Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

For the past few months, a newlywed coworker of mine has been looking at houses.  Living in their overstuffed (but fabulous) one-bedroom is putting a strain on the relationship between her and her husband.  They both work long hours and I have a feeling she's looking for something new to get excited about.  A few weeks ago she and her realtor found a steal.  It was priced low for the neighborhood, had a huge back yard and was seemingly everything she was looking for.  She had even envisioned the little garden she could spend the summer building out back. 

Unfortunately, it was such a great deal that she was outbid with all-cash offers from investors.  She was definitely disappointed and had to jump back in to the house hunt that much more disheartened.  At lunch that week, one of our brokers commented that she should refrain from envisioning new gardens, window treatments, etc. until an offer is accepted on a house.  To which I replied: we're women, it's what we do. 

And I firmly believe that life would be no fun at all if we weren't allowed to get a little ahead of ourselves.  We'd have no hopes or dreams if we couldn't picture ourselves in an idealized world.  Reality isn't always fun, but anticipating the future and daydreaming is.  It gives us direction and sometimes even clarifies our purpose.  Now, I'm saying this because sometimes I think I do it too much.

Obviously I spend a lot of time thinking about, working on, and being at school.  I'm spending a ton of money and energy on my MBA and to get me through it I picture what I will be able to do when I'm done.  The kind of life I will live, job I will have... even the feeling of accomplishment after it's all done.  As I try to decide what kind of jobs I want or even what city I eventually want to live in, I need to picture what I think or want the rest of my life to look like. 

There is a school of thought that says you need to envision things to make them happen.  Isn't that was 'The Secret' is all about?  We all make things happen in our lives and having a powerful vision is no small part one's ability to conquer a problem, take a risk, make a leap of faith, create something new and be great.  After all, you can't do something if you can't see it happening.

Sometimes I have a tendency to jump in with too much enthusiasm.  I picture something I like and go for it.  And often I get hurt.  I'm getting increasingly better at dusting myself off and trying again, but sometimes I feel like those around me become frustrated on my behalf.  This is particularly true when it comes to relationships.  I'm easily excited and enthusiastic.  Part of me thinks that I can will most things to happen, while another (more rational) part thinks that I should chill out.  But what fun is life when you can't allow yourself to go after what you really want, in all aspects of your life. 

Monday, June 21, 2010


Being single forces one to be introspective to a certain degree.  I'm forced to listen to myself, count on myself, and figure out what I like and want to do.  And if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: I'm happiest when I'm active.  After three half-marathons in less than a year and a half, starting school, getting a new job, and moving, I was a bit burnt out.  OK, I was a lot burnt out.  I spent some very unnecessary energy on boys who weren't worth my time and who didn't understand me at all.  I used school as an excuse to not go out with my friends (something I'm still working on) and my eating/sleeping/exercise habits were practically non-existent. 

This blog serves a few purposes for me, and one of them is that it is a chance to consciously reflect on what I'm feeling and doing over a period of time.  Seven months ago, my blog was all about how amazing I felt after a nine-mile run.  And I miss that feeling.  The last time I had that much adrenaline pumping through me was January when I finished my fastest half-marathon and then immediately started my second semester of business school. 

My moods were so dramatic and unpleasant the beginning of the year that I was seriously contemplating seeing a therapist.  I was in a funk I both couldn't shake and couldn't pinpoint.  School was going well, I was in a new relationship and I was finally living alone again.  Sure, some friendships had evolved and had even been lost, but my misery was beyond all that.  It got to a point where I didn't even want to be around me, and that's never a good sign.

So I got in the car and took a drive.  Actually, I just sat in my car in the driveway.  I don't know why this works, but let me tell you that it does.  Even when my parents were getting a divorce my mom would go for a drive.  Drive up to the cabin, be alone, drive around the block.  It's cathartic.  Cleansing.  Anyhow, I came up with a solution that I thought would be both more productive and less expensive than full on therapy.  Exercise!

