21 March 2013

On Saying No to Grad School (and the unpredictability of expat life)

Last week my mother-in-law sent me a very nice email with the subject line "What's in the box?" Oh. Right. I didn't even realize that posting a Tiffany's box without showing you the goods inside was a disappointing tease. I've now attached incredibly awkward photos of my sternum to show you the necklace. Excuse the hair -- my new thing is natural "hippie" hair, which looks kind of terrible. I'm letting myself remain in denial of it for at least another week.

On one side there are some lily-esque flowers and on the other side it says "Go Women 2013," which was the slogan, with the go from Nagoya. Huh. But it's a nice necklace, and I've been wearing it way too much. I'm really into layering necklaces right now; I learned it from watching Sarah Palin, who layers necklaces like a BOSS. (This is the first and last thing I'd like to emulate from the former governor of Alaska.)

- - - 

It's been a week since the marathon, and in spite of my bling-ing necklace, the days have been... heavy. When I signed up for the race, it was a risk since our contract didn't extend all the way to March. I signed up anyway, high entrance fee be damned, because I needed to make plans, to live and to BE here. It's hard to do that when the are-you-going-to-be-here-or-not? question is, quietly, always present. 

The mutability of our assignment isn't a black and white issue, and it's not all terrible. While Amos' company has discretion on when to end our assignment, we have discretion on when we need to return home. It's a two way street, and the communication isn't as bad as it could be, given the difficult nature of international assignments, the inherent complications of large company budgets, and the relationship between employers and employees, especially when you have an international date line smack in-between. But it's hard, and sometimes I beat myself up on how I handle it. I wish I handled it better.

Last week, I was accepted to an International MBA program at the Nagoya University of Commerce and Business (NUCB for short). It's a fantastic school, taught in English, with a large and internationally diverse student body. I was impressed up-and-down by the faculty, the campus, the materials, the course schedule, the syllabi. It was only one year, running from April to April, 2013 to 2014, and I was absolutely thrilled to have gotten in.

I had to turn it down. 

Amos and I had to come to the conclusion that we probably wouldn't be here long enough for me to complete the program. Maybe we could have stretched it; Maybe Amos could have fought a bit to get us budget to stay those couple final months; Maybe this, maybe that... maybe, maybe, MAYBE. It seemed too big a risk. This was graduate school, not a marathon, with a graduate school tuition. MBA programs don't transfer like undergrad programs, and I didn't want to be almost done (or halfway, or a quarter-way) complete and need to either pull up roots and go home, or move into the dorms and wave goodbye to my husband as he headed back to Seattle. So I said no.

I am really, really sad about it.

I turned in an application of which I was quite proud. An application that, for the first time ever, completely and accurately captured who I am, what I know, and what I want to learn. I wrote about my journey as I figured out that accounting wasn't right for me. I wrote about the risk that I took as I jumped into digital marketing. I wrote about the bullies that I have encountered in the tech world and how important I think it is to be nice. Yup, I wrote that being nice was the most important value I've learned in my career, and, yup, I wrote that on an prestigious international MBA application. MBAs are many things, but I don't think being "nice" is a commonly associated trait.

During my interview, the most positive feedback I got was for that third essay. 

I've got a little bit of hurt, a little bit of pride, and a little bit more trust and self-acceptance of what I can bring to the table. I think that, sometimes, that's what you get for being honest and putting yourself out there. 

If I sit and am quiet, I don't think this program was perfect for me. I feel the limitations of my knowledge most acutely around technical topics: coding, photoshop, mobile and web analytics. When I was back in Seattle, I never once thought to myself, "I need to better understand Asian markets." Now, I think learning about Asian markets and Japanese business would be utterly fascinating, and I am fully confident I would never regret the time I took to understand different people and different perspectives. One day, I might really need that information.

But if I'm honest with myself, I think I need to learn other things first.

It's hard guys. I was so looking forward to school, to having something to do, to using my brain, to being busy enough to let go of the angst that seems to follow me around, no matter how long I live in Japan. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and being a trailing spouse is very, very difficult for me. It's a cush life. My passport is almost full with stamps from places like Nepal and Korea and the Philippines, and I should have no complaints. But if you ask Amos, woo-ee, I have complaints. Lots of them. It's tough for me to sit still. I'm really working on it, but it's not easy. I'm plagued with doubt and the desire to do something, but at the same time, I keep looking around and knowing that the right thing for me to do hasn't come around quite yet.

So I'm trying to sit and wait. Focus on the end goal, as they say. My end goal isn't to be working every day of my life. It's to have a life that is interesting, adventuresome, and where I learn things right and left. To that, I think I'm doing okay.

I just finished reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, and in it, he quotes passaged from books he and his mother read while she was dying of cancer. Most of the quotes, especially the good ones, were long. And heady. I found myself rereading them multiple times to suss out exactly what the author was saying. I realized that's a good thing, and that's something we don't often see these days. We have cute and pithy quotes, fashioned together in beautiful hand drawn text on a collaged floral background and uploaded to Pintrest. There's something lost in these short quotes. Sometimes the longer ones, the ones that are paragraphs and sections, they say more. I know -- it's ridiculous that I'm auguring about the length of quotes here -- but what I'm saying is that sometimes life is complicated. Sometimes it's not snippy, and it's more nuanced, and it takes a couple of reads. Sometimes the meaning will smack you on the back of the head hours or days or years after. That's what I'm hoping for Japan: that the reason why I'm here, the reason things haven't worked out as I wished they would have (from marathon times to grad school to good friends leaving way too early), that the reason becomes clear to me one day. Maybe it'll just take me a couple reads to figure it out.

1 comment:

  1. Exceptional post - love it! I can hardly wait for the next one.


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