Set the clock back to Saturday morning when I intended to write this post. My laundry bags are fit to explode with dirty clothing I wore between now and three weeks ago. Classes haven't started yet, but my desk surfaces are already cluttered with case studies and course books. My immediate to-do list rarely exceeds four or five items, but somehow there are fifteen things I need to do today, as basic as buying toilet paper and as involved as rewriting my resume.
It's 9AM and I'm feeling overwhelmed, to say the least. In the past, I'd have denied the feeling or given myself hell for letting things pile up to the point of my feeling overwhelmed. This time, I let it sit. I get curious about it. I write in my journal about it. And here's where it takes me:
"Last week in orientation, we played one of those games to learn people's names. You get into a circle, call out the name of someone in the circle and throw the ball to him or her. The game starts with only one ball being thrown around, but then the facilitator starts adding more balls into the mix. You have to pay attention to both throwing and catching the balls, to both hearing your name and calling out someone else's. After a certain point, you can’t help but drop one...
This MBA program is something like that game, with school adding a new ball by the week: ball one was this week, getting to know my peers over orientation lectures, catered lunches, and late-night libations; ball two is next week, beginning classes and academic work; ball three after that, committing to student organizations; and at last, ball four, starting career advising and confronting the thing I’ve dreaded most—recruitment."
As I wrote the anxiety out of my system, I had an insight about this game and about this back-to-school experience as a whole.
"What happened in the game when someone dropped the ball? We laughed. We picked up the ball. We considered why it dropped—but only for a moment. Nobody got depressed. Nobody got critical. We just played a new round...
Let’s say I drop a ball: I forget a club meeting. I miss a drinks date. I flunk a test or embarrass myself in an interview. Will the world end? No. Will I learn from it? Yes. And will I be a wiser, more interesting person for having had that experience? Absolutely."
Finally, I came to writing down my primary intentions for graduate school, which boiled down to this one statement:
"To have fun, and in all things aside from my health, to take myself less seriously."
In all these leadership and team evaluations, we're being forced to reflect on where we could grow. Sure, I need to bone up on my quantitative skills and I haven't done group work in earnest in a very long time. But where I really need to grow the most is in joy.
When I'm joyful, I'm more trusting and more patient. I am kinder and more compassionate. When I am joyful, I am acting out of my heart instead of my head. I'm living "on purpose and with purpose," to quote the side of the sweetgreen bag.
If I am joyful, then I will never fail—in this program, in my career, or in my life in general.
Classes start on Tuesday and the pressure will get high. I'll have more moments of feeling overwhelmed for sure. But in all things in and outside the classroom, I'm hoping to remember this line I wrote and laugh:
"We're all juggling together. But the balls aren’t made of lead. And sometimes they even bounce."