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.


The Scrutineer said...

ah yes language is difficult isn't it, though i have a sneaky suspicion the fact that you're speaking more Italian than Spanish is not due to the waiters... or Gallo-romance?

The Scrutineer.

Anonymous said...

I love the way you write. This metaphor is perfect for business school!