Monday, August 30, 2010

Something is Upsetting Me

I don’t know what it is. I am having dreams where I try to accomplish something and fail repeatedly. I’m waking up with my teeth clenched and I’m getting twitchy and paranoid about doors.

There are a number of candidates for “What is upsetting Cantabridgienne?”

It could be Work. While work continues to be Delightful, and offer all sorts of interesting challenges, I don’t think that’s it. When I check in the corner of my brain where I keep work related thoughts I see apathy and despair-not panic.

It could be because I’m never going to get laid or be loved again*. Nope. That isn’t what’s causing me to climb the walls at the moment.

It could be because I’m 35 and have not yet found my life partner or bought a home and I work for someone who still hasn’t parsed that I’m his system administrator-not his office administrator (and because he signs the paychecks whatever he believes is true.) Nope. It’s not that. I don’t sense panic-there’s nothing to be done about that now. I am where I am and that’s where I’ll be until the wind shifts.

So it seems likely that the thing that’s giving me bad dreams and making me wake up with my teeth clenched is that I have to go back to school. I touch the part of my head that thinks about that sort of thing and I hear the sound of puppies standing on hot frying pans. Yup, it seems that we’ve found a winner.

Why am I afraid? School is good for me and I always used to look forward to September in high school and college. Even September at Bunker Hill and a new class in something useful didn’t scare me. Well… It is true that I have a tendency to be melodramatic, but there was really no need to invent drama in Spring Term 2010. There were plenty of legitimate panic attacks. At one point I was wondering how I would know it was Wednesday of I wasn’t having a MGT 650 crisis of one kind or another and by the end of the term my friends were suggesting therapy.

At the time I told them I was uninterested (but feel free to keep suggesting it.) So long as I do the work (and do it well) I can take panic attacks and the Malady of Doors. But. For crying out loud-term hasn’t even started yet and I’m already suffering the Malady of Doors. What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid of having missed a pre-requisite to one of the classes I’m taking. There was only one pre-requisite listed (the class is Change Management-cross listed in IT and OPS) but what if everyone is much more advanced that I am and everyone knows (except me) that you should take all your core courses (the required ones for everyone who gets to walk out the door with MBA after their name) before you take your electives? This scares me a lot. I don’t have a clue who I’d ask about it. I have former classmates’ e-mails and phone numbers but I'm not calling them.

I am afraid of running into/having to work with people who I would prefer not to work with again. Even after a term and a half, and without intentionally making enemies there are some people I’d prefer never to encounter again because they don’t do their work and I get stuck doing it. People who’s work you’ve gotten stuck with…even interacting with them in the hallway can be difficult. They can be charming or they can be nasty (either way because they think they can roll you). School is stressful enough. I admit that I am overreacting about being scared of running into these people. That doesn’t change the way I feel.

I am scared because I’m taking two classes instead of one. This is partly due to me being alone for a while this summer (since all my friends were off teaching somewhere or on difficult family business) and since I was taking one summer class twice a week and I still had plenty of time to be bored I thought I should try taking two classes.

Although I had initially planned on taking one class and learning to drive (as my second class this fall) it’s the right thing to do. Part of the reason that going back to school still scares me is that I still don’t know what the professors want from me (in terms of papers.) I wrote my first business school paper 3 times and I still wasn’t sure I got it right. I haven’t handed in a single thing that I felt sure of the way I could feel sure of a literature paper that I’d done well (and we are talking about the ones I worked on-not the ones I relied on “native brilliance” and creative spacing to complete) even though I put much more work into anything I’ve handed in at UMB than anything but my Comps at Carleton.

I suppose it’s great to never be satisfied and still get decent grades, but I really wish I had a feel for what I’m supposed to do in my 6-20 pages. Then I could know if I had done it or not. In a way, I feel like I’m still getting by on native brilliance-only I’m just working much harder. There is a guide online for what each paper should contain but it doesn’t help me much. It’s hard to write an executive summary, an intro, 6 hypotheses, a body and conclusion over things like “why don’t you just let go of the reigns and let your new manager get to work?” Or “The economy sucks right now.” I want to write something (or present something) and know that it’s right. I want to feel like this exactly what I should be handing in (or at least “this is as close as I can get.”) Instead I just have this vague feeling that I’ve worked my pants off so it had better be okay.

Back to why it’s scary-as I mentioned above, there was no need to invent drama spring term. I’m taking two classes. I’m afraid they will come with two flavors of drama in the form of two different sets of people I will have to work with. I tell myself that neither of these classes is 650 (which made me feel like I’d joined a small cult) and that both of them intend to teach me something other than How To Deal With Other Humans as a main point. But at the same time I’m pretty sure that the whole point of any decent MBA program is not to teach you accounting or the principals of marketing and change management-the point is to teach you to deal with other humans/ They do this by teaching you things like accounting or change management and making you work with other humans to learn them. So I’m scared of people I might encounter and the drama they may cause, and what this may do to my nervous system, my digestive system and my sleeping habits.

At the same time, I need to take two classes this fall so that I can feel the weight of them on my shoulders and do whatever needs to be done to cross two more of the 15 courses I have to take before I’m done off of my list.

I have reminded myself repeatedly that just because MBA school isn’t all fun doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing. Even if every minute of it is terrible (and it’s not that bad-sometimes it's even fun) finishing it will mean that I am no longer trapped.

When I was young-maybe as young as 16-I had considered MBA school and thought that while it wouldn’t be any fun at all I could probably hold my nose through it long enough to get a degree. I am reminding myself of this version of me and comparing it to myself 2006-2009 “Oh no-I’m not something (Smart? Diligent?) enough to get an MBA.” I find the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Yes I can do it-even if it takes forever. Yes it scares me. I have found a feeling-one of those emotions that doesn’t have a name-that works out to “Yes I can do this-damn it’s going to suck while I’m doing it.” And that’s the most hopeful feeling I have about next term. This might explain the bad dreams.

*And don’t tell me “That’s not True!” because it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not-it just feels that way and the whole discussion is beside the point.

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