Thursday, April 15, 2010

In which I lose my wallet but not my mind

I really try to be independent and self-sufficient. I hate having to rely on other people. I also try to know what comes next in my life. I can do anything-no matter how unpleasant it is-provided it is not a surprise. Losing my wallet on Tuesday put me out of my comfort zone in both of these preferences.

Tuesday was a full day. I was trying to register for summer classes, print out my notes for the presentation I had to give that night on the rollout of RU-486 and dealing with about five work related issues at the same time. I left work at 4:30 to be in time to meet with my team at UMB at 5:15 so that we could rehearse the presentation that we were due to give in class, which started at 6:00. When I got to UMB, I reached into my bag for my wallet to buy coffee and water and discovered that my wallet was not there. I freaked out. I was going through my bag for the third or fourth time when my teammates showed up. "How are you?" one of them asked. "I just lost my wallet." I responded. "And I'm going to have to borrow money from one of you to get home."

We went to the classroom where we normally meet and rehearse. I dumped my bag on the ground (grabbing and hiding the tampon that was part of the mix because I was with two guys.) They discovered that none of us had a USB drive to put the presentation on, so one of them (who works at UMB) went to his office to get one. The other one tried to calm me down by joking about the mess I'd made and asking for the name of my bank (so that I could call them.)

One of the things about me that these guys have not yet figured out (well how could they-they just met me in February) is that while I can freak out at high pitch, it doesn't last. Just because I'm panicking doesn't mean that I will be unable to perform in 20 minutes. This has come up twice this term. Perhaps this is something I should mention to the next team I have to work with "I panic. It's okay. I Get Over It pretty quickly." We put the presentation on the USB drive. They both asked "are you going to be okay?" Not, I realize just to be solicitous but because we get one grade on everything we do and if I was a spaz-ball during the presentation both of their grades would suffer. Well we couldn’t have that. I am a very loyal animal. It doesn’t matter that I was a bit annoyed that these guys didn’t get that I would be fine by game time, they had my loyalty and I was going to do everything I could to show them that I wouldn’t fuck up the presentation just because I had lost my wallet. This last little reminder of what we were here doing at the moment was enough to shove the Panic Monster back into the closet-not permanently but at least until after we’d given our presentation. So I told them I was fine and then to prove it I engaged in listening to them practice their parts of the presentation and helped them with their French pronunciation and biology pronunciation (“Et-tee-enn.” “Prost-a GLAN-dins” “Abortion inducing-not abortion provoking. One provokes an argument. One induces an abortion”) and smiling and nodding when what they had to say was on point.

Then it was time to leave for class. One of the guys said he’d lend me money to get home. “How much do you need? Here is 15 bucks.” The problem was I didn’t know how much I needed to get home and back to town again the next day I was however pretty sure that it was going to cost me more than 15 bucks. So I boldly told him I needed 50 bucks. I am still not sure if that was okay. But having someone say that they would lend me 50 bucks allowed me to know that I would have enough cash to get home, get into town and buy myself a bagel the next morning as well as whatever other expenses I might encounter before getting to the bank and somehow convincing them to allow me to cash a check even though I had no ID. It helped me keep the panic monster away. If one of these guys had asked me for a loan of $50 because they had lost their wallet, I would have coughed it up-no problem. (Although if it happened this week I’d have had to write them a check.) So maybe its not that socially unacceptable. I don’t know.

We got to class. We discovered that we had to present first. Watching our presentation, you never would have known that I’d lost my wallet an hour ago.

The history of RU-486 is, for better or for worse, all about politics. We had to present an analysis of the case from a Strategic Design perspective. Normally, Strategic Design is my favorite perspective because it’s the one that actually makes logical sense. Strategic Design is all about how a company (or in this case, the company’s suppliers, regulators, customers and competitors) is organized. Who reports to who and why? SD allows one to ask how things would function if humans were logical. It’s the equivalent of a frictionless vacuum (if you’re thinking of physics) and it is the least useful way of analyzing the rollout of RU-486 in France in 1989. I had pointed this out to one of my teammates early on in the game and he responded by saying that that was too bad. Some other team got the political angle.

