(An emotional retrospective of first year at Duke MBA on a flight just after the last exam)Warning: Uncharacteristically long post ahead
I take a walk from the school to the parking lot, happy to hallucinate being here forever.
Being here, living the life that I have loaned from myself, to live that dream which I had nurtured over the last decade.
It still seems like a dream worth living.
And what a fabulous dream-come-true life this has been:
Downing liters of refillable coffee. Staying up nights, so much so, that midnight seems to be early, or else getting up earlier than an 8AM class to complete assignments.
Being so busy that you feel guilty when you are relaxing.
Preparing before classes so as to survive that ‘cold call’, so that not only the Prof, but also the classmates do not think that you are stupid. And also to get those elusive marks allotted for class participation. And then, even after being comfortable in your class, preparing it because it is a habit.
Then, preparing, simply because you love the subject. Or the girl/guy who sits next to you. Or you have a crush on the professor. Inane reasons? The result is the same. Not sure when one reason gives way to another.
Learning to agree and disagree more than ever before. Learning to be surprised at self for agreeing or disagreeing when you had decided the opposite.
Dissecting real cases, recommending unreal solutions, unreal because they seem so simple that it is surprising no one thought about them, and that brings in that doubt as to whether they will work in the real world. Come to think of about it, maybe having an outsiders point of view helps you take those detached decisions, which you cannot take if you are in the company itself.
Learning the hows of the American life, spiced with accents from around the world, and customs so varied that they usually are contradictory. Learning to laugh at the quirks of your culture, and the essence that you carry within yourself…all over again.
Tackling rejections from employers, club cabinets, leadership positions…all the time…well, simply because everyone here is good, too damn good.
And then, unlike in undergrad, trying to cope with everything on your own, knowing that probably half the people, if not more, are going through the same thing, so maybe you should not disturb them. The other half, well, they might be too busy, or too successful, or too something to bother. So, you are on your own, pretty much.
And so there are support groups, sometimes, counselors, sometimes, some more cups of tea and endless talks which usually skirts around the issue, trying not to discuss it. More indirectness, a little more stress, higher stakes, more depth and intensity, because there are probably very few raw emotions, every emotion is tasted, rolled over, chewed and then lived.
And yet, getting surprised, when something inanely emotional and overtly sentimental finds tears stealing up your eyes.
A few impulsive decisions, not many. And those sometimes seem to be the best that is ever taken.
Getting family, friends, pets trained to the fact that you are pretty much gone unsocial – not only because you are busy, but also sometimes, you do not want to share what is on your mind and some phone calls might just make you do that, so you intelligently avoid making those calls. Going from writing long mails describing student life in the beginning….to updating Facebook status regularly, simply to feel connected to “fellow suffering souls”.
Going from loneliness, to learning to stay alone, and then suddenly realizing that you are not alone.
Realizing that narcissism and image building are two different things – one does not naturally lead to another.
Not realizing when ‘I don’t know what I want to do’ became ‘This is interesting’ and then ‘I would really love to, but will it work?’ One more year left to know, or maybe just to be comfortable that you would never know, but would not be afraid to find out and do everything all over again.
And finally….driving a red beetle…sometimes on a rain-swept road, sometimes on a road bordered with azaleas, sometimes through dark nights, and almost always reveling in the realization that I am moving, am going places…albeit literally.
It’s been every bit an adventure that I had dreamt about but it has now opened the doors to more adventures…a risk that has now led to more risks…
Life has gone from a safe, warm cocoon to a uncontrolled wave of thinking big, falling down, getting up and trying again.
And that is getting addictive….
And what is worrying me is this: what happens when this life gets over, what dreams do I have to hold on to after that?“Ankhon me jiske koi toh khwab hain…khush hain who hi jo thoda betaab hain
Zindagi me koi arzoo kijiye….phir dekhiye…” (Rock on: Phir Dekhiye)
P.S.: I understand that there were also ropes course, campout, around the world dinners, take home exams, networking and interviews, symposiums and case competitions, Fuqua prom, 80's party. But those need explanations to people not living it. Emotions do not. And not-so-strangely, as I sit in my 6 and a half hour long flight, and look back, I remember emotions.