Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

My favorite pair of shoes ever was this bright red strappy pair of camper sandals that lasted me 3 summers of near-daily wear. I bought them while on vacation in a seaside european town back when the dollar to the euro exchange rate was not as ugly. I am back at this seaside town this weekend, and stumbled upon the shop where I bought the sandals. There, I found my sandals reincarnated into a hideous version of their former selves. The straps were now thinner and the chunky rubber sole had grown a heel, making the whole thing look simultaneously awkward and slutty. It sounds like I’m trying to make a comparison between me now and then, but it doesn’t quite fit.

The trip three years ago followed breakup number 2 with the boyf. I can’t remember if that break up was over my solipsistic driving style or my telling him the cautionary tale of what happened to Jon the Pervert that made him run for the hills. In any case, going on a trip to a place that he was fond of made for a good pretext for getting back in touch, and so we got back together immediately after my return only to break up another 3 months later. Getting back in touch this time around would have probably led to the same conclusion, so it’s for the best that he ignored the e-mail I sent last week in a moment of weakness.

What drove me back into his arms three years ago was actually my feeling lonely and distraught over a breakup that had occurred eight months prior and would take me another two years to get over. The pathetic thing is that I just didn’t want to be alone.

His name was Chris. Chris was an artist. Chris viewed (still does, I suppose) every moment of his life through the wide-open eyes of a child for whom the world is new and fascinating and inspiring and full of wonder. When you’re telling a story, Chris listens to your every word and makes you feel like the center of the universe. Sometimes in the evenings I would read and Chris would draw me. Or he’d draw whatever random thing came into his head: his grandfather hunting whales, a chicken eating an omelette, most often his smelly dog. Chris is responsible for my love of Oerbier (over which he broke my heart), for my obsession with the New Yorker (I got my own subscription as a first step in admitting that the relationship was through), for my crush on Terri Gross, for my collection of nerdy books on molecular gastronomy that he continued to give me as presents long after we broke up, and for my love of esoterica (like documentaries about typeface). This was my first relationship, post college, so in a way, Chris is responsible for who I am as an adult.

Unfortunately Chris was also a co-worker and Chris did not wake up happy. The combination of those two – plus an ex girlfriend with multiple sclerosis who bestowed upon Chris the honor of dealing with her end-of-life issues – spelled doom for the relationship. She didn’t die in the end – turned out she and her team of doctors mistook an anxiety disorder for ms. These things happen, I suppose.

Doing this loop-back made me think about him, and maybe miss him – or more precisely made me miss myself and that time in my life. I once again was 26 and heart-broken, on vacation by myself, still waiting for the rest of my life to start.

Damn. Better hurry back to the bubble and quit this time traveling business.


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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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These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

These are days that you’ll remember
When May is rushing over you
With desire to be part of the miracles
You see in every hour
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched
By something that will grow and bloom in you

These are days
These are the days you might fill
With laughter until you break
These days you might feel
A shaft of light
Make its way across your face
And when you do
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
It’s true
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking

To you, to you

:: 5:30AM Saturday ::  Stumbling our way to the Club 16 after party – stumbling not so much for the drunkeness (note to self: a champagne hangover is much kinder and gentler than any other kind of hangover), but because stilettos and cobblestones are not a good mix – we picked up an ’04 alum who got lost on his way to the hotel.  Or rather, he decided to follow us.  The guy was drunk as a skunk, and self-reportedly “living the dream.”  Upon closer inspection, living the dream turned out to be unemployment in London.  The only minor glitch was that he was also broke because the hedge fund he worked for went belly up.  

The guy was very eager to know all about who’s hosting the coolest parties and what the hook-up scene is like.  Answer: (a) Tavers hosts lots of parties.  Some of them are cool and (b) Seriously?  Do 37 yo’s care about this stuff?  I wouldn’t know.  Or I’m being coy.  No, really.  I don’t know.

He followed us to Club 16 and proceeded to sit slouched on the couch, fading in and out, leering lustily at girls in tight dresses who still hadn’t gotten all of their dancing out of their systems by 6AM.  It makes you wonder where one goes that wrong.