Now, I'm no gym rat.  I have a pair of what I think are ridiculously expensive yoga pants I bought with a little discretionary bonus the other day, but I wouldn't dare wear them to do the gym; I live in them around the house and wear them to the grocery store (which, by the way, I haven't been to in weeks).  I wear oversize t-shirts, my favorite running shorts, a headband and my training shoes.  The new gym is four times as expensive as the old one, but I actually go.  In fact, the financial burden alone is enough to make me go three times a week. 

And guess what? I'm happier.  I don't always want to go for a run after work, but I do it.  The gym is in my building and it's too easy just to walk up the stairs, put on my clothes, and hop on the treadmill or elliptical.  I even got back in to spinning, which is hard, but fun.  The showers are clean and relaxing, it is never packed in the early evenings or weekend morning, and I'm not intimidated by all the beautiful people.  In the six weeks I've been going, I feel a difference.  Both in my body and in the way I feel mentally.  I feel strong again.  And when I feel physically strong I remember that I am mentally strong.   

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Struggle

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I'm going to let you know right here that I just looove to make myself miserable.  I gravitate toward things I'm bad at.  Running, for example.  This body wasn't built to run, but I finished three half marathons, two 10ks and a mud run in less than two years.  Golf too.  I have terrible hand-eye coordination, but I love golf.  I even watch it on TV.  I gave up playing years ago but I always enjoyed meandering a beautiful 18 holes on a sunny day. 

Finance and business school is no different, really.  If I were to gravitate toward things I had a natural ability for, I would take courses in communication and economics.  But part of me feels that defeats the purpose.  I'm not all about taking the hardest professors, but I made the decision to complete an MBA in order to learn new things.  Things I was too intimidated during undergrad to overcome. 

Welcome to finance.  I've never been super strong in math.  I understand the concepts, but I don't particularly enjoy it so I don't spend my free time studying it.  But hey, I did really well in accounting last semester and in the fall I barreled through with a very respectable grade in quantitative analysis somehow. 

And I'm a smart girl.  In theory.  I knocked the GMAT verbal section out of the ballpark, but was less than thrilled with the math section.  It's just not my strong suit, I tell ya.  But I'm going to bschool to get a job in finance.  I get numbers. When I have time to think about it and put all the pieces together.  I like finance.  I want to know more about it.  I want to learn.  My problem right now is connecting the dots.  I understand what the professor is saying in class, but I don't take the time every weekend to go through the practice problems.  We're on chapter 13, and I haven't connected the processes yet.  Time to buckle down.  Failure isn't an option.  Not this time around. Not on my dime. 

Too add to my frustration, my marketing class has been a huge time suck.  Two hour group meetings every weekend, reading and studying for quizzes every other week, case write-ups, project research... And it wouldn't be so bad if I felt like it was going to culminate into something worthwhile.  Instead, I'm killing hours of my time with something that a) I don't care about and b) isn't amounting to anything significant.  My grade in that class is completely subjective and even though we're going into week seven, I'm convinced the professor still doesn't know my name.  How does that even happen?  Especially when I've met with him outside of class and I participate weekly. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Boys.  Men.  Guys.  Whatever.  I'm surrounded by them all the time. I have two little brothers, a dad, my mother's husband, and at least three guy friends I consider amongst my closest.  And then there's the office where us females are very obviously outnumbered.  Commercial real estate, and brokerage in general, is very alpha-male dominated.  A bunch of former professional, Olympic and college athletes.  And me. 

Going in to business school, I knew that as a female I would be in the minority.  But like I said, I'm fairly used to it.  I thought (and still think to a certain extent) that being a female in a man's world has its distinct advantages.  For better or worse, I'm noticed because I'm just not expected.  The differential between men and women in both business school and the business world in general is getting smaller.  But especially at the C-level, women are still underrepresented. 

