets- so in a way, part of my “ideal vision” is to find a career where the things that have held me back, can actually push me forward. 

And maybe, one day, I will learn to not speak so generally. About everything. But for now- it works.”

I suppose we will soon find out what kind of leader they will make out of me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Blue Ocean

Often I find myself having a hard time relating what happens inside the MBA with what happens to be inside my head. Those who know me, will understand immediately what I mean by this. But for those readers who don’t- let me just say that when I decided to do an MBA, my friends/family/coworkers/and pretty much anyone who has ever come into contact with me- were quite surprised (to say the least) that this is the path I willingly chose to go down. It deviates from everything I stand for- everything I have done- and everything I have wanted to do. 
Bold statement, yes. But a true statement.

This lack of association has nothing to do with my capacity to understand the material or my interest in everything an MBA entails. (there’s my disclaimer). In fact, I am beginning to find the material not only interesting, but entirely appealing. Nevertheless, when it comes to writing- I am having trouble with the “disconnect.” 

I’m accustomed to taking my life- my feelings- and putting everything I feel and do into words. For this though, I don’t yet have the words- because I’m still in the process of defining how each hour of the day relates to me- as an individual comprised of everything I currently am- and that’s not simply speaking as “an MBA student”- because THAT, the “MBA student” thing- I could write about- I could define. But it wouldn’t mean anything to me. 

With that said, I feel the need to point out that there exist those rare flashes of recognition deep within the right side of my brain buried under the layers of the devastatingly long hours of classes and texts and cases and discussions. 

One of these flashes occurred two weeks ago during “Introduction to General Management and Strategy” where in the course of being presented with about a million unfamiliar and foreign concepts, the “Blue Ocean” strategy appeared in front of me like a beacon of light. 

Of course, it took a bit of extraction to get what I desired out of it, but this “Blue Ocean” thing was something I could understand. In MY terms. 

In the terms of approach to business, the “Blue Ocean” strategy “aims to create ‘Blue Oceans’ by discovering and exposing uncontested market space and essentially, making the competition irrelevant.”

The strategy, in written terms, is full of metaphors: blue oceans- bloody red oceans- all of which comprise the market universe. Blue oceans, as one would infer, are the unchartered waters of the global marketplace. 

I could go on and on defining Blue Oceans in strategy context but the book has already been written. Literally. What I felt however, when presented with this concept, was probably quite different from what was the expected response.

I took this blue ocean and saw it, not only as unexplored market space- an opportunity- but as myself. As an MBA student- as any one of us sitting in that classroom on that given day. 

We are all blue oceans- all unchartered- all currently sorting through the refuse of what we have done- accomplished- and who we have been. And now with this MBA- with all this knowledge, all these new experiences that I encounter everyday- who I am becoming, I’m moving into this blue space. At least I am trying to. And what is left behind me- what I am leaving behind me- are the bloodied waters of what which has already been touched and oftentimes tainted. Everything I have already felt. 

As with the blue ocean theory in business, this new “me” may work, it may not. That’s the risk I take with exploring the unknown. I may leave this program, leave this MBA, and have lost who I am- there’s the concealed prospect of being unhappy with what this has made me.
But I doubt it- because if anything, I’ll know that I tried. And what I tried is more important than where it will lead me- because no one else has ever tried it before…my personal Blue Ocean. My unknown- taking what I know, and pushing that knowledge into an indefinite space- a space where I hope to exist and prosper.

The “Blue Ocean Strategy” makes “The Competition Irrelevant.” So maybe that is what I have been hoping for the entire time. And maybe that’s what this MBA is doing for me…making the competition irrelevant so that when I graduate, I will be a soft-skilled, writing, dreamer with an international MBA in my pocket. And I don’t think there are too many of those… not yet at least.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Ever since I was little, my life has been filled with lists. I suppose this is of my mother’s doing. My mother, as wonderful as she is, a fanatical list-maker, list-hoarder, and devout believer in lists.

Firstly, the ubiquitous “To Do” lists. They were everywhere…folded up and shoved conspicuously in my brown paper lunch bag, post its covering the fridge, stacks of paper by the phone.

These lists- the banes of my existence, or so it seemed- were constant reminders of people to call, objects to buy, affairs to attend, and various other obligations that usually diverged greatly from what I wanted to be doing- and wherever that may have been.

These lists have remained- even two decades later- as knots in my stomach…they bring with them a degree of anxiety and unease. I say this in general terms. 
Growing up, as soon as one thing was crossed off my list- another miraculously appeared. (thanks mom). Admittedly, I don’t think I was ever capable of fully completing a to-do list. I can’t remember ever taking one of those frightful little pieces of paper, drawing lines through every item, and throwing it into the trash- where, in my opinion, it should have been from the beginning.

