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Maybe we mistakenly think we want “happiness,” which we tend to picture in very vague, soft-focus terms, when what we really crave is the harder-edged intensity of experience. -Tim Kreider, Averted Vision, New York Times

This blog has become too public. When Akis comes into GSM lecture screaming, “Haaaay, I heard you have a blog. Is it about me?” or Carl messages me to say, “I may have drunkenly mentioned your blog to 4-5 people last weekend. Sorry…” you have to admit that most of the school knows who’s being way too revealing on the internet. So along with the anonymity, I’ve lost the desire to share creatively-but-thinly-disguised details of my private life. So, GP, you were right: I guess wasn’t writing for attention.

But I’ll try to keep it alive for a few more weeks. Eventually, I’ll be glad I did, right?

::

“When you graduate in a couple of weeks,” said the GSM prof matter-of-factly, “you will…”

I failed to hear the rest of that phrase because I was too stunned. Right, in some four weeks we’ll be done with classes. We will have our last-chance sloppy-seconds hookup-with-everyone-you’ve-failed-to-hook-up-with-by-now orgy on the beach somewhere (I think it might be somewhere in Sri Lanka, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?) and then we’ll be called MBAs. And I’ll go back to the country where most people outside of consulting have never heard of INSEAD, and possibly to a state where my undergraduate connections will carry more weight than my INSEAD ones.

So, I feel like I should be able to summarize some key takeaways. Make some grand, far-reaching conclusions about the year that has almost passed. Perhaps, reflect philosophically about what I’ve learned and the opportunities before me. Or, I should reflect on the ways I’ve changed (err… regressed). But I’ll leave that to my guest blogger (who also does a poor job of disguising himself).

But really, it hurts my head to think about it. Instead, I just want to run away. I’m done with the hard-edged intensity of experience, with the French inability to think creatively, with the out-of-reach Korean food, and the punk ass kids who steal dirty sneakers from people’s cars.

I’m also done with the costume parties and the merciless gossip and the small talk that rarely transcends the quotidian or the sexual innuendo. And I’m done with letting the men here disrespect me.

I’ll admit that I’m withdrawing from relationships and the bonding to eventually make it easier on myself to leave. I’m not better than anyone here; I’m just not good at faking enthusiasm.

It’s 3AM and I’m just in a piss-poor mood. In another three weeks, I’ll write a more chipper post.

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Train to Munich

[this story is a bit anachronistic, but still good]

I don’t know why I thought taking the train to Munich for Oktoberfest was going to be boring. I brought some readings on Telecom ecosystems, a book I’ve been dog-earing one page at a time since August, and figured I’d read for four hours, then get a good 8 hours of sleep. I used to love taking trains as a child in the mother country; I loved falling asleep to the lulling beating of the wheels on the tracks. Since then, the trains have gotten smoother, and the rhythmic sound has virtually gone away. I was disappointed to find this out the last time I took an overnight train (Granada to Madrid in 2001). Regardless, I was excited for a good night’s sleep and some me-time.

Needless to say, I must have been delusional. The Oktoberfest train is sold out. The chick on the bunk next to me has 2″ long fake eyelashes, and 2″ long nails. Her name is Believe. She doesn’t seem like a typical Octoberfest goer, but maybe business is better in Munich over the weekend.

So, I’m talking to some guys from California and some French dudes. And we’re all drinking Pastis. Or rather, I’m holding my Pastis as far away from my nose as possible, lest the smell makes me throw up. The Cali kids have just graduated from college and are doing some poorly-coordinated trip around the world. As we talk, I realize that they think that I’m still in college, and one of the 21-year-olds might be hitting on me. I feel the need to set the record straight.

Me: “I’m older than I look”

Him: “Oh, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m 30”

I don’t know what possesses me to lie about my age (especially in the wrong direction).

Him: “Damn! Well… um… young at heart! Cheers!”

We clink our plastic cups.

[the views in this post do not reflect the views of MBA/MRS. In fact, she had to look up who Tyler Durden was]

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off. ” – Tyler Durden

P5 makes me think of that quote. At INSEAD you are told you are the “Leader of Tomorrow”, a “Global Leader” who can make a difference. While this is all admirable as the countdown begins to unemployment for many, you finally realise you really are just like every schmoe in the world, out in the world hustling to make a buck.

Okay, an overeducated, probably far wealthier schmoe, but you’re still hustling to make a buck.

You start to see why there is that statistic that 50% of all INSEAD graduates or something start their own business 2-3 years out. When you are told to go forth and conquer, and end up conquering naught but a middle level management position, I think most people assess their goals in life.

But then P5 shouldn’t just be about a job should it? It should also be about the memories, and making the most of people you will probably never see again except at reunions. So as always there is the partying, and the partying, and oh yes, the partying.

But you do find people of heart here, actually, you can find heart anywhere you go. It’s always there, lurking beneath whatever barriers that people have put up to deny it, and I hope YOU truly believe that. Because if you do not, well then, no one has heart on this planet then, do they?