In spite of the fact that this was possibly the least useful perspective from which to analyze the case, we had a solid presentation. We had spent seven hours working through it on Saturday and even if we found pronouncing some of the words difficult (Even I had difficulty with the name of the German company involved) we knew what we had to say and we had lovely PowerPoint slides and a nice handout to help drive home our point. I was looking forward to giving this presentation because I knew how solid our work was. This meant that the Panic Monster had nothing to say about anything once the professor called our team to take the floor. We did a good job. We smiled at each other when we made nice points or pronounced some jaw-breaking word correctly. I fielded a sticky question with confidence. And then it was time for us to sit down and watch the rest of the shows.

While the other teams gave their presentations I ate dinner (Odwalla bar) fed one teammate another Odwalla bar and gave both of them gum to chew. I actually like doing this because it is a nice non-verbal (and therefore not rude) way for us to communicate and share during other people’s presentations. I made several lists of things that I needed to replace (first priority list-bank card, State ID and RFID card to get into work. Second Priority list BJs card, UMB ID and health insurance card). This also helped keep the Panic Monster at bay.

We sat through all of the presentations. One of my teammates had to leave at class break. The professor gave us back the paper we had written a few weeks ago. We got a good grade on the paper, but we had some questions to ask. I gave us time to ask these questions even though I knew this meant that I would miss my train (realistically, it had been such a horrible day that I knew that I was missing the 9:30 train sometime around 7:30. Just cuz.) When we lurched out of the classroom and towards the shuttle to the T, my teammate asked “aren’t you afraid of missing your train?” I responded, “It’s okay. I know I missed my train, but after losing my wallet a missed train is not that big of a deal.” Which was true at that point, although getting an A/A- on a paper I knew Was Not Our Best Work after giving a good presentation certainly sweetened the deal a bit.

The next day I called the office manager and left her a message saying that I’d be late because I had lost my wallet and I needed to visit the bank, talk to the MBTA transit police etc. I didn’t freak out about any of this even though there were about 10 things marked “Urgent” that I needed to deal with at work. I had lost my wallet. This required that I take certain steps, which were just as urgent as the work that needed to be done. Furthermore, I knew that I had lost my wallet not because I was a useless spaz who shouldn’t be allowed off the leash but because I was juggling chainsaws. I was trying to register for classes while fixing the computer of the lady who writes our quarterly letter, convincing my boss not to take my server-room key to the locksmith (because he’d misplaced his and I wasn’t sure if I’d be together enough to demand it back from him and I need that key-he doesn’t) setting up accountants on our online vault so that they could get tax information (this all happened on April 13th) getting my notes and our handouts for this evening’s presentation printed and doing about 12 other things. The fact that I put my wallet in my pocket and it fell out after I swiped my T pass at Back Bay station was not my fault. I have been losing my wallet or having it stolen from me regularly since I was 14. But this was the first time I had dealt with everything involved so calmly.

I place this firmly on my involvement with UMB’s MBA program. Doing good work and getting good grades and pat-pats from my teammates has increased my self-confidence. Increasing my self-confidence and giving the Panic Monster reasons to go away (I can’t deal with you right now-I’ve got a presentation to give) are both good things. Yes it sucks that I lost my wallet. I am, for the record, still pissed about it. But I can deal with it because there are other things in my life that don’t suck and these things allowed me to calmly deal with the MBTA police, the credit card companies, my boss and the RMV. And now if you’ll excuse me I have two papers to write.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Sunday 2010

When I was 18 years old and a freshman in college I decided to attend church for Easter Sunday. I wasn’t really a church-goer, but Easter’s a biggie. I felt the need to attend for reasons I was not clear on at the time. I remember discussing it with other freshmen on my floor and finding out that pretty much everyone from a Christian background was attending some kind of service for Easter. I think that may have helped tip the scales in Church’s favor, but it’s hard to remember since it’s so long ago. A good friend of mine (a self proclaimed druid) was taking a religion class that required her to attend some sort of religious ceremony at some point in time in the trimester. So when I announced that I was going to church on Easter Sunday, she said she’d come with. I decided that we were looking for three things in our Easter experience.

1) An early morning service. Somehow (and I still believe this-no matter what I actually do) I really feel that Easter is best celebrated early in the morning. Perhaps it’s because it’s a spring holiday, perhaps it’s because I was dragged to a few sunrise services as a kid or maybe it’s just that the church windows are so beautiful with the sunlight streaming through them.

