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.