This is a time for reflection. It feels as if I only got to Stern and now I’m almost out the door. It is a surreal feeling to know that the culmination of two years is imminent. Even though I’ve filed for graduation, reserved a cap and gown and picked up my tickets, I’ve largely been in a state of denial. It really hit me though when I received my latest email about Senior Week events. I was relieved to see we would have one final Boat Cruise. It does seem quite poetic that our experience at Stern has been bookended by such a metaphorical event. At Launch, we were setting sail to share two years together. Now, we find ourselves back on shore, readying for the next adventure.
Two years ago, I was preparing to leave my job. I was thrilled! I was escaping a career that was no longer a fit for me. Also, I was moving to a city that would be a fresh start in many ways. While there were many reasons I enjoyed my time in Charlotte (close friendships formed and wonderful memories), I was ready to go. I felt like I had dated every potential prospect through various dating sites and set-ups. I was exhausted both professionally and personally.
I had high hopes for my chance at love once I moved to New York. I found myself struggling to connect with people in Charlotte and I *hoped* that there were many location-based factors at play. I thought I didn’t click with some men because “I wasn’t a Southerner and they didn’t appreciate my East Coast attitude” or other men because “they wanted a housewife that didn’t want to work.” It was dangerous and very easy for me to easily write-off these failed relationships. I told myself that Charlotte was too small compared to New York. This was a numbers game and I thought I’d have much better odds in a bigger city. I was naïve to think that I would find a relationship quickly.
A part of me (larger than I’d like to admit) hoped that I would be in a serious relationship by the time I graduated from Stern. It isn’t that I have a personal deadline for finding love; it is more than I thought I would have found it at least once by now. Graduation isn’t my only major milestone around the corner. My thirtieth birthday is in August. At that time, I’ll be working full-time. It follows that I should be satisfied that I am graduating from business school with a job, let alone the one I specifically wanted when I applied to Stern. As you probably guessed, how I should feel and how I actually feel are different. I am not satisfied with merely reaching my goals. As soon as I reach them, I set new ones that are often pushing the boundaries of reality. Given that you’re reading this (which means there is a high probability you attend Stern), you likely share this personality trait. The drive to succeed pushes us to greater and greater heights. It also makes it more difficult to savor our achievements. We often become so focused on the possibilities that we forget to enjoy reality.
There is a saying in manufacturing that goes “Fast, Cheap and Good – pick two.” In a similar light, I’ve often heard people say that you can have whatever you want, just not at the same time. Basically, many of the things we want directly compete with our time, attention and energy. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to excel in certain areas of your life at the same time…without significant sacrifices. For example, you may want to have a high GPA in business school. We have grade non-disclosure but the element of disclosure may not be what is driving you to succeed. For many people, this type of achievement requires giving up many other areas of the business school experience. As another example, you may want a high-paying career that requires significant travel and long-hours. You can get the promotions, but you may not be as involved in your family life. With whatever we say “yes” to, we are also saying “no” to many other things. What makes this even more difficult is that there is no optimal decision; it is that grey area we are so sick of discussing after Professional Responsibility. We like clear cut answers and it sucks when they do not exist.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’m doing well. In terms of “love and belonging,” I do have many meaningful relationships in my life with people that I love. I am very close with my mom, dad and brother. I also have friendships that mean a lot to me. I still do feel that I’m missing out on romantic love. Many of my close friends have found love many times and are now with the love of their lives. Naturally, I compare myself and wonder why I haven’t found love…ever. I started looking up some quotes on love for inspiration and this one caught my attention:
This made me reflect and, as you know, the process of self-reflection can sometimes be ugly. We don’t like to think we had a large part in not getting what we want. It simply feels better to blame other factors for our failures. In the same light, I’ve often viewed love as something that would happen to me. So, naturally, if I haven’t fallen in love, it isn’t my fault! I am here waiting for love and getting impatient. I’m not necessarily thinking about what I would need to do. In past relationships, I’ve likely kept too much of a guard up. To prevent myself from getting hurt, I haven’t been vulnerable. Without opening myself up to the possibility of being hurt, how could I be open to the possibility of being loved?
I find it a bit hilarious that Facebook constantly reminds me of my lack of relationship disclosure. If I go to update my profile, I am given the opportunity to “add my relationship” but I refuse. Maybe it is still my optimism that a relationship is possible for me. I’ve heard frequently that you often find what you’re looking for when you stop looking for it. While I do appreciate that sentiment, I also have a need to be proactive. With that in mind, I plan to focus on being more emotionally vulnerable when I do start dating someone. In the past, I’ve gotten in my own way. In opening up emotionally, I may just open up the door for love.
In the end, what makes my quest for love frustrating is that success in this area is not as clear cut as others. Unlike academic and professional achievements, increasing my level of effort does not directly correlate with increased success. Ultimately, I want to be with someone that I value for who he is and feels the same way about me. I need to remember that finding the right match is well worth the wait. Like a fine wine, my appreciation for love will grow over time so that when I do experience it, it will be incredible. This is a metaphor I can understand :)