I deviated from lists when I moved away from home at 18. Lists were nothing more than a burden to me. I had things to do, yes…but lists only created extra stress…not only did I have to do the things I had to do, but I had to deal with the list, I had to adhere to the list, I had to follow the list.

I’d like to believe that I’ve been successful in terms of living my life until this point without regressing to the structured list-driven-environment I was raised in. I may not be the most organized person in the world, but I have always gotten everything done that needed to be done- and ultimately, that’s what lists are there for. Yet, I coped just fine without them. 
I got here didn’t I?

I managed without them until now, that is. The stringent schedule, the stress, the LISTS, the structure- of business school- are all synonymous with growing up with my mother and her agenda…she would love this place.

So here they are once more. Lists. Yet again they have appeared in my life- and taken a drivers seat in everything I do. Group lists, contact lists, course lists, class lists, company lists, lists lists lists. And more lists.

So in keeping form- because in lists- "we" like consistency, below are a few lists…the lists that happen to define my existence right now.

Term 1 course list:
-Introduction to General Management and Strategy
-Applied Quantitative Models
-Financial Analysis
-Geopolitics, Society and Culture
-Managerial Accounting
-Marketing I
-Organizational Behavior
-Languages (Español)

Things I should see in Barcelona, and haven’t yet visited list:
-Visit (as in- actually enter) Gaudi’s La Pedrera and Casa Battlô. 
-Picasso exhibition
-Caixa Forum
-Montjuic (and its magical fountain)
-Barca Football game!
-Mont Serrat
-El Bulli
-MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art)
-Palau de la Música

Clubs to consider joining list:
-Real Estate
-Women in Business
-Emerging Markets
-Diversity in Business
-Clean Energy
-Wine Club

Companies on Campus for Fall MBA Career Week list:
Infosys Technologies
Roland Berger
Arthur D. Little
A.T. Kearney
Oliver Wyman
Grupo Santander
Delta Partners
Grupo Celsa
Morgan Stanley

As for my “To Do” list, I’m not even going to start (and the list itself is never going to end…as far as I can tell).
So that’s that. For now. Tomorrow, surely there will be more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Ideal World...

I’m going to be completely honest here… because that’s what I’m about. 
I could hide behind the pretext that the MBA is all-consuming (which it unquestionably is)- but I, nonetheless, have an entire life outside of this masters- a life that is collapsing in on itself, disintegrating more each class I attend, each group meeting I make it to, each reading I complete, each power point presentation I prepare.

There was a point- not too far back in the past, when I worried about what I would write- when there wasn’t enough going on that I feared posting something would make my life seem monotonous- or others- because in my case- I was happy. That never changed.

This was a time when I was in a relationship- a solid, loving, fair, and beautiful relationship. A “forever” kind of thing. A relationship that seemed like it would be forever.

If forever came tomorrow, right? Not in the case of an MBA. Now, I have no fear of posting- in fact, there is too much going on- a wealth of beguiling and exciting information to relay. So much that I don’t even have time to write. Ironic, isn’t it?

I came here with a boyfriend and soon after, I was on a break. Now, I am in the process of breaking up. For good. Forever? Well, if forever came tomorrow I would surely know how to answer this.

“How to allocate your priorities into your current work”- this is what today’s pharma industry strategy speaker spoke about when discussing R&D. I’m assuming he wasn’t referring to my personal life, but then again- its all about interpretation.

I can’t say that my life is bad right now- far from it. My life is fantastic. However, nothing is perfect. And at those imperfect moments, I can’t help but wonder what would make me just that tiny bit happier. What would complete the puzzle?

If I lived in an ideal world…

Life would be easy. It never has been easy. This is no shock- no surprise- I’ve been told this for years- I have told this to others…maybe I haven’t really believed it until now but its always been a concept…a dark cloud hovering over the happiest (easiest) of times- ready to descend. To rain on my parade.

If life were easy…I would be able to go to bed at three a.m., get up for school in the morning- and have somehow slept ten hours. Public transportation would be private. Traffic wouldn’t exist. Starbucks would taste the same in Europe, money would go on trees, my hair would blow itself dry, the maid would come daily, I wouldn’t have found a cucaracha in my kitchen cabinet last night. 

If life were easy- food wouldn’t ever go bad, Adderall would be OTC, cheese would be fat-free, my Spanish would be perfect.

There would be 48 hours in a day and nine days in a week, pimples wouldn’t exist after puberty, I would understand statistics inherently, spread sheets would come to me as naturally as words, and I would know how to shut my damn mouth when appropriate.

My IQ would be on a par with Einstein and my beauty be on a par with Giselle. Pain wouldn’t exist, my nose would be smaller, I would actually have time to write.

If life were easy, I would be able to pay attention in class for more than 20 minutes at a time, it would never rain, and I would have the capacity to please all people at all times- while leaving time for myself as well.