It also makes me worry that once I’m done with INSEAD, I’ll be desperately trying to relive these days.  What if my 5 year scenario doesn’t pan out, and rather than come back to Fontainebleau in 2014 with my 3-yo “fertility twins”, I’ll still be trying to score some 29yo talent?  Shudder.  

I’m just now starting to appreciate why you keep hearing – in all sincerity – that this is the best year of your life.  Never again will you have this little responsibility, this many friends in one place, this level of camaraderie with people your age.  It’s extraordinary that while the world is falling apart around us, we’re chugging champagne and humping to Jay-z (yeah… classy!) at the XVI century Chateau from which Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814.

Leaving university was so incredibly hard.  I graduated from undergrad in the middle of the post 9/11 recession (though we did just learn that 9/11 had a very small macroeconomic impact and it was the burst of the dot com bubble that had caused the brief recession).  Our senior year career fair happened the week after 9/11 and the indoor 2 story hockey rink and track and field gym used for the occasion was nearly empty.  All the booths had been set up the usual 300 consulting, engineering and finance firms that came to recruit the nation’s biggest nerds.  In the end, about 30 companies showed and most of them had no idea of the ramifications of the terrorist attacks on their recruiting plans.  I remember leaving the career fair and going to my dorm to research graduate programs.  

The grad school admission process was an ego validating experience – and one that will keep my parents always wondering ‘what if’ I had gone to Hopkins for a PhD.  Instead I chose a cop out Masters’ program with the possibility to continue for my PhD.  The entire grad school experience was the failure that I wrote about for my INSEAD admissions essay.  I realized that I hated the isolated, repetitive nature of research.  What I did instead of research was focus on going to the gym religiously (I had some killer abs in grad school…sigh…), spending lots of time doing ceramics, spending every Friday at the Symphony matinee and doing way too much JDating.  I don’t think I mentioned that last part to the adcom at INSEAD.

I have JDate to thank for meting Jon the Pervert.  To my family’s chagrin, this may have permanently turned me off from dating my own people.  The reason I call the guy Jon the Pervert is because it later turned out that Jon had been cheating on me the entire time we were together.  Namely, he was trawling for sex on Craigslist.  “I have tickets to the ballgame in Section X.  I want to take a blond with DD breasts.  Send me a picture.”  You can’t make shit like this up.  Jon eventually got what was coming to him, but that’s a much longer story, and one that doesn’t cast me in too lovely of a light.  So I can tell it to you over a beer (or 5) sometime.  Or ask my talent manager.  

Jon spent 6 months destroying my self-confidence and then unceremoniously dumped my ass a week before graduation, the day before I was packing up my apartment to move to the ‘burbs, and two weeks before I was starting my new job – compounding the anxiety I was already experiencing because I was leaving school.  Moving out of town was stupid move #1.  About two weeks into my new job I got lost on my way home and found myself driving across the bridge by the school – the one told me, “You own this town” – and bawling my eyes out when I realized that I was no longer a student.  (Yeah, I cry easily…)  

For the next four years, I lived vicariously through friends who also stayed in grad school – (didn’t “quit” as my grandma calls my failure to get a PhD) – and found every excuse I could to come back to school to attend conferences, speak on a panel, serve on a alumni fundraising committee, be an industry mentor to a senior design class.  Now at INSEAD, as a club officer, I’m often fielding calls from Alumni who want to come back to speak about their company, share a case study of their startup, install solar panels on the roof of the Plessis Mornay (in a town that gets 75 days of sun a year).  

Somehow I think I might be one of those people in a year.

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Late Bloomers

– So I finally learned how to blow dry my hair properly.  I actually googled “how to blow dry hair.”  You know there’s a ton of stuff on youtube?  You’re supposed to do it from the top down with one of those round brushes.  If you blow dry it up, it gets frizzy.

– Huh.  Makes sense.  I went to Sephora the other day and had a high school girl teach me how to do my eye makeup.  

– Why didn’t we learn this when we were 16?

– Because we were in MathCounts.

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