Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Gaining and losing. 
Moreover, Losing- a theme that keeps recurring in my daily discourse. It began with the whole MBA thing. Finance. Profit vs. loss. Cost-benefit analyses. And then- as I try to apply these lessons to life outside a spread sheet- I look at my own losses. My own gains. And every so often, I wonder if what I am gaining is worth the losses. The basic sacrifices of doing an MBA are abundantly clear- and were clear to me before I applied to MBA programs. You lose a year/18 months/two years of work experience- 18 months of income- 18 months of whatever it may be that you were doing before- what you had made of your life. But in the end of it all- you gain an MBA, and for those of us here in b-school, in Barcelona- we gain a life experience, new friends, new ideas, new perspectives. You lose a life but you gain another- and at the end…you have a Masters in Business Administration. As far as I can tell- the cost is high but the benefit is greater- which makes every day/every loan/every headache- worth it…for the most part.

Life is about gaining and losing. We are born- we gain an existence. We die- and that existence is lost. Everyday- we lose 24 hours- but we gain laughter, and tears, and knowledge and experience. Some days the loss is worth it- some days it isn’t. 

Breaking it down to the major themes of life- they can all be weighed by their gains and their losses. Birth, death, work, health, family, education, relationships. Love. In everything, we take risks. Greater risk=greater return, I’ve been told. But what if it all goes wrong? What if we risk everything, and in turn- lose everything. I do this in my relationships. I do this with love. I risk my heart, and sometimes I win. Then there are those other times- the times when it breaks. And for a period of time, I feel as though I have lost everything. This is, in my opinion, the human condition. It’s our curse. We are able to love- which is one of the most remarkable things to experience- love for a parent or a child, a friend, a companion- a lover. But every time we allow ourselves to love- we risk losing that love, or losing that loved one, or in many cases- we risk having that loved one not return the love- or we risk them taking it away. And then there is no benefit. The losses are so great that everything we have ever gained is shadowed by the pain of losing. So once in a while, as a result of these great costs- and the damage they cause- we decide that loving isn’t worth it anymore. And we close off. As for me, I’ve never managed to do so…no matter how hard I have tried. And once in a while- I feel like I keep losing and losing and as the losses compound- I begin to feel as though I am losing myself. And that's the greatest loss of all. 

I cant say that this contemplation has come out of nowhere- admittedly, there have been a few instances of late in which my love for someone or something has eclipsed the balance sheet of my life- and I forget to look at how much I could lose- when all I can see are the gains. And then last night my best friend called me and told me that her step father had been hit by a car. She said, through her tears, that “he was hit as he was walking during the evening. He’s conscious and has very serious injuries but he’s alive. Just wanted to fill you in. Remember- you can never be too careful. The most precious things can slip away so fast without any warning.” Another loss- a loss that can’t be predicted. A loss that is thrown at us so quickly and abruptly “without warning.” A scary reminder of what we can’t control- but in that, a reminder of what we can control. We can only lose someone we love if we had allowed ourselves to love them in the first place. And that love- while it lasted, while it lasts- is far greater than the possible loss- it's the most exquisite thing in the world. Our hearts are capable of the most exquisite phenomenon in the world. The phenomenon of love.

On that note, today is my uncle’s birthday. He’s 72, acts 25, and looks around 50. He’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever known in my life. He’s one of those rare family members who you feel blessed to have- not the ones (like most of them) who were thrust upon you and you feel you have to love them because they tell you over and over again, “blood is thicker than water.” Although at this point in my life- I beg to differ. 

Nevertheless, a few years ago my uncle had heart surgery. The doctor came out and gave the news that it had gone well and that he was in recovery. However, before he left the room, the doctor added that during surgery, they found that my uncle has a “huge heart.” When asked if this was the reason for his illness, if it was dangerous, the doctor said “no, its just larger than most people’s.” 
Which explains a lot. 
So taking a look at all the jumbled thoughts clanking around my head- all these ideas about losing things- losing love, loving, gaining, our hearts and the pain or pleasure they cause us…I have to take a look at my uncle; one whose heart is bigger than most, who love is true and constant and kind- and one who, because of all he gives and all he risks- is loved infinitely by so many people. One who has only gained.

Happy birthday pookster. Love you.

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