Text messages abroad would be free, my computer would be weightless, the shower would never get cold, my doorman wouldn’t make his own hours, tardiness would be admired, and I would never get sick.

My loved ones would never die, my heels would never bleed, there would be no lines in airports, brown wouldn’t be a color, my teeth would brush themselves, love would be forever.

And so, I come to my point- if life were easy…I could live my life here without ending something spectacular with of one of the people I love most in the world. 
If life were easy, I could maintain a relationship in England and maintain my life as an MBA student in Spain. 
If life were easy, I could have it all- I would have it all- I could love and be loved and still have my freedom- my wings- my independence.

If life were easy, sacrifices wouldn’t exist.

If life were easy, if it were absolutely perfect- and I lived in an ideal world- I wouldn’t be breaking the heart of my best friend- as I write this.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Roma, Barca, and one night in Paris

What can I say about Rome? It was Rome. It was Rome squared. No, quadrupled. Rome, as always, was magical- stunning, exquisite, enchanting.

I’ve always been fearful of repeating experiences- being that there have been so many that have been so good- I hate to go back. I would rather maintain the memories of my original experiences…but Rome. Rome was exactly what I needed. 

Having lived there for a year, I felt like I was going home. It was familiar. But again, it was completely new. I wish I had the words to express how it felt to be in Rome- to stand once again in front of the Trevi Fountain, tossing in coins- along with the hundreds of other tourists, wishing to one day return- as I always have and always will. 
It was magic. 
I was at peace. 
And the joy that I felt, the joy that is still whirling around in my soul, is indefinable. But for me, in Rome- I was swallowed up into an unexpected euphoria- having left every thought of Barcelona and the MBA behind me- I was delirious, caught off guard- and reminded of everything beautiful that life could be- that life is. 

I guess I can say that Rome infused me with a willingness, nay- an openness to everything that lays ahead- MBA included. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress, in the trivial daily activities- in the demanding schedule we have jumped into headfirst, hands tied behind our backs- and all that the MBA implies.

Until Rome, I had a tiny, nagging thought in the back of my mind- that I had given my life over to numerous ambiguous and fatiguing activities, planning, provisions and preparations to be someone who I don’t yet know. 

But Rome reminded me of who I am…and who I want to be. And possibly, this MBA can be my vehicle to get there. Back to Rome? Maybe. But to the place- in my mind and in my heart- that Rome reminded me of. And to Rome- to the rapture and the delight, I will return. 
Tomorrow- Paris. What can I say?

And what can I say about school? We had our pre-term exams last week. I hope I passed. We all hope we passed. They were exhausting- mentally- but at the same time, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst each and every one of us. We had all made it to Spain- made it to our first class, our second and through to the end of pre-term…a small part of the MBA that began to shape the rest of the experience. And last week- regardless of what we individually did the weekend before, or are doing the weekend after- we were all there together- walking the halls- bleary eyed, and spent. Exhausted, mystified and ready for it to be over. And Now- Over it is. 

I cant say that I am nostalgic about what we went through- but then again, Monday begins yet another, doubtlessly more difficult, part of the MBA. The illustrious “Term 1.” 

But again- we will all be in it together- and we will all get through it together (that is if we managed to pass Business Law.)

So this weekend is Paris- one night in Paris. One last hurrah- before we begin anew…and delve even further to all that is unknown. Unknown, unexpected, and absolutely unbelievable.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rome or Bust

I'm leaving for Rome tomorrow afternoon.

I should be attending a case study stuff..but then again, this entire MBA is all about “shoulds” and should nots…and coulds, cans, wills, and will nots.

I’m hoping these are lessons in themselves- sacrificing one opportunity for another- or being so incredibly inundated with assignments and appointments and engagements that there are as many missed opportunities as there are opportunities taken. I feel pushed so far out of my own boundaries that I’m at a standstill. I’ve stalled. If I shut my eyes for a moment- another potential career path has fled from my peripheral vision. 
So now- I’m the one fleeing. 

And if I miss a seminar here or there? I don’t think- don’t think anymore, that is- that it will be the end of the world. 

If I had enough hours in these days...or years in this degree...I would do everything. Unfortunately, I can't. 
Pre-term is almost accounting and stats are done- and we have a few more exams to go. I still haven't slept and apparently, we were supposed to have known what field we wanted to go into BEFORE the MBA ever really began. 
No one told me this.

My days are plagued with numbers and figures and theories I didn’t even know existed- and my nights are inundated with the reality of the nightmares I will be facing when I rise the next day- and have even more drastic decisions to make. Decisions that, apparently, I should have come prepared to make. I'm not being dramatic right now- I don’t think that it’s possible to over-dramatize the severity of this situation. I can only, after weeks of attempting to deal with it- to put it all into compartments in my mind, sort it out- sort myself out- I can only laugh. 
And go to Rome. 

