Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Places

Last week was a bad week. It was a week where the glass is half empty- whichever way you look at it. It was a week where you question all your life’s choices and are fearful that maybe its too late to mend your mistakes. It was a week where you put on your iTunes and the shuffle function only seems to find the songs that remind you of the tragic losses of your life.

Last week was a week where it takes three cabs to find the one driver who allows you to enter with the 5 euro coffee you just paid for. It was a week where there were frequent reminders that the life you once had has continued without you. It was a week where you want to be there and not here- a week where you would rather be anywhere but here.

Last week was a week where you are so wrapped up in your own loneliness that you hide from the people who could help fill the empty space around you- a week where the supermarket is out of the one thing you are craving and the flights you want to take have all gone up three times their original prices.

It was week where your maid doesn't show up, and no matter how many times you read a question, you still cant figure out the formula to apply.

Last week, I ripped my favorite jeans right in the crotch and I couldn't get a hold of my best friend on text, email, phone or Skype. Last week, I questioned everything I have now and missed everything I once had. I wondered what I am really doing here and where I am going once it’s over.

 I’ve heard people refer to their “happy places." These “happy places” being mental shelters from an emotional storm. People who have happy places shift their consciousness to somewhere else when faced with stress or disagreeable circumstances.

I don't have a happy place. Although, I wish I did. I live everything so intensely that my lack of a happy place is often my worst enemy. If I’m hurt or angry or sad or stressed- the emotion consumes me. I see red and only red. I recognize this weakness and for years, have tried to talk myself out of it- or “into” a happy place. “Go to your happy place” does not work for me. At least not in my mind.

Then, on the other hand, I do have happy moments. Moments that exist in the physical sense of a place- a location, in one’s company- or the like.

After my week- I managed to find a few happy places of my own.

Saturday night was Barcelona’s “La Nit dels Museus.” It is one night a year where Barcelona opens up its museums, free of charge, to the public from 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. I figured that as long as I am here, I may as well infuse my culture-starved soul with some knowledge unrelated to the MBA.

It wasn't easy to stop skulking around my apartment after 24 hours of ice-cream pints and pint-sized tears- but I managed to strip myself of my sweatpants, brush my hair and throw on a brave face in order to tackle the outside world.

The sun was setting, which always manages to stun me in Barcelona. There is something about the light here- the soft pinks that serve as a backdrop to the bowed exteriors of deliberately warped Gaudi structures. I pulled up to Monjuic and regardless of the many times as I have visited it, this time it was more beautiful than ever. The fountain was gracefully spilling over to the rhythm of the music playing in the background- and the fountain’s lights served to illuminate Plaza España. As I looked up, I recognized that maybe everything else was starting to look up as well.

I spent the next four hours hopping from museum to museum. I visited the Caixa Forum’s architecture exhibit, the Archaeology museum, and later, I navigated the anthropology museum’s tour of the world. I visited MNAC (National Museum of Art of Catalonia) and spent most of my time in the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

I had not forgotten how much I love art- I could never forget that. But I did forget how much I need it, and how, for a significant period of my life, canvases and oil, bronze figurines, sketches on hidden walls and stone chiseled into the most beautiful shapes were like my air. And then after my week of doubt and difficulty- I finally realized how standing still for a few moments in front of the colors and shapes, etched hundreds of years ago, onto portions of stretched cloth can fill me with a calm serenity. And I thought about what an idiot I had been to not take advantage of all this- at my fingertips…I had almost forgotten my air- forgotten to breathe.

So I walked around the museum, smiling at the paintings I recognized and studying the ones I had never seen- but understanding and identifying the styles used and the stories from which they came. It was a weird sensation. Art was my air and instead of breathing it in, I started to feel choked- as tears rose…and I realized in opposition to the sadness I have been feeling recently, this sudden outburst was nothing more than tears of happiness. In a way- even for a few seconds- I felt at peace.

Then, after my museum experience, I found my happy place #2. I stopped between museum visits (I was on my way to the Born district to tackle Picasso) with a friend to grab a beer and possibly a few tapas. This friend of mine can only be described as my polar opposite. "The Yin to my Yang," as he once mentioned while trying to tell me that he hated me without hurting my feelings.

We were talking, as MBA classmates do, about certain courses, summer plans and future prospects and possibilities. Our conversation twisted and turned and we spoke of other things- things we don't speak about in class. And I realized something; we are not so different after all. We all feel pain and suffer anxiety- we are all a bit lost, but we are all concurrently finding ourselves- often with each others’ help. We all have personal relationships and desires and hopes that linger like flies on the seemingly blank walls of our minds as we grind through this MBA of ours. I talked- he listened. He talked- I listened. And we understood each other far more than either of us ever expected to. And I then realized something- maybe I’m not so alone- so dissimilar- as I often like to believe.

Shortly after, our conversation was interrupted (although I plan to finish it at some point) by the arrival of about 20 American MBA candidates. It was a group of GW students staying in Barcelona participating in a case competition with my school. They recognized my friend, as he had participated in the competition as well. A night of introductions, beers and bars ensued. It was fun, but more importantly, it made me conscious of something I would have otherwise, by no means, appreciated.

These students, all doing their MBAs at GW, were palpable reminders of my time at GW…my four years as in D.C. 

We spoke of places I used to hang out, classrooms I dreaded, food I used to eat, bars I frequented and so many other parts of one of the most significant periods of my life to date. Talking to these people, though, didn't have the effect one would expect. I didn't miss my undergrad days- I didn't miss DC, the debauchery, the friendships, the freedom. Instead- I was happy to be where I am- with all of that behind me….although forever appreciative of what it was- because it is, in fact, a part of who I am now.

Furthermore, it made me think of how I have grown- and how I have changed. And I imagined going back now- with all the knowledge and wisdom I have gained in the years between these two very different experiences.

All things considered, I feel lucky- because as hindsight is said to be 20-20, I am living this right now; back in school- back alongside students, and books and classes, exams, professors and grades. 

I am, in effect, doing exactly what many people would like to go back to do- again, “knowing what they know now.” 

And with that realization- I figured I might as well stop feeling sorry for myself and just enjoy this, and what is behind me, and most importantly- what is ahead of me…as indefinite as it may be.

2 comments:

Shekhar said...

Hi,
I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks back when I Googled for an MBA blog, since am an MBA aspirant.

I have been reading your blog every now and then, however, this one was so touchy and profound, I wonder if you are some poet ?

You are so very correct when you arite this:
"We all feel pain and suffer anxiety- we are all a bit lost, but we are all concurrently finding ourselves- often with each others’ help."

Also I got oodles of inspiration from these words of your's:
"I figured I might as well stop feeling sorry for myself and just enjoy this, and what is behind me, and most importantly- what is ahead of me…as indefinite as it may be."

I would stop feeling sorry for myself and steer my GMAT preps northwards.
Thanks a lot, you seem to be a wonderful human being.

Cheers,
Shekhar

Adil Zuberi said...

This is long though, but very heart touching... I am sure I am going to read it very now and then from now on... i find it quality ;-)