2) A breakfast afterwards. I took it as a given that the breakfast would be horrible, but that was part of what I expected as part of my Easter experience. Before I went away to college, we would go to Easter service at my parents’ and we’d sit with a family with which we were friends. My sister and I would joke with the two girls in the B family about how the sausages resembled cat turds. We were all punchy from having gotten up early and that was part of the good vibe that I expected to get out of attending church on Easter. So church breakfast was an important part of the package. In hindsight, my standards for what constituted Horrible Food had probably changed by that point in time as I had been eating food service at college for a term and a half. I’m guessing that even the prospect of Differently Horrible Food was appealing to both me and the friend who was accompanying me to the service.

3) Car service to and from church. We were college students in Minnesota. Neither of us had a car and we planned on dressing nicely. So we needed to be ferried to and from the church service.

I had no problem finding a Lutheran Church that satisfied all three of these conditions. My friend and I got up early and were conveyed to the church. We sat through the service. Neither of us was interested in taking communion. The breakfast was indeed horrible-just as bad as food service. But I didn’t get the good feeling I expected to out of the service. I concluded that I was only really going to find Church to be a worthwhile experience if I’m surrounded by my family and the service is familiar.

Fast-forward 16 years. In this time, among the many things that have happened and the many decisions I have made, I have changed my religious self-identification back to recovering Catholic, as opposed to luke-warm Lutheran.

Over the past week or two, I had felt the need growing in me to attend a Mass. I don't do this sort of thing regularly as my relationship with God does not fit any of the available templates (that is, organized religions). I accept this. I also accept the fact that I am not going to work out my own template, because I have other things to do. So when I feel the need to talk to God, I use the protocols that I know-even though I don't believe in the associated paradigm. Which is a fancy way of saying that I go to Mass to talk to God, even though I'm pretty much apostate.

As I mentioned above, I have recently felt the growing need to go to a church service-and even though I’m not a churchy sort, I consider this a good sign. This is not the sort of thing I'd feel if I were uncomfortable with my life. If I was miserable I wouldn’t have the brain-space to wonder about whether or not attending Mass would help. For example, last summer it never occurred to me to go to church even though there’s a church half a block from my house. I was too busy being miserable about how a friend of mine was dying and my romantic relationship was falling apart. It never occurred to me that church might be comforting.

Instead, I was feeling the need to go to Mass partly because I felt the need to say “thank you” to God about how much better my life is now that I live in Beverly and have started work on my MBA. I also felt a strong need to hear someone say “he is risen indeed” to start my spring off properly (for the record, no one actually said that. Ironically, I think its part of the Lutheran service).

So I had been contemplating going to Mass on Easter for several days. Before going to bed on Saturday night, I checked the schedule of the nearest Catholic Church and set my alarm to a time that would allow me to catch the earliest Mass (even though I was dog tired.) I also noted that there was a 10:30 Mass, for all the slackers. I woke up when my alarm went off, but elected to go to the beach instead of going to Mass.

When I was a kid, and Grandma lived in Beverly, we used to come up here for Easter. A few times (my memory is shaky but I’m pretty sure we did this more than once) we went to a sunrise service at Lynch Park. It’s true that the service was short, but getting up at sunrise to wear a spring dress outdoors on Easter in Massachusetts is Not Fun. However, I retained enough of an impression of these one or two services and evidently some part of me finds the idea of sunrise on Easter on the hill at Lynch Park appropriate (however inconvenient this actually was-given the weather.) So instead of just going to the closest beach I opted to go to Lynch Park for my morning walk.

It was a beautiful day and the tide was out. I went first to the hill where we had watched the sunrise when I was younger and then to the main beach. I took pictures. I took my shoes off and stood in the Atlantic Ocean. I called my sister to share the experience (she has three small children so I knew that she’d be awake at 8:00) and talked to my still-sleepy niece and nephew. But mostly I walked and rejoiced in the beautiful weather and the fact that I was there and awake to enjoy it (as opposed to still sleeping in Cambridge and avoiding waking up for as long as I could).

Eventually, I decided that I was hungry and I headed back to town to eat breakfast. I asked myself whether or not I should still go to Mass. I like following through with good intentions. But I asked myself if I hadn’t already celebrated Easter by going to the beach and rejoicing there. “Do I need to go to church?” I asked myself “Didn’t you just do that?” I answered. In the end I decided that I did, in fact need to go to Mass-not just because I owed it to myself to follow through with my earlier intentions, but because I did in fact need to say “Thank You” and that’s part of what Mass is for.