Our resumes and cover letters have been butchered and beaten- and now we are meant to hand them over and accept the fact that everything we have worked so hard to become- is held within a few lines of words and numbers. Most of which have no meaning to me.... So after a few conversations that only managed to confuse me more- and the inner battle between what I've been told I want and what I truly desire, I've decided against consulting. For now. So I'm going to Rome. For now. 

Screw consultancies and their deadlines...

Rome. Now...there's something I know. I get Rome. I fit in in Rome- in the piazzas, in the cafes amongst the culture that helped form me- and made me want to come back to Europe one day. I don't fit in class…staring blankly at brilliant professors who actually expect me to understand regression coefficients and accumulated amortization. I never did, probably never will- but again, that has never stopped me. I'm here now, aren't I? And although I'm lost in almost every single aspect and I don't expect it to get much easier...Rome awaits. 

Going back to Rome, to me, is like paying a visit to a long lost love. This MBA- well, this is a new relationship that seems to have hit a rough patch- and that’s never a good sign this early on. We should still be flirting. So I do what any girl would do- revert to my old ways- to something farmiliar…comfortable…safe. 

Except- instead of running into the arms of someone who knows me and loves me, I’m getting on a plane and spending a few days walking the streets that have held my weight before- in hopes that they can still hold me up- when I’m about ready to fall.

And then Monday- i'll come back to Barcelona- and I’ll try this again. With consulting out of the equation. For now.

But as I see it- its McKinsey’s loss. Ciao amici.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lista Del Primer Mes

A few Barcelona/MBA/Personal discoveries and thoughts:

-I have ADD. It seems to have developed post-undergrad.

-L’Auberge Espagnole was great, but it didn’t come close to doing this city justice. (speaking of, I am looking forward to seeing Woody’s Barca film.)

-I would rather drink Kenyan tap water than the stuff that comes out of the faucet here. I hardly believe its potable.

-10% of Barcelona is covered by parks.

-I am the only blonde in the MBA class. This happens to be the first time in my life I am a minority…and I’m LOVING it.

-I have been driven to hiding my cheese under the sprouts in the salad bar line…otherwise, the Nazi at the till charges me twice as much for lunch. (I am fine readily admitting this...I've recently discovered that it's normal procedure for many other well-advised students).

-In Spain, it’s ok to go to dinner at midnight, but showing up at 12:30 is just a bit too late.

-Red bull doesn’t "give you wings", it gives you the shakes.

-In b-school- in Barcelona- it’s easy to forget that the world (economy) around us is crumbling…and hopefully by the time we graduate and have to get jobs, the world will be in a better state than it is now.

-Earwigs can lay eggs, propagate, and live within the pits of peaches (yet another interesting experience with *Aramark*, the school’s catering service- which, by the way, also does prisons.)

-I definitely have A.D.D.

-Maybe I don’t want to go into consulting, after all. Then again, maybe I do. 
Maybe if I were allotted more time than a month's deadline to figure it out, I would have a clearer idea of what to do with my life.

-Every skeptic, disparager, and doubter was right- and it pains me to admit it- but relationships do not last in Business School- no matter how much love is involved.

-Just because you are good at math, it doesn’t mean you will be good at statistics. 
Quite the opposite actually.

-Speaking Spanish with a lisp isn’t so unnatural after-all.

-I can still party like a rockstar…until Monday morning comes along.

-There are still people in the Western world who have never "met" a Jew.

-Public holidays are Gods gift to MBA students.

-Blackberry Messenger is dangerous. Especially after a few drinks.

-I will never shed the “American” stereotype- despite how American or un-American I am. And unfortunately, this is a result of the ignorance of others- and has nothing to do with myself.

-I hate public transportation. Especially in the rain.

-Sangria is too sweet.

-It is possible to live in this city and never speak a word of Spanish. Which is a shame.

-It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know. Just like everywhere else in the world.

-Long-life milk should really make its way into U.S. supermarkets. It’s lasted more time than anything else (perishable or un-perishable) in my fridge.

-And finally, the story of Gaudi’s untimely death;
The story of the death of Gaudi is a graphic illustration of the absurd misfortune that filled the life and work of this enigmatic Spanish architect. On June 7, 1926, a street tram tragically ran Gaudí over in the centre of Barcelona.
Throughout his life, Gaudí had avoided attention. Few photographs of the architect existed, which meant he was not an instantly recognizable figure to the people on the streets of Barcelona. As he lay injured and anonymous, the gathering crowd was unaware that it was the revered architect that lay on the ground before them. Because he was unrecognizable, taxi drivers refused to take what appeared to be an injured vagrant to the hospital, and were later fined for not assisting a wounded man.