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Posts Tagged ‘cognitive dissonance’

This time one year ago, a June weekend might have looked like this:  I probably woke up late on a Saturday, grabbed a New Yorker or a Gourmet magazine, and whiled the morning away over a huge coffee and a spinach, egg and cheese muffin at the bakery down the street.  Then I wandered into town for an afternoon of Swedish modernist home decor shopping, or for another giant coffee with a friend, or for a walk along the esplanade.  In the evening, I probably hosted a dinner, met friends in town, let one of the guys I’ve dumped (but insisted in keeping on as friends for reasons of flattery – wasn’t that fun, Danny?  I thought so…) make me dinner or went to the theater or the Symphony (often by myself).  On Sunday morning I read the NYTimes from cover to cover (okay, just the arts and style sections), spent some time torturing the piano, and thought about cleaning the apartment.   Or I hosted a fabulous brunch that involved strawberries and Chantilly or deep-fried poached eggs.  Then I dragged a group of friends to the beach for lobster, or to a clam shack out of town, or to climb a mountain.  This led my boss to point out that I seem to be having a lot more fun on the weekends than during the week in the office.  Yeah, no kidding.

This year’s June weekends look like this:  this morning I got up and checked facebook to see what I missed by not going out the night before.  There was a BBQ that looked like fun, but also described by my neighbor as, “just like every BBQ you’ve been to this year.”  Saw more pictures posted of the Monty Ball – was tempted to go just to get a picture of myself being decadent and wearing an 18th century wig, but decided to sleep instead.  Lame, I know.  Then I cranked on a scenario planning exercise for International Political Analysis, calculated some multiples for a Mergers and Acquisitions case, trying hard to force myself to care about the wave of acquisitions in the fine chemicals industry, and read three cases for my (really awesome) Enviro Management class.  Then I wrote an e-mail to my condo tenants back in the States to assure them that their A/C would get fixed just as soon as I could get the delinquent building manager to respond to my phone calls.   Then I checked the exchange rate for the 10th time this week – damn, no shopping therapy for me this year.  Then I wrote another angry e-mail to the idiots (mis)handling my visa.  Then I came to school for group work.  Had an unexpected, but really quality heart-to-heart with one of my groupmates.  It’s nice when you feel like you’ve gotten past the fronting and the keeping-it-together with someone – that they’ll still like you if you’re in a bad mood, if you’re stressed out, homesick, cranky.  Seriously, when is the last time you talked about what’s important to you?  Felt really inspired?  Admitted to someone that you’re worried that the thing you say you want to do with your life is not truly the thing that you want to do with your life?  It’s been a while.

But this is starting to sound like one of Vantan’s insufferable posts.  I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say with this comparison.  I don’t wish that I was still back in my condo, reading my Gourmet and showing up to the office on Monday to while away the week before I had another inspiring fulfilling weekend.  But I do miss some of the comforts of that life: trips to Whole Foods, finding time to read, $10 lobster, an income, friends I’ve known for 10 years living down the street, having one of the world’s top symphony orchestras a 30 minute walk from my house, not feeling like I’m missing out if I don’t make it to every social gathering, being an hour’s flight from my parents.  Essayist André Aciman describes mnemonic arbitrage as the act of thinking about yourself in the future remembering the moment that you are experiencing.  The meta-ness of this concept is a bit dizzying, but it’s exactly what I’m doing these days: looking at my world from the point of view of my future self.  Whether it’s the future self that is experiencing the moment while composing a blog post about that moment in my head, or the future self that looks back on this experience years from now and wonders if she did it right, made the right choices, made the most of her time.            

A couple of things threw me for a loop this week.  Part of the funk is due to some self-inflicted “matters of the heart.” But also, I went to a talk earlier this week.  One of the guys giving the talk worked for a direct competitor of my old firm.  The other guy had recently joined my dream firm – the company I’ve been stalking for months before finally applying for an internship and getting rejected by HR with a generic ‘we’ll keep your resume on file’ e-mail.  