So I went. I felt like a bit of a poseur, but I decided that no one was allowed to judge my actions but God and me. So I found a hymnal and a place in the hindmost pew and started looking through the hymnal for the hymns and the readings. I could see that I was the only one that was doing this, which struck me as a bit odd.

Not too terribly far into the service something else became apparent to me. For several years I had found attending Mass uncomfortable because I felt the need to respond to the rituals that had been ingrained in me, but I had resisted. Now I knew I was there partly for the ritual. I think that part of the reason I chose to go back to being a bad Catholic (as opposed to a bad Lutheran) is due to the experience I had in college when I attended Easter Service and was disappointed. If you are a protestant and you are attending a church in your denomination of choice somewhere other than your home town, you can have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to say and sing and how you’ll be expected to conduct yourself. But if you attend a Catholic Mass in a strange place, even if you haven’t been a regular attendee of Mass since 1987, you know exactly what you’ll get-whether you’re attending a church in Cambridge, MA or Staten Island, NY. This is part of why I reverted to being a recovering Catholic.

So I discovered that I find attending Mass satisfying partly because I’m slightly OCD. It’s true that attending Mass as a kid has probably helped to bring out these OCD tendencies. Apparently the whole thing is one self-fulfilling loop. But I don’t care. I am a person who spends all day thinking about whether or not the coffee pot is plugged in. Spending an hour or so crossing myself, repeating known responses and reciting the Pater Noster is not going to change my identity. It is not going to make me a practicing Catholic. It is just satisfying the part of my brain that needs to respond to compulsions. And by satisfying this part of me that feels compulsive about things in a church, where I know no one (and where everyone else is doing the same thing) I am less likely to have this tendency of mine negatively impact my professional or social life.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t pay any attention to the rest of the service. I noted that the Psalm of the day (118) was the one about how “this is the day that the Lord has made” (I have no idea how to cite Psalms. ) Apparently, this psalm is the source of “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone” (a personal favorite of mine, and probably all late bloomers) as well as “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes” (supposedly what Queen Elizabeth I said when she received news that her sister Mary was dead and she was queen of England.)

I listened actively to the readings and the homily. I always listen to the homily. If for no other reason than that I read literature and interpret it. It seems to me that the homily is just an essay interpreting a piece of literature, which we have all just heard. So morally and vocationally, I am always interested in what the priest or minister is saying. This particular homily was an epic failure, if its point was to Convince Catabridgienne to Be a Practicing Catholic.

The priest had two points neither of which was attractive to me. Point number one was underlying the need for a Pope which he attempted to express/justify through the story of Mary Magdalene going to Jesus’s tomb, finding him absent and running off to Peter (and John?)

If this was a paper I was grading, it would have gotten a bad grade. The linkage between what actually happened and what he claimed happened because God wanted it that way was very weak. And furthermore-this is Easter Sunday-you’ve got a large audience. Shouldn’t you be preaching about universal peace and love instead of responding to Maureen Dowd’s column?

The priest’s larger point was that we were all in this for afterlife insurance. We were all there because through the sacraments we could defeat death and live eternally in Heaven. Um, no. Ick. Really, I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect Sunday to remind me why I want nothing to do with church.

I have spent and will continue to spend a good deal of time thinking about my relationship with the Big Guy Up There and what constitutes my personal salvation. However, none of this has anything to do with afterlife insurance. I am much more interesting in being a good human now and knowing that I did the best job I could at helping my fellow humans. I may or may not have an afterlife, but knowing that I am a good human in my actual life is important to me. Since I operate (personally and professionally) in “what could possibly go wrong?” mode, I generally leave the afterlife out of my considerations. But if there is one, I take comfort in the idea that I might, at the very least, get to hang out with the Virtuous Pagans-instead of being sent to purgatory.

