In 2000, I decided to take the plunge and attend grad school. Specifically, I was going for my Masters in Business Administration, or MBA. My college degree was in Economics and Management, so I had a good business background. I was a professional in the IT industry and wanted to get a better handle on the business side of things, because I quickly saw that IT was filled either with techies who didn’t understand business or businesspeople who had no idea about how IT worked. I figured having the knowledge of both would give me a leg up.
And it’s served me well.
That was my main motivation for attending. Other reasons are as you might expect;
- Standing out – I figured that all things equal, if I had a Masters and someone else didn’t, it would help me in my career.
- Money – I wanted access to better opportunities and promotions that I hoped would come from an MBA
- Education – I’ve always enjoyed learning and wanted to learn more.
All of these reasons played into it, but there was another reason that I had for wanting to attend grad school that I’ve never told a single soul.
Don’t you feel lucky?
It was so that I could have a happy graduation ceremony.
See, my college graduation ceremony in May 1996 kind of sucked. Not because of the weather. That was great. Not because I didn’t pass. I did (with honors). Not because anybody was missing (my family was there and very proud). All of those things made it a good graduation but I wanted one that wasn’t tainted by an awful surrounding experience.
What was the experience? Well, it was of course, related to…a girl. Her name: Jen.
Back up to 1993. I was a sophomore and had found a group of friends that was quite large. So large that we didn’t all know one another. I knew few people really well and they knew a few people really well that I might have just known. I’d seen Jen, who was a freshman, around but we never really talked other than to say hi. One day we ran into each other and started talking. An instant connection was formed. I was pretty conservative at the time, and she was kind of a wild child, but we clicked. There was an attraction there but nothing happened because she was seeing someone else from back home. After a few months, I started dating someone else, my first real girlfriend, and we were together for almost two years. Through that time, Jen and I remained close though not as close, mostly because my girlfriend was kind of jealous.
When that relationship ended, Jen and I reconnected and this time she was single. So, a couple of months later, which coincided with the start of my last semester of college, we got together and formed as an official couple. Things were good for the most part, but the last few weeks, I started freaking out a bit about being done with college, and she was freaked out by my freaking out. She was spending more time hanging out with her roommate and a few friends, one of whom was a guy that I remember from freshman year that I didn’t like at all. I call him Chump.
I’m not going to go into the details, but long story short, two days before graduation I went out with some friends, had a little too much to drink and didn’t call her when I got back to my room, simply going to bed. When I woke up the next morning, she’d disappeared. It took most of the day but I found her hiding out in Chump’s room. She didn’t deny what I already knew, that she’d cheated on me. I spent the remainder of that day and night wondering what I was going to do. She begged for forgiveness.
Graduation time rolled around. I saw my family, was happy that they were there, I appreciated the great weather, was thrilled at the speaker, and I tried to enjoy the whole thing.
But the whole time, I had this emotional weight hanging over me. I had no idea what I was going to do. I hadn’t yet really processed the whole situation. And, it definitely hurt the entire experience.
So much so that, four years later, when I started thinking about the possibility of attending grad school, one of the pluses in my mind was that, when I finished, I’d get a true celebration of a graduation ceremony.
And I did. Two years after starting, I finished my last class. I sacrificed nights, usually two per semester, and also did some online classes. I did tons of reading, wrote papers, and participated in more group assignments than I ever had. Luckily, my employer paid for a good chunk of it, but books and such still cost a lot. I held off social activities with friends so that I could finish up.
I did all this for the normal reasons, but also to erase the bad memories. The graduation ceremony for my MBA was not as good in many other ways as the first one had been. The speaker was incredibly boring. It was indoors in a stuffy building. Not as many of my family attended.
I didn’t care. In my mind, it was awesome. It was all worth it for the fact that I got to truly celebrate my accomplishment. It was all worth it.
Oh, and for those who are wondering what happened with Jen: After graduation, I packed the rest of my stuff, went over to her place, dumped her, and went home.
So, considering that my main reasons for attending grad school were the rational, to-be-expected kind, I think it was a solid choice. But, was my, until now’, hidden reason rational or irrational?