I spent this past weekend in New York City. Although my all consuming need to live in NYC has subsided in recent years, it's still my happy place. A certain calm envelops me as soon as the crackles of static give way to the clear sound of Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex's voice over my car radio speakers. Even without concrete plans for a Friday night the promise of possibilities always hovers in the air. I get excited knowing not that something exciting will happen but that at any moment it could. Mostly, I just like being in the same place where most of the characters from the collegiate chapter of my life reside.
I ran into one of those characters at brunch last Sunday. She was a class behind me at college and I really didn't know her well while I was in school. Actually, I don't remember even crossing her path once during my four year tenure, which says a lot since all of the black students at school could fit in three long tables at the dining hall. While we didn't socialize in the same circle (within an already tiny bubble), we both had the good sense to pledge the greater than great, grander than grand, best of the best sorority in the land. I did it in Spring 2001 so thus I had the pleasure of getting to know her when she followed in Spring 2003.
Over the years we've never had the "call just to talk" or "make it a point to hang out" type of relationship. Of course we're always happy to see one another at whatever social event we may be attending, but we'd never built much of a relationship beyond associates connected by sorority chapter. This recently changed when she announced that she had been admitted to a top 15 business schools class of 2013. Now we have something to talk about.
And talk we do! A congratulatory text from me turned into a 2 hour long back and forth chat. This was followed by a 90 minute telephone conversation on every topic from coaching recommenders to writing compelling career goals essays. When I ran into her this past Sunday at an afternoon brunch/social we talked some more. "When do you leave for school?" "How was your financial aid package?" "You know your school is over 70% male. You're so gonna have a boyfriend before Thanksgiving." The hours passed and we just kept on talking. Somewhere in the midst of all this conversation something dawned on me. We were saying a ton and 99.9% of what we said revolved around business school.
It's not that we didn't attempt to change the subject. We spent some time reminiscing about sorority life and catching each other up on the latest happenings with mutual friends and acquaintances. However, we always seemed to circle back to business school. If we weren't talking about my irrational fears of asking my boss for a recommendation we were giving her friend (who had the misfortune of sitting with us) advice on how to study for the GMAT. Some how we had both succumbed to a severe case of MBA diarrhea.
Striking thousands of new victims every year, MBA diarrhea causes potential b-school applicants, recently accepted applicants and current students to uncontrollably let loose all of their MBA aspirations on anyone who makes the mistake of speaking to them. Ask someone afflicted with this disease how their day is going and this is what you will most likely hear.
"I'm alright. I just can't seem to stop incorporating the information from Statement 1 into my analysis of Statement 2 to determine whether or not it's sufficient by itself. The GMAT is in 3 weeks and I can't get an 80/80 split if I don't figure this out. I'm at my wits end!"
If someone is a little further along in the process the answer might be more like this.
"Do you know how short 600 words is? That's like NOTHING! How am I supposed to evaluate my career progression, talk about my career goals, and explain why I not only need an MBA but I need a Kellogg/Wharton/Ross/Marshall/Booth (pick one or add your own) MBA specifically in only 600 words. Hell! Explaining why I think I can switch from pole dancing to investment banking takes up 550 words alone! I'll never get everything done in time to submit everything 4 weeks before the deadline!"
This journey quickly becomes all consuming. Every thought is occupied by the GMAT (studying for it, obsessing over the score, pondering a retake, etc.), developing your "story," researching schools, nagging doubts about whether you'll get in anywhere, and delusional hope that you can get in everywhere. The questions and constant introspection wake up with you in the morning and lull you to sleep each night. At work you toggle back and forth between Excel and MBA forums, wondering what new project you can execute between now and October that will take your application to the next level. Guilt tugs at you when you do anything unrelated to getting into business school. When at happy hour with coworkers and friends you feel that you should be at home memorizing idioms. Between bites of your lunch time salad (or burger) you think you should be writing another paragraph of your goals essay. I find myself bringing my SanDisk drive with me everywhere I go, lest I waste an opportunity to write.
When something becomes such a large part of your life, it's impossible not to talk about it. But for some reason when you have MBA diarrhea, business school is ALL you want to talk about. Unfortunately, the only people who want to hear the minutia of your every b-school thought are others with the same affliction. Everyone else, while supportive, really just doesn't give a shit. Sure they're interested to hear about your plans in the beginning. Hell, maybe even a one sentence update from time to time is welcome. MBA diarrhea doesn't allow for this. Once the subject is on the table, the verbal release can't be stopped.
I've heard myself and even I get annoyed. The problem is I can't help myself. I have to tell anyone and everyone that I believe that businesses cannot exist separately from the communities in which they operate and that it is imperative to align and integrate their common interests into business strategy. For this reason I want to transition into a non-profit development or CSR role with a focus in developing public-private partnerships. My career in sales has given me the analytical and negotiating skills needed to identify and facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships between the public/non-profit sector and private industry that will foster continued development. I now need my MBA to build the cross-functional business knowledge necessary to lead......SHIT! There I go again!
I have come to the realization that the only cure for MBA diarrhea is actually earning an MBA. Until that glorious day comes (and it better come in 2014), I am issuing a blanket apology to all of my family, friends, acquaintances, dates, and anyone else who crosses my path. I am truly sorry, but everything that comes out of my mouth will in some way relate to business school. I have become THAT PERSON.