My school year ended late last Wednesday in the atrium of Fulton Hall, when the finalists were announced for the Diane Weiss Consulting Competition. Only three out of twenty teams were selected for the finals, and my team was not one of them. Although it would have been nice to take part in this prestigious event, I was relieved that my first year was officially over. No more exams. No more presentations. No more late nights editing PowerPoint slides and writing reports. Just like that, I was free to do anything I wanted.
I could sleep in.
I could nap.
I could have a midday, mid-week beer and not think twice.
It was a great feeling to be finished. When I returned to campus to watch the finals on Thursday, I saw the collective relief on the faces of my classmates. Many had come straight from the golf course; others from somewhere else outdoors.
We were done. We survived.
Looking back on these last eight months, my first thought was of how fast it all went by. I remember my first day of orientation like it was yesterday – I showed up on my scooter, knew no one, and worried what people might think to see someone using crutches. Would I be judged by my peers before they had a chance to know me as a person?
Fortunately, these worries proved hollow. I would not have gotten through these last eight months without building a solid group of friends. In a small program such as the MBA program at BC, you get to know everyone quickly, and are in the same classes with the same people all year long. Repetition builds familiarity, familiarity builds friendship, and friendship builds comfort. The first year of business school is a nonstop mental grind, so any comfort is cherished.
The year flew by like a sprint, but in many ways it was also a marathon. Unlike undergrad where classes took place over the course of a semester, this year I had new classes every seven weeks. A semester’s worth of material is crammed into each quarter, which can make it tough to keep your head above water. If you miss a class, you fall behind; there’s no way around it. The amount of homework and reading was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I signed up for this, but it was still tough.
I was in a constant state of stress. My sleep schedule was completely thrown off. My eating habits reverted back to my time at Northeastern. I was warned by those who have gone to business school that it would be a difficult transition, even for the able-bodied. They were absolutely right. For someone like myself who is already low-energy, it meant that physically I was out of whack the entire year. I can already feel a difference and I haven’t been done a week. The stress has melted off. I am sleeping better, eating better, and overall, feeling better. Although I wouldn’t change the decision I made, during the heat of the struggle I did find myself asking why. Why put myself through this physical and mental stress? Every time I arrived at the same answer: the reward will be worth the pain.
It’s interesting how we as humans willingly put ourselves through prolonged periods of stress for the hope of some better payoff in the long run. We deny ourselves enjoyment in the short-term, investing hours and hours of hard work and stress in order to say that we achieved a major goal. We hate every minute of the torture, the pain, and the sacrifice. We always complain to ourselves (and to others) that the ends can’t possibly justify the means. But they always do.
There is no better example of this than a marathon. My marathon happened to be business school, but for others it is the actual 26.2 mile journey. Just a few short weeks back was the Boston Marathon, which took place on a rainy, windy day. Although the conditions were less than ideal for watching, it was perfect for runners. Thousands of runners run the marathon every year, cheered on by over half a million spectators. No matter the weather conditions, it is always an amazing day. Some runners run competitively, while many others running for causes near and dear to their hearts. Four of my classmates ran the Boston Marathon, representing causes from the American Liver Foundation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Center.
This year, I happened to be someone’s running cause. Through a friend, I was lucky enough to have gotten involved with Genzyme’s Running for Rare Diseases program, which matches an employee at Genzyme with a patient with a rare disease. My runner was Sara Cole, about as nice of a person as you can find. She ran the Providence Half Marathon on my behalf on May 3rd. It’s never ideal to have a condition that someone is running to help cure, but on the bright side, it proves that there are many wonderful people out there in the world.
I often think about what it would be like to run a marathon. Maybe someday I’ll regain all my muscle strength and will be able to withstand the endurance training to find out. That would be funny because growing up, I hated running. Hated it. It would always make me nauseous and I was never good at it. We’d have to run all around the Hall High School field, and every time I would walk to the finish line. It was miserable. My back would always end up hurting because, well, things were going on in my body I wasn’t aware of at the time.
I would do anything to have the chance to run again. I wish I could be the one doing the running vs. being the person that someone is running for, but I am still extremely grateful.
In the meantime, I must focus on the mental marathons. It feels good to sleep in, but like any good marathoner, after the rest comes preparation for another. One year is down, but I still have an internship, a second year of school, and the rest of my life ahead of me. There is still much to accomplish.