No, while MBAMrs has taken a hiatus, we can pick up the slack. And we can tell you, yes Singapore IS more inclusive than Fonty, for what reasons we know not. Perhaps it is the city, perhaps it is living in communal housing that still responds to accountability. No, the meek, the poor, the tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, even they are included here.

That is not to say this is a paradise, far from it. I mean for one, there are no baguettes. Or cheese. Of any description.

Look, I will end here. Because the best thing to say at the end of P5 is nothing. And you know why? Because either 1) you have already said it or 2) because well, everyone knows what you are going to say anyway.

And really, to be in that situation, is not a bad state of affairs at all.

A Thing Like That

nuts

I’m temped to start this post off with an excuse about why I haven’t written. But I won’t.

P4 is done, and it’s just a little bit heart-breaking. I started the term off thinking I couldn’t wait to be done with this summer camp nonsense. But then I dug out my mini skirt, tied my hair up in pig tails and got back into the spirit with the back-to-school party at Fleuri.

The rest of the term was kind of a blur. If I recall correctly, there was fabulous babaganoush and belly dancing and shisha. There were some crappy dress-up parties with a shit DJ at Villecerf. There was many a late night involving Mad Men and a few too many random Tuesdays at Houston’s where around 11PM talk would turn to driving to Paris – just because. But then we never did because I was usually wearing ugly shoes. That, and I’m pretty lame. There was the most wonderfully delicious dinner in Barbizon with the most awkward company. There was a brand project involving pants. There was an incredible harvest of chestnuts that I hauled home by the dozen like I did as a kid. And an REP team that still hasn’t started the project. And a PIM class I could have done without; the psych 101 bullshit presented in a confrontational manner was a waste of time given the years I spent exploring all my highly-endearing dysfunctions with a therapist. There were many a daytrip to Paris, and last minute incredible audible involving Munich (roasted chesnuts, a glockenspiel, and way too much beer and serious boob envy) and a trip beyond the iron curtain, where each turn around a corner stirred up some distant memory of my childhood in the mother country.

For most of September, the only time I saw my friends was when I was being asked to proof-read obsequious cover letters to Bain and McKinsey. Some of these friends are finally re-emerging dinged and dejected, with some harsh words about their uber-smooth interviewers and with an exciting task ahead: thinking about what amazing, inspiring thing they will do instead of consulting.

Saying no to consulting was a character-building thing. I might even say I’m proud that I stayed away. Actually, I almost slipped. With three hours to go before the McKinsey deadline, I decided to throw my hat into the game. In 20 minutes, I banged out a pretty convincing cover letter containing the proper level of idolizing platitudes, displaying a smug self-awareness, and claims for a deep love of ‘impact’. Another 20 minutes after that, I decided that I didn’t need any more rejection in my life, deleted the letter and jumped into bed with a book – AJ Jacob’s “Know It All” in which he hilariously recounts the year he spent reading the Encyclopaedia Brittanica from A to Z.

I supposed I’d be freaking out more right now, if I didn’t have a job. Instead, I’m semi-employed. I took on the project with a clean energy company that I mentioned in a prior post – which is keeping me insanely busy, highly inspired and more or less solvent until the end of February, at which point I’m hoping this small startup decides that I’m indispensible and extends my contract. The coolest thing about the work I’ve been doing is realizing how directly I’ve been able to apply the learnings of Industry Competitive Analysis, Brand Management and Strategy. I guess I’ve learned something in the last few months, after all. Speaking of… I should probably get back to doing some customer segmentation work.

pompidou

I had an unexpected heart-to-heart with one of my classmates the other day. What he said about INSEAD is so true: there’s brains but there’s so little beauty. I keep having the same conversation over and over again. All anyone ever talks about is which destinations they plan to check off next on their list, or what slutty outfit they’ve picked out for the Moulin Rouge party at Cheateau de Villecerf, or how you’re a loser for not going to Singapore because Singapore is so amazing.

What of art? What of literature and music? When you read the resume book, you find out that people are interested in politics or 20th century painting or vocal music. Is it just not cool to talk about your passions with your classmates? Or are these random things people put on their resumes to sound interesting? Makes me think of a classmate who has ‘cooking’ as one of his hobbies. Strangely enough, according to the roommates, he hadn’t stepped foot in the kitchen once during three periods to indulge this hobby.

So I went to Paris yesterday in search of beauty. What I found instead was a self-referential, everything-is-about-gender women’s contemporary art exhibit at the Centre Pompidou. It was a bit much. A dress made of meat, a video of a naked woman chopping a head of a chicken and holding its body until it stopped thrashing, a deranged mechanical sculpture of a phallus doing somersaults on parallel bars. If it wasn’t a sex organ then it made some political statement about women in the contemporary art world.

The Centre Pompidou itself is just nuts. An abominable hamster cage in the middle of gorgeous Paris! But the views of the Mansard roofs are just dazzling! I recently met a cousin of a friend of mine lives in Paris. He and his wife ride his little blue vespa across the Alexander bridge on their way home every day. His wife says that every day, he sees tourists and says, ‘Look, they’re seeing it for the first time. I’m so jealous!’