When I first started working with a structured commercial real estate team, I noticed right away that a woman's voice was missing.  In the process of securing business, negotiating contracts and following up with leases, my team lacked the sense of process, logic and relating that women seem to inherently have.  Now some men, especially in such a cut-throat atmosphere like brokerage, don't like working with women.  But that's only a reflection of their own insecurities.  Not to draw on stereotypes, but women offer a different perspective. Having a woman on your team is a problem-solving technique, pure and simple.

In the last few months, it has become increasingly obvious that I relate to men differently than most women.  I'm a fairly typical female in that I wear skirts, put on makeup, get nervous around cute boys and talk on the phone.  Even though I don't like to shop (if I were good at it, that might be a different story), I'm super tidy, chat it up with the ladies at work and love chick flicks.  There's nothing about me that screams "she's one of the boys". 

But more than once, I've found myself surrounded by a table full of men.  One will say something slightly inappropriate for mixed company and immediate ask for forgiveness because he only then realizes I was listening.  Inevitably, another one will pipe up and add that "Carolyn's cool".  Or "she can hang".  And I am and I can.  And I want to. I have a strong personality.  And a foul mouth.  And sarcastic humor, a big laugh and I can talk about cars.  I like to drink beer, go to baseball games and watch golf.  Heck, I once went to an Angel's game and sat in the VIP seats while wearing a pencil skirt and heels.  I didn't think twice about it.  There were plenty of men around still in their suits who obviously came straight from the office.  Why was I getting funny looks?

Because I look and act fairly femine, I never thought twice about it.  Only recently have I begun to notice whom I'm attracted to in social situations.  I have a close set of girlfriends.  I'm close to my mom.  I like pearls, cardigans and the color pink.  But put me in a classroom setting and I'm in the corner with all the boys.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To Zen

My last blog post was about how crazy I was feeling.  Like everything was piling up and I had no chance to get it all under control.  It was a fit of panic that didn't end for two weeks.  After all, I like having all my ducks in a row.  Probably too much sometimes. 

Cut to Memorial Day Weekend.  Last year I went camping on the Kern River with forty of my closest friends.  It was one of the most amazing and relaxing experiences I've ever had.  Something about being in the desert and forced to be still was a perfect antidote to the craziness that kind of builds up in my head every few months.  I had the opportunity to go again this year, but circumstances have changed.  My close group of girl friends wasn't going and I couldn't seem to manage a week in Detroit, all my homework, packing and camping again. 

And although I didn't get as much homework done as I would have liked to (I never do), I had an amazing and productive weekend just staying in LA.  I ran a lot of errands, went to the grocery store twice (unfortunately neither time for me, but I can't argue with bringing goodies to my friends' houses), and put away the last of my boxes (yes, I moved four months ago).  I didn't find a yard sale desk or buy a vacuum (boring!) but I did manage to upload the last 600 pictures I've taken with my new fun camera.  I hung out with a new friend, played on the beach with the girls, made a summer salad, ate a ton of carne asada and slept in for three days straight.  Who can argue with that?! The only thing that was missing was a Dodgers game.

It's June through September in SoCal that make me want to stay in LA forever.  It makes the sacrificed family time and all the expensive rent worth it.  I don't know if it's the Vitamin D I get, or just the affect of the consistent sun, but LA summers make me happier than anything else I know.  My very favorite past times are kayaking in the Pacific Ocean, laying on the beach, hiking in Malibu, hanging out in Playa, and chilling by the pool.   

I tend to say that I want to move back to the Midwest when I'm done with my MBA because that's where I see myself coming into my own.  And I probably still will.  But I know that these amazing and indescribably relaxing days of playing beer pong and barbecuing on the beach will never happen again.  Moving away means these blissful days full of amazing people in a gorgeous surrounding will end. And I'm getting sucked in.  I've been here for five years now and it feels more like home I ever could have imagined.  I'm sure I'll feel differently in six months, but next summer will be insanely difficult as I attempt to finish my MBA, secure a new job and enjoy what might be the last true LA summer of my life.