As I stated above, I am not a practicing Christian, but at the same time, after the Mass was over and while people were taking pictures of their kids at the alter, I knelt and gave up my small, informal, unorthodox prayer of thanks to God for allowing me to be in a place to make myself a better person and to better enjoy life. I don’t think there’s any passage in the Bible that specifically recommends this particular course of action, but from my point of view this is what constitutes salvation. I am not there yet, but I am on the right road.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

I sleep less, I'm out of my Comfort Zone but it's kinda fun

Last week I spent more time on the phone with one of my Organizational Design teammates than I did with my mom, my sister, my friends, my boss and all of my vendors combined. I stayed up past 12:45 on the phone working on things on a weeknight twice last week. On Monday night I called it a night at one even though the paper we were working on (which was due on Tuesday) was not done. I knew I was going to have to do a lot of work on it-while at work the next day-never a good deal. But I couldn't do any more work that night. My eyes couldn't focus on the screen. Unlike my undergraduate career, none of this was due to Poor Planning on My Part or procrastination. If anything, it was due to me being a wimp and not forcing harder deadlines on my teammates.

We had a 10-page paper on our own team dynamics due on Tuesday. The previous Monday (not the day before it was due) we met and wrote the outline. We almost got into an argument that night because one of the three of us thought the thing was done and the other two of us were feeling a bit rushed. When I realized that the three of us were past the point of coming to any kind of agreement (we'd had a 20 minute discussion over whether or not we could work on it for 5 minutes more) I agreed with my teammate who said we were done for the evening-we weren't going to do anything more than get into another argument.

I Felt Bad about the situation for an hour and a half while waiting for the Commuter Rail and taking it home. When I got home, I sent a nice long Anna Karenina of an e-mail to both my teammates explaining my frustration and detailing a plan for fixing things. I made sure to add a few corny jokes to dispel any hostile note they might perceive and to phrase everything in terms of "I feel." I was going for "Guys, I have this problem-here's how you can help me out with it. Really it's just me being weird so just humor me." I said I was feeling concerned about the amount of work that we needed to do and that I personally was planning on starting this paper on Wednesday (we have class on Tuesday) so if they were cool with it, could they pick parts and start writing them as of then too?

I’m entitled to be concerned about this because the project at hand was a paper and I'm the editor, so I have to compile everything and make sure it's clearly written. I signed up to be editor not because I thought I had any great editorial skillz, but because given the options available (Team Leader-certainly not. Graphic Designer-please I know a 9 year old with better graphics on her blog) editing seemed the thing I could do best. I mean, there’s this blog I write and so it’s not like I’m uncomfortable expressing myself in print. I also care deeply about my words. I didn’t want anyone else to have final say over which of my carefully chosen and arranged words got cut.

However, I should also point out that I am good at Feeling Bad about things. There is some part of my brain (friends have suggested that it’s my inner German, as opposed to my inner Lithuanian) that genuinely likes feeling bad. When I catch myself doing something dumb or otherwise failing to meet the standards I set for myself, that part of my brain says “Ooh! Guilt! We can do that-we do that really well! Just watch!”

Neither of my team members responded directly to my suggestions. The team leader said that we needed to have a further discussion about meetings. As soon as he brought this up directly and in person, we had the argument that I was hoping to avoid the night before (and right before the three of us were due to give a presentation.) We didn't come to a resolution.

We didn't address any of the points I had brought up. We ended the argument by saying to ourselves repeatedly “We can’t argue anymore-we have to go to class now.” As we headed off to class I said “Great-conflict and speaking in front of other people-two of my favorite things!”

I had a telephone conversation the next day with one of my teammates about who was going to write which parts of the paper (the other one couldn’t meet because he had to work, so he got whatever we didn’t want.)

On Saturday, when we all were meeting up to interview people from the organization we were studying, one of my team members brought up the point that our outline was missing a few sections. I was against agreeing with him because we were in the middle of doing something else and it was way too late to be making changes in the outline. We discussed, but didn’t come to a conclusion. We went our separate ways.

I got home, called him and told him why I thought he was wrong. I had spent an hour and a half thinking about it while waiting for the train, which was unfortunate, because I had convinced myself that I was right based mostly on the fact that it would really suck if we had to incorporate more parts into the paper at this late date. I believe I called him and said "Hi-you're wrong." which is never a good way to start a conversation. What can I say-my people skills are terrible. That's part of why I enrolled in an MBA program.

He pointed out that I was full of it (politely.) I felt horrible about "climbing the ladder of assumptions" and being "solutions minded" or just plain pig-headed and believing things because I wanted them to be true, not because they had any factual base. But then again, as I mentioned earlier, Feeling Bad is one of my specialties.

