Been suffering from writer’s block recently. Or perhaps not so much writer’s block, but just inspiration block. Haven’t been feeling inspired to write about much. Usually this means I’ve probably hit a roadblock, or am facing something I’m not sure how to handle. Completely understandable, and likely true. So here’s me clearing a block.
I’ve been wanting to share this for quite some time now. To be honest the thought of coming clean about it in a public arena like this has my stomach in knots. But, I know it will do me good. So I’m taking a deep breath, and carrying on. Here it goes.
Many of you who know me knew that I started attending business school a little under two years ago. I was excited at the time – fresh faced, 26, excited to start anew and have a whole two years to reroute my life and discover what direction I wanted to steer it in.
The application process had been daunting. Many days and nights of metaphorically hitting my head against a wall, not knowing how to tell my story, not knowing how to sell myself to gain admission. All my life I had seemingly been working up to this point. Getting good grades all through secondary school, participating and working hard to excel in a multitude of activities, attending an Ivy League university where I continued to earn good grades, somehow managing to land myself a coveted job in private equity. I wrote my story of why I wanted to attend business school, but let’s just say I didn’t feel it ring 100% true in my gut. At some point I had brainwashed myself into thinking that that’s what I wanted – to attend a prestigious business school, to attain the degree, but then what? Would that suddenly make me a more fulfilled and happy person after two years?
I didn’t think about it to that extent. Of course when you are in the moment, working hard to try to achieve something, you rarely give yourself the time to step away and ask, is this what I really want?
When school started, it was all fun and games – orientation, meeting new people, bouncing excitement off each other for all the amazing parties we would have, trips we would take, activities we would try. I got caught up in all of it and thought I would be in for two years of learning, connection, and growth.
The anxiety began to creep in a few weeks in. First it was signing up for clubs. Every club membership had a price attached to it, and some clubs had caps on how many members could join. I had made a mental list early on for clubs I wanted to join, but hadn’t realized many of them would have limited spots and require a sizable downpayment. Then it was signing up for classes. For the first semester most first-years take the same core classes, so that wasn’t too hard of a decision process, although it was a process nonetheless learning how the ranking-based class-matching system worked. Then – and this I think is what really hammered the nail in – came career events.
I had been warned before school started by friends and acquaintances that once career season started one month in, it would be full steam ahead. I would have barely any time to breathe or dilly dally around pondering which career path I wanted to pursue. I had written about a certain career path in my application essays, and had brainwashed myself to a point where I was almost certain it was the only viable and desirable path for me, given visa limitations as an international student. So I stuck with it, even though my inner voice whispered that it may not be what I truly wanted. Did I actually know what I wanted? No. I had never given myself ample time or space to consider it. Having been conditioned since I was young to adhere to family expectations and society’s definition of “success”, I don’t think I ever developed the ability to make decisions for myself. It may sound sad, but it’s true.
Anyway, all this anxiety ended up spiraling out of control. I attended many career events, wanting so badly to feel that intuitive yes, this is exactly where I want to be and see myself in x years, yet I never felt it. My anxiety worsened to a point where I ended up avoiding any type of social interaction because I didn’t want to have to chat about where I was in the whole career process. Everyone else seemed to have their future figured out except me. I know now that that most likely was not the case, but that’s how it seemed to me.
I’ve never considered myself a quitter, but during winter break after my first semester, I honestly could not see myself going back to school. Going back to that hole of anxiety and depression I had dug myself into. I feared for my physical, mental, and emotional health. It took courage for me to put my foot down and declare that I didn’t want to go back. In many ways, ironically, it was probably the first time in my life I decided something for myself, with little outside influence. I knew that business school wasn’t a healthy environment for me. It may be an exciting playground for others, but not for me. For me it felt stifling.
So – I’m now “on a break” from business school. I have been for the past year and a half, and I’m glad I made the decision I did. I can still opt to return and finish my MBA if I choose to in the next few years, and many I’ve spoken about this with have encouraged me to (because why wouldn’t I?!), but if you were to ask me if, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to, I would say my answer is no. And I’m learning to accept that that’s okay. I’m done making decisions based on what others say or think. It’s time I listen to my own intuition.