Thursday, March 25, 2010

Get Outta Town

I'm a student.  I work full time.  I don't have a whole lot of disposable income.  So I don't travel.  I'd like to for sure, but I've made some decisions that don't necessarily allow that kind of thing.  And most of the time I'm completely content to live my vacation every day. After all, LA is a place where I could surf and ski and in the same day. I can run outside almost year round, and at any time it's only a short drive to a secluded beach. 

Except in the spring.  Every year, without fail, I get a little stir crazy.  My birthday is coming up in six weeks so my cabin fever is usually mixed with a bit of melancholy (at getting older), some quarter-life crisis-ness, and a bit of homesickness.  The weather's been dreary (even rainy!) and there's no real end in sight.  I mean, it doesn't get beach-worthy around here until July (June gloom anyone?!). 

And I feel like this year it's particularly pronounced.  Between a new relationship, new digs and classes, I feel like I've literally holed up in my apartment every weekend for the last three months.  I don't go out with my friends as often, obviously there's no kickball and again, it doesn't help that I'm not running. 

Luckily, I'm going on a little road trip this weekend.  I took the day off work tomorrow and a few of us are headed to Las Vegas in the afternoon.  It's Dre's birthday so there will be seven of us sharing a suite at the Venetian.  I'm super excited to hit the road, get out of my own head, see something different,  and let loose.  Unfortunately it's supposed to be 10-12 degrees warmer here than there, but I assure you I will still lay out by the pool for atleast a few hours napping and drinking.  Gambling doesn't do much for me so as long as I can walk over to the Forum shops at some point, I'll be a happy camper.

Some of my most important decisions or moments of clarity have come while driving.  Or hiking. Or running.  I think it has to do with getting out of my own head, out of my surroundings, and being forced to think about the big picture. 

For example, I decided to move to Ohio after a long solo road trip from Michigan to Columbus on Father's Day.  After I got the offer to move to LA, I drove from Columbus to Pennsylvania to visit my cousins and figure out my next move.  Even my latest sorta-decision to pack up and move to Chicago when this MBA adventure is done, was made while hiking Runyan Canyon. 

Not that I have any big decisions to make at the moment, but I could definitely use some clarity and time to decompress just in time for finals, birthday parties, weddings, and the start of yet another semester.

Monday, March 22, 2010

An (Almost) Perfect Saturday

This weekend was just like any other. Except that I didn't really have plans. And by plans I mean a night out with the ladies, a designated date night with the boy.  Basically, some sort of "event".  After a full week of work, classes and a brief St. Patty's Day celebration, I was mentally and physically exhausted so my singular goal for the weekend included sleep. 

Friday night I was early to bed.  I braved traffic, went to see the boy after work and by 9pm we had only managed to pick up some Thai take-out for a little living room floor picinic.  I think I was asleep before the dishes were even done because I had to get up early for my much overdue haircut. 

It was a hazy but sunny and mild Saturday in LA and although I would have liked nothing more than to sleep in and go for a hike, errands called.  The bank, Macy's for a dress (yay! - the one I liked online actually fit) and sunglasses, Target for the essentials, Ralph's for milk and apples, and back to campus for a group project.  I even had a big ole onion and a can of San Marzano tomatoes in the cupboard so I whipped up my favorite amazingly simple pasta sauce recipe to entice myself into doing my taxes and laundry.  (Notice I didn't run.  We/I need to fix that ASAP.)

Unlike last semester, this time around I have a few weeks of down time between midterms and finals.  And I'm fully taking advantage of the timing.  I'm headed to Vegas in a few short days to celebrate a birthday (read: lay by the pool for endless blissful hours) and am obviously allowing myself less structure. 

I was harnessing my chi, watching some Real Housewives, reading cookbooks, getting all that annoying stuff accomplished and feeling pretty good about myself.  And then my "check engine" light came on...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Little Successes

In the six months I've been in business school, I've learned a whole slew of things.  A lot of them I've documented here, but many more I have yet to articulate. Even to myself.  One of the lessons I learned after running for a while was that little successes give one the confidence to continue to move forward.  This past week I realized that this is almost universally true. 

I have an undergraduate degree in economics so our econ class this time around hasn't been necessarily challenging.  I understand the material in class, I rarely open the book, and the professor makes class interesting.  I didn't do particularly well on the first quiz because it required memorization; something I don't enjoy nor am I good at.  I did, however, get the best grade in the class on the midterm.  And honestly, I don't EVER remember this happening before.  Probably not since fifth grade when our teacher wouldn't let me raise my hand in math class because I knew more about fractions than anyone else.

More important than this great grade though, is the fact that I have a renewed sense of confidence and purpose.  It was becoming more and more difficult to spend a great deal of my free time studying only to get mediocre grades.  Was I studying ineffeciently?  Am I just dumb?  Do I not care enough? Getting this good grade may very well be an aberration, but it was almost necessary.  I CAN do it. Getting grades I can really be proud of is possible.  Hard work DOES pay off.  The sacrifices and hard work is worth it. 

Now to digress a moment, I just need to share that I found out this morning that a great pair of pants can really change one's outlook on life.  A year or two ago I tried on this pair of skinny cropped black dress pants at the Gap and have regretted not buying them ever since.  They hit just above the ankle and while I don't love my body, the cut showed off those shapely gams I have.  Just a few weeks ago I decided I desperately needed a new pair of black dress pants (along with cardigans, a pretty standard issue uniform for this gal) so I perused Banana Republic's website.  And behold, those same pants in my favorite BR fit and material.  Friday night, those puppies were mine and putting them on this morning with a gray cardigan, my fave M+O tank and the patent leather and herringbone kitten heels I was obsessed with a year ago was something of a miracle. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Opportunity Cost

If I had studied half as much in undergrad as I do now, I don't know that I would be in grad school.  I was a solid B student most of my life because I believed I was smart.  If I understood what was going on in class and could do the homework, I didn't think there was any need to review the material much further.  My senior year of high school I remember really having to teach myself math and I'm sure there were a few sociology and economics classes in college I did a little memorization for, but I honestly never cared too much. 

Now, I spend hours and hours reviewing material, making flashcards, listening to the professor's notes on my iPod and working through practice problems.  I give up many a Saturday night to spend with my textbooks as opposed to my girl friends. While I suppose my grades are slightly better than they were back then, I can't imagine what they would be like now if I didn't put in all this effort.  And half the time I do put in the effort I think I should, I still don't necessarily get the results I want. 

So I guess that's a good adult lesson.  Care.  Care a lot.  Don't coast along because you think you're smart and deserve it.  Work hard.  You can coast later.  Nothing is going to be handed to you this time around.  Don't just assume you'll get what you want because you think you're smart and mildly charming. 

I've learned that if I want extraordinary things I need to work extraordinarily hard to get them.  That life is about decisions.  Opportunity cost if you will.  These decisions lately haven't been the easiest.  I know that ultimately they are the right ones, but they surely don't come without consequence.  Without losing friends and feeling lost and getting frustrated and shedding tears. 

Perspective is hard when I come home to my empty - albeit nice and cozy - apartment after more than twelve hours of work, class and studying for two days straight.  It's tough when my phone doesn't ring as much as it used to and the weather is lousy and I miss my family something fierce. 

But when I get those tests back and I see my grades online, I'm proud of myself.  I know, somewhere deep down inside, that this is what I should be doing.  I've come so far in the last year and I have just about a year and a half to go before I start a whole new chapter in my life.  It's going to be a  lot of hard work and I will be forced to make a lot more difficult decisions, but that's what being an adult is all about.  Now I just have to get through March.