The next morning, I finished my sections, posted them online for all to see and went off to breakfast at 9. I don’t think my breakfast conversation made a lot of sense that morning.

And then I got to the actual copy-editing. I got my first few drafts at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. I went to work and really enjoyed myself for the first few hours. Even though there were a lot of changes to make I was taking ideas and causing them to be better expressed, which is satisfying, if not as easy as plain old writing. I also had a few non-grade related challenges. One of my teammates who may have noticed that confidence is not my strong suit mentioned that I really needed to take care of editing the paper without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings-including his. So I needed to prove that I could be a competent editor. I also knew that I needed to pare back my own writing style. Alliteration and $.75 words are great for literary essays but they don’t belong in business school papers.

So I edited 4 pages worth of material and sent it back to the author, figuring (correctly) that he would call me and we could discuss why I made the changes I made. We discussed. He agreed (eventually) to almost all of my suggestions and we improved a few things together. That bit-co writing-is also kind of fun, in my opinion. It’s true that it’s more fun when you’re co writing stories about animate bulldozers and drunken dragons than it is if you’re writing about Task and Maintenance functions or affective and structural conflict, but it’s still a collaborative creative process and that makes it fun.

After a while, I was too caffeinated to be productive and I felt like I’d blown a circuit in my brain. I got the second set of pages from my other teammate, and wrote up another section we’d decided we needed. After slogging through other people’s concepts, straight-up writing was rather refreshing. But in one evening five hours was as much as I could do.

I was dismayed when I woke up the next morning and discovered that whatever circuit I had blown in my brain had not repaired itself over night. I felt like I had a “paper” hangover. The sight of Microsoft Word for Mac made me feel ill. It was distressing to feel so wiped out this early in the process. I made myself work for a while anyways.

I called my parents (it’s a good idea to check in and let them know I’m alive every once in a while and I needed to talk to someone about something other than Team Dynamics, Task and Maintenance functions, Affective Conflict and Solutions Mindedness. Also, Mom is a consultant for the NYC Writing Project, so I figured I could ask her a few writing/editing questions.) I finished the draft I was working on and e-mailed it back to the author and watched Strong Bad e-mails while waiting for him to call me back and discuss edits.

I started to work on my second teammate’s work. He had no citations from the book. Ugh. It’s not my job as editor to find citations for people. It’s not my job to teach them how to write. I told both of my teammates that I would be willing to discuss edits with them (I think you get a stronger paper that way-I can ask what each of them meant and work with them to express it better.) One of them accepted my offer. The other one just said “do what you need to do.” At the time I figured that was partly because English is not his first language and, as such, he’s not as attached to his written prose as some of us (*cough cough like me*) are.

I thought I knew something about the position he’s in, since I had to write most of my papers in college in my second language (French) and my grammar and spelling were awful. I would reluctantly avail myself of the native language TA to have my papers flayed. Even though he (the TA) was a good friend of mine, he had no problem ripping my written word up and saying things like “Well you could say it that way, but then you wouldn’t be saying it in French.” I took his suggestions and went on with my work. I didn’t hand my paper over to him and expect him to write it. And that’s what this team member has done.

So I e-mailed him and asked him if he could come up with some citations. He gave me a non-answer. I decided this meant it was time for a pedicure.

Friends of mine have who have already gone through the Grad School Process have advised me to take breaks in order to avoid burning your brain out and I did try to do this throughout editing this paper. But I hit diminishing marginal returns repeatedly. My team leader called me while my toes were drying and we talked for a bit. I ate dinner, went home and went back to editing. At this point my memory gets a bit fuzzy, because I had a wicked horrible headache and I was tired of thinking.

I took a walk around the block (even though it was pouring rain.) I eventually got a few more sections from the teammate who was uninterested in citations. I called the team lead and asked for editorial help (because the paper was still way too long. It was about 15 pages long and we could not exceed 12. I believe I called him and said “Help!”) We worked through stuff until 1 AM at which point it became apparent to me that I could do no more. So even though the process of cutting things out wasn’t done and I had to go to work tomorrow I had to stop. I didn’t know how I was going to manage to finish editing this paper while at work, but it was impossible for me to do so then. I couldn’t read the words on the screen anymore.

We agreed that there were a few things he was going to work on (because of course, just for fun, this wasn’t the only written document due that day) and there were a few things I was going to work on. We agreed to a check in time of 10 AM. I went to bed.

