Falling apart on a regular basis is just one of my new post-MBA skills. The others include asking for help, recognizing when I’ve taken on too much, saying no, and falling asleep while compiling a to-do list of things that should have been done that day.
These were not easy things to learn, but they have come in handy from time to time. I have also learned how to send people the dreaded “sorry, but we aren’t going to hire you” emails, to handle absurdly unprofessional reactions to upsetting circumstances, and to own up when I drop the ball.
Have I learned how to be a better manager? I would argue yes. Not because my accounting skills rival CPAs, or because I can diamond-E the snot out of any situation, but because I have learned a lot more about who I am and how I handle things. I have a better understand of what I know, my capacity to learn a given topic or lesson in a given time frame, and I am much more familiar with the resources at my disposal when I need to go find help. I have leaned how to ask better questions, how to wait for better answers, and how to filter the BS from the gems.
Does it feel like the MBA broke me? Yes, in a lot of ways. It was a brutal year, on so many fronts. I took on far too much, had a host of absurdities to deal with at home, and was going through what initially seemed like recovery but turned out to be the final descent to rock bottom. Do I regret doing my MBA? No. Do I wish I had done it somewhere else, or with a different format? No. Would I do it again? I don’t know.
I am standing so far away, just a tiny year later, from where I was when I started the program. I am so far from who I was, where I was, and have a completely different view on where I want to go. I started the year standing at bus stop, with a very good idea – within two stops, maybe – of where I wanted to get off. I’m now standing, a year later, standing in the middle of absolutely anywhere, with no idea what to do next. And it is the best and hardest thing that could have happened to me.
I have been so unhappy and so lost for so long, that anywhere I thought I wanted to go was just a matter of “anywhere but here.” And I think I’m there. Anywhere, that is. I have nothing to run from, and nothing to run to. It’s incredibly liberating and absolutely terrifying. It’s easier, in a way, to just keep running from things. There’s always a direction to head – even if it is just “not that way.” But now – there’s nothing left to run from.
The past, and everything and everyone I’ve been running from all these years is still there. It’s never going away. But it has pushed me around long enough. I’m bigger now. Scarier, even. And I can stand my own ground. I no longer need to worry about others’ approval when I make my decisions. As Dr Seuss said, those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter. I have made so many decisions based on fear and guilt – and I will no longer. After 27 years of working so hard to keep the peace, I don’t owe anyone anything. Not a convocation ceremony, Christmas morning, or phone call answered.
The only person I owe anything to right now, is me. And yes, that is completely selfish, and you know what, it’s about damn time. I need to start taking care of myself, because it is absolutely no-one else’s job to do so, and it’s equally selfish, I think, to assume that it is. So it’s time I put these new MBA skills to work and started saying no when I mean it, asking for help when I need it, and falling apart when I can’t keep it together.
Sometime near the end of my undergraduate sentence, I tried psilocybin mushrooms, and they made me cry. Not just a few tears, but about 5 or 6 hours straight of just inconsolable sobbing. I remember feeling so relieved that I was finally able to just cry – I must have needed it so bad. Now, I have no interest in drugs – they’re just not my thing. But I keep thinking back to that night, and to how good it felt to just finally let it all out.
I’ve been off my anti-depressants completely for four days now, and I don’t know if I want to go back on them again. At least not just yet. The bad days are awful, and I have cried nearly every day this month – most days often more than once. But I think I need it. I need to let some of this out so I can give myself a fighting chance to genuinely get better. Otherwise, they really just will be a band-aid solution, and that isn’t enough.