That’s all.

drinkdrive

The freshmen have just completed the pointless half-day exercise of making posters to discourage drunk driving. These posters are all campy, full of sexual innuendo and puns and completely inactionable. Then the same week they went over to the party in Fleury, got stupid drunk and all drove home through the forest full of boars. Not just the freshmen, but the P4s as well. By P4, we’re experts!

Now, Professor Bartolome would just tell me that I’m too uptight. Surely this moralistic perspective is just a result of my rushed potty training, or a product of my overly conservative upbringing. Actually, my moralizing comes from having a college boyfriend whose mother and sister were killed by a drunk driver while he was in the back seat of a car. But of course nothing like that would happen to anyone here. We’re all way too privileged and precious. Oh, wait. It HAS happened to people here. But how soon we forget.

I [can almost] understand how people manage to justify bad decisions when they’re already drunk at a party. But the problem is that these future business leaders can’t seem to make a good decision up front. How about planning ahead and designating a sober driver? Nah, too much planning. Better just grab my keys and head out! The best is when someone volunteers to be a designated driver and then you see them getting wasted. What kind of a selfish asshole do you have to be to care that little about the lives of the people you’ve VOLUNTEERED to drive home? I’m gonna go upstairs now and ask my neighbor this exact question.

Maybe that’s something they should incorporate into Management Decision Making. I’d like to sell 30 contracts for “At least one INSEAD student will get maimed or killed in a drunk driving accident during P4.”

INSEAD is hardly free from blame. When a couple of idiots last year got arrested, rather than actually take any action within their abilities, some admin wrote a completely impotent e-mail reminding students that ‘at INSEAD we do not drink and drive.’ Oh, GOSH! Thanks for the reminder! I was going to funnel 5 beers and then drive home, but I’m glad you e-mailed me to appeal to my ethics. It’s great that you have a bus that makes two trips a night between the party and Fonty. That way, the people in Fonty, most of whom don’t have cars, can get home comfortably. But if you happen to live in Bourron Marlotte, and the party is in Barbizon, well, you can just count on your shit-drunk buddy to get you home. It’s no problem. The pitch-black forest isn’t teeming with boars and deer.

How about some actionable repercussions? Removal from the Dean’s List? How about failure to graduate? Being barred from on-campus recruiting opportunities or a removal from the alumni database?

Put your money where your mouth is, INSEAD.

P Quatro

I’m happily back in the bubble and life once again moves at breakneck speed. And for the first time in a really long time I find myself being hyper-motivated and really effective. So much so that I haven’t had time to update my three loyal readers (and all of you December 2010 hopefuls who are Googling ‘INSEAD vs HBS’ and ‘INSEAD waitlist’) on the goings on of the penultimate period. Penultimate is a good word; rather underused.

So… what’s going on?

:: FRESH MEAT ::
There are freshmen on campus! Today I got to meet quite the awkward lot of them at the club fair. It’s hard not to think of them as so young and naive, even though a good half of them are older than me.
Freshman: “So um… I’m interested in this-and-that.”
Me: “Oh that sounds great! What about this-and-that interests you?”
Freshman: “Um… I dunno. I just wrote my INSEAD essay about it. So… how how will your club help me get a job?”
Me: “Uhh… come again?”

What else…

:: SCHOOL WORK ::
My classes RAWK! The Brand Management class is so cool. We’re doing cases on Russian Vodka, Steinway Pianos, French Perfumes. Almost all of the cases have been written under the prof who created this class. So totally worth the high bidding points! I’m being a huge nerd and reading ahead in the cases because they’re so interesting.

The Industry Competitive Analysis is slightly less thrilling but also great (thanks, Resipsa, for the rec!). Not reading ahead in this class though. Norddeutsche Affinerie’s energy strategy also interesting though somewhat less spellbinding and will be read once I’m done procrastinating with this blog post.

Realizing Entrepreneurial Potential is amazingly inspiring – the premise being that you don’t have to build a business from scratch to be an entrepreneur. You can buy one. And so during the class you go through the process of acquiring (or… err…. attempting to acquire) a company. I’m steering my group to look at something more exciting than concrete fence posts, lawn equipment and cathode ray tubes. Watch out, Hummus Brothers.

Yes, still obsessed…

Psych Issues in Management is a weird fish. I’m hoping that it will be something like LPG – incredibly frustrating until you have a big a-ha moment at the end and everything falls into place. I just wish the guy would stop cursing.

:: RECRUITING ::
Among other news, the recruiting circus is in town. I’ve decided to forego the consulting recruiting. I’m not interested in it enough in the job, and not convincing enough to fake it – and can really do without any more rejection in my life. So, it’s a relief to keep the tap dancing shoes in the closet for now. But – not to worry! – I plan on getting filthy drunk and dominating convo with McKinsey on Friday night in the best of traditions.