This feeling of being too tired to think is new to me. This is because it has been an awfully long time since I tried to do anything intellectually rigorous after 8:30 PM. This process of re-discovering my ability to think in the evenings has happened mostly through phone conversations with my teammates. I never would have learned to be mentally agile enough to talk about something more important than Firefly or the Beatles in the evenings without outsiders-if I had to (for example) write this paper myself, I would just arrange my time so that I could get all my work done in the mornings on weekends or between 6 and 8:30 on week nights.

The next morning I let myself sleep in until 7:15. If it hadn’t still been pouring rain I would have brought my laptop with me and continued editing while on the commuter rail. Instead I dozed a bit.

At 8:22 that morning my phone made a happy, iPhone text message noise. I figured it was just my teammate checking in early. It was not. Instead, it was one of my employers texting me to say that no one could access any files on our internal network. Panic! At least I could text him back and say that I and the technical contractor would be there momentarily. Insert an hour of me losing my mind. At the very least, I told myself, the initial burst of panic had woken me up well and I was now mentally alert and ready to edit things-just as soon as the network was functional and provided I didn’t need to do massive amounts of follow up work on the current crisis.

I hacked at the paper all day (while managing to do the things people pay me to do as well.) The team was due to meet up before class and compile material. But one of our teammates had a flooded basement, so it was just two of us at game time. When we met up and the team lead said “you did a good job of editing this paper” the pain and suffering of the last few days melted a bit (editing this paper was, on a personal misery level about on par with the server replacement project but below the whole “packing up and moving out of Cambridge" thing. Which is to say it I planned for it as best I could, I worked on it as hard as I could and it still wasn’t done on time.)

The two of us spent several minutes obsessing about style, font and sections and then we got to go to class and hand the thing in which means I got to stop worrying about it.

As I mentioned above, editing this paper was a miserable experience. But I had help from my team lead and he gave me pat-pats for a job well done. The two of us have discussed things I need to explain so that editing the final, 28-page paper (which is about 40% of our grade in the class) doesn’t send me to the ER. I brought some of these things up in our team meeting Saturday afternoon and I feel confident that I can bring the rest of them up once we have a paper with a grade and comments from the professor.

I can also see that the Professor knows that the three of us produce dynamite work--head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the class.

I have a solid working partnership with the team lead. We talk to each other on the phone and try out our shiny new MGT 650 phrases and concepts on each other. We learn things together by elucidating concepts to each other. It would be awesome if I could do this with both teammates, but I’ll settle for one since I have been pining for a solid work partnership of some sort for about 10 years.

And frankly, dealing with these guys and spending quality time thinking about communication has already improved my work life. I have started avoiding stepping in and screaming at people if the situation is not an emergency. But on top of that, I am doing something that is good for me. I am used to working hard and getting nothing for my efforts. Now I will get something for my efforts. In a few years I will get to add MBA to my name. And, despite what I thought a few months ago, I will know more than I did when I applied for the program. This in and of itself has made my work environment more tolerable and has given me the confidence to better explain myself to my boss or to my coworkers-even when they are playing “Gotcha” in a meeting in front of the entire staff.

Last week I was at work and I was taking a walk because I was falling asleep at my desk, because I had been up late doing MBA stuff for two nights in a row. I walked into one of the conference rooms and happened to yawn-really loudly. I had forgotten that one of the owners was interviewing someone in the adjacent conference room. After I yawned I heard him say “and we have a tendency to bore people here at Company Name.” I knew I was going to have to step in to the meeting and introduce myself and get my chops busted a bit in front of this complete stranger (I had no idea if he was a potential client, a potential summer hire or an informational interview.) So I looked into the conference room with a sheepish grin on my face and the owner gave me a gesture that said “yes please, come in” and a smile. He said “this is the yawner. This is Cantabridgienne who is head of technology here (wouldn’t it be nice if that was actually true)” and I shook the guy’s hand and said something to the effect of there was really nothing boring at all about working here. The other coworker of mine who was in on the interview said “she’s just tired because of all the work she’s doing for her MBA.” And while it is true that I would have smiled and nodded if I was just tired because I’d been out late drinking with my former college roommate, the fact that he said it and the fact that it was true gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. So yeah, I’m actually having fun.