Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Prodigal Daughter

I'm embarking on a journey. Five years ago, if someone told me that I'd be taking this journey I would have punched them in the face. Well, a lot can change in 5 years. Some how the girl who wanted to get an MFA in Creative Writing is applying to MBA programs. Was that the sound of a record scratch? I think it was.
How in the hell did this happen? Have I turned to the dark side, lured away from the beauty of words by the seductive call of cash? Have I finally resigned myself to stop fighting the inevitability of becoming a company woman after nearly a decade with my employer? Have I finally realized that I can't beat them so I might as well join them? Yes and no. Is this about money? You bet your ass it is. But it's also about breaking out of the monotony that has become my professional life. You ask how can I break the monotony of my professional life by pursuing a degree that entrenches me further into it? I asked myself the same question for a long time. In fact, I often viewed an MBA as an additional shackle, chaining me to spreadsheets, bottom lines, and cost-benefit analyses. Ironic that it was my pursuit of an MFA that ultimately led me to change my mind about an MBA.

In the fall of 2006 I applied to 5 MFA programs. In the spring of 2007 I was rejected by all five. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. What haunted me more than my bruised ego was the suffocating feeling of entrapment. I felt trapped in a job that I hated in a "city" in which I didn't belong. I had to get out of there and resolved to apply again next year and nearly bit my mother's head off when she suggested that I apply to MBA programs instead. While mother's reasoning for obtaining an MBA was way off, ultimately the idea was right.

After the rejection my writing tapered off considerably. I stopped updating this blog and only journaled once in a blue moon. I stopped writing for me and started writing for others. I volunteered at a non-profit and wrote several grant applications for them. When my good friend launched his record label I wrote his biography. Instead of writing to entertain I wrote to persuade, to convince people to invest in the dreams of others. Lo and behold, I liked it. I started to like something else around this time: my job and Grand Rapids, MI.

When the last rejection letter arrived in the mail and I realized I would not be leaving MI in the fall I subconsciously adopted the "if you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with" mantra. I'd spent nearly 3 years just existing in my job and in Grand Rapids and knew that it would be about a year before I would have a shot at leaving. What was I going to do? Wallow? While wallowing is definitely one of my talents I decided to try something different. I decided to stop existing and start living. I picked up running, started exploring the city, and devoted some energy to my job. I realized that while I may not be passionate about what I did, I am actually pretty damn good at it. Maybe I didn't need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Like it or not, I have a head for business. I'm an excellent salesperson and I know how to make numbers talk. In fact, I get a kick out of it. For the first time I started to think that an MFA may not be the right degree for me. While I still wasn't sold on an MBA, I was open to other options. It was a conversation with a very logical and blunt friend that helped me see the MBA in a new light. She was a student at NYU's Stern School of Business and opened my eyes to the MBA's most attractive quality: FLEXIBILITY. An MBA is simply a leadership degree. What kind of leader I want to be is up to me. MBAs are not just financiers, marketers, accountants, and consultants. They are entrepreneurs, innovators, dancers, writers, soldiers, and more. I can make the degree work for me in whatever way I see fit. I can take persuasive writing classes along with my finance and marketing classes. I can even take a creative writing class as an elective if I want. Now here's where the economies of scale come into play. If an MFA costs the same amount as an MBA, but the earning power of an MBA is 2-5 times higher and gives me a broader range of career options, why would I NOT go for the MBA? I may be a dreamer at heart but I'm also a realist who likes to keep the rent paid and (cute) shoes on my feet.

So why am I back to blogging? Well, this MBA application process is a lot more involved than I ever imagined. I need an outlet to keep from driving myself and those around me crazy. I want to air out my frustrations, my insecurities about maybe not getting in, and my a-ha moments along the way. Plus, while most programs simply ask for a statement of purpose, MBA applications require ESSAYS. Yep, plural. They want to know everything from what matters most to me to what I want to do with my life. My writing is best when I'm honest. The thing is these questions aren't easy to answer because I've never really thought about them (well I've thought about what I want to do professionally) in any depth. I struggle to pick out the 5 most memorable moments in my life. I'm stretching to think of the 5 people who have influenced me most. So I've decided to start blogging again to get to my honest place. Keeping this blog made me remember so many life experiences I'd long since forgotten about and I'm hoping that keeping it again will help me remember more. I'm looking for more than the what, I'm searching for the why. Here's to finding it here.

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