– But… but… but… we were made for each other!  Wait, don’t leave!  

They also rejected a friend of mine that I thought was a shoo-in for the job.  So, like the men at INSEAD (okay, women too), they just don’t know what they want.  

The topic of the talk was precisely in the intersection of the two firms’ activities that are interesting to me.  Two things happened:  [one] It made me really miss my old job and [two] It made me realize that dream company does some really boring stuff.  While they think about interesting stuff, their main product appears to be slick-looking reports.  Snoooozzzz. 

– So, there, I wasn’t interested anyways!

Yes, my capacity for self-justification is amazing:  I can convince myself that every outcome that transpires is my getting my way/a blessing in disguise/a thing happening for a reason.  

I best go summon those powers of self-justification to try to feel less homesick.

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Take that, HBS

My undergrad institution always felt itself to be in competition with Harvard.  We’d hiss at any mention of Harvard during lecture.  We’d make jokes about how the only hard thing about Harvard was getting in.  We’d gossip about how little they had to study and how nice their dorms are.  We cheered at the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon puts the douchebag Harvard dude in his place.  We’d revel in the stories about our drunken frat boys pissing on the statue of John Harvard as part of their induction rituals.  We looked to the story of a Harvard girl who killed her roommate as evidence that everyone at Harvard was unhinged.  We were bitter when they stole our finest professors – the joke went that when a prof left our school for Harvard, the IQ at both places went up.

In reality, we were terribly jealous.  We were jealous that we didn’t have private bathrooms as undergrads.  We were jealous that they had the Harvard Yard while we had a sprawling urban campus.   We were jealous we had to pull all-nighters and didn’t have grade inflation.  We were jealous that their school had instant name recognition even among the rednecks of Missouri.  Even though our school regularly placed in the top 5 in all of the ratings, sometimes above Harvard, our midwestern friends’ moms would look confused and ask, “Oh, is that military?”        

Looks like being across the ocean might not change things much.  Maybe sometime next year, I too will work out my insecurities by poking fun at Harvard in a snappy, witty video.  

There’s legitimate reasons a plenty to choose INSEAD over Harvard.  For one, Harvard is in Massachusetts whose residents are deservedly called (M)assholes.  Boston/Cambridge has terrible weather, food (by metropolitan standards, not by US), and low standard of living for those on a student budget.  BUT the symphony is amazing.  (I know… it’s a top priority for all MBAs!)  

INSEAD is in France.  While the French are not known for their helpfulness or friendliness, I forgive them in favor of the most amazing jambon and cheese in the world.  The students live in drafty, overpriced chateaux instead of in drafty, overpriced Cambridge apartments.  The relative isolation of the forest allows the year to be spent focusing on networking and friendships within the class, instead of picking up easy BU girls at the Kong in Harvard Square.  The campus exchange allows one to study on three continents in the course of 10 months. 

The class at INSEAD is truly international.  Check out the recently published Business Week profile of Harvard’s class: [in %]

Africa  1, Asia 10,  Eastern Europe and Central Asia 1, Latin America and the Caribbean 4,  Middle East 2, North America 71, Oceania 1, Western Europe 10

And now, INSEAD’s:

Africa 3, Asia 26, Eastern Europe and Central Asia 7, Latin America and the Caribbean 6, Middle East 6, North America 14, Oceania 1, Western Europe 37

Harvard is two years instead of one.  My friend Jon (not to be confused with  Jon the Pervert or Jon the Douche) lamented that after a year and a half, he was still bleeding money, but no longer learning anything.  That’s true for any two year program.  My friend Sandy mentioned that after one year at Stanford she was ready to get back to doing something productive.   

What matters is what’s important to you.  And you can justify just about anything to yourself once you’ve made that 30K EUR payment.  

I guess in bothering to write this post, I’m sub-consciously admitting to still carrying that chip on my shoulder.  Somehow I doubt anyone at Harvard is making videos or writing blog posts about how Harvard is so much better than INSEAD.  They don’t seem to need to prove themselves to anyone.

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