Saturday, September 23, 2017

My 29 Thoughts

Yay!! It's the day of my favorite blogging tradition. The day I give my loyal readership an exclusive, unfiltered look inside my head.* Earlier this week, in a moment of contemplative nostalgia, I considered dedicating my 29 thoughts to 29 people who have positively impacted my life over the years, but then I realized I would be robbing the readership of my genius insights. So here goes.

1. I would like to be sitting outside on my stoop, but it is obnoxiously hot, and the only way I could do so is if I poured myself a glass of vino which I can't justify because I scheduled a party bus to the dirty D this evening, and if I start drinking wine now, I'm definitely going to Navs out.

2. That was a very long sentence. But not a run-on.

3. Navs out is an action verb referring to falling asleep at 9 o'clock when everyone goes out until the wee hours of the morning. I'm okay with this reputation.

4. Please, don't tell me it's hot because of global warming. When it's unseasonably cold, it's climate change. When it's unseasonably hot, it's global warming. Can I please comment on the weather without having to feel guilty about what I am or am not doing to save the environment?

5. In lieu of my porch, I'm sitting on my couch watching the A&M/Arkansas game. I love Saturday birthdays and college football.

6. And the Windians. Roll, Tribe, roll. I have a good feeling about this year, although I don't know if I'll have the stomach to fork over a ridiculous amount of money for a World Series game. Probably.

7. Another sports update. Sugga Momma Bears is doing alright. By Yahoo's grading system, I had the best draft which included the third string wide receiver of the Buccaneers. Fourteen people is too many. We need to rid ourselves of some chaff next year. SMB is 1 and 1 because of a week 1 lineup misjudgment.

8. I am the commissioner of the league, and I am hoping to replace the nickname Nips with Commish. It hasn't happened yet.

9. Speaking of nicknames, Dad texted this morning Happy Birthday Cakes. I don't know why I love that he still calls me Cakes, but I do.

10. Mom sent me a birthday card with her signature heart shaped character holding a little balloon. I don't know why I love that little guy so much, but I do. Family's just the best.

11. Carmelo went to OKC which means there will be yet another dominate force in the West. Ugh.

12. I still don't have high def on my television. I am ashamed.

13. I was told this week by a professor that because class is only an hour and twenty minutes, no one should have to go to the bathroom for the duration. I think that because the school is charging $65,000 per year, we should be able to go to the bathroom at whatever frequency our bladders deem appropriate.

14. I was told by another professor that I'm useless which I took as a compliment, because the fact that he can joke with me is a sign of respect. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

15. One of my skills is turning anything into a compliment. Like the time one of the cooks said about me: "Anna's really cool, but I'm surprised no one has killed her because of her laugh." He thought I was cool!

16. This game is highly entertaining. Big 12 football is much different than Big 10. I love the grind, but airing it out once in awhile is nice, too. Unless you're Speight; then, don't throw.

17. Back to the people in my life. I chatted with a friend from Charlottesville this week, and it was so good to be reminded of the strong individuals with whom I've had the pleasure of crossing paths. Some have been merely bumps, and some have walked with me for years, but it warms my heart reading small messages from people all over the world.

18. Now, if those people, when they read my blog, could like it on Facebook, I would feel validated.

19. A classmate stopped me the other day and told me reading my blog made his summer 30% better. Maybe it was 10%, but I like 30%. Also, he was a banker, so I don't think his summer was all that great.

20. I might pour myself a glass of wine anyways since my apartment's not air conditioned, and the fan isn't cutting it.

21. Plus, it would be justifiable because I played tennis this morning. I've been playing a lot more this year, and it's been such a wonderful addition to my schedule. My forehand hasn't quite woken from hibernation, but it's getting closer.

22. My hamstrings and calves are subsequently tighter than usual. I learned last week one of the reasons my torso is not upright when snatching is because I have poor ankle mobility, so I need to work on that. Body maintenance is exhausting.

23. I had a post-tennis pumpkin spice latte. The first of the season. Basic AF. I am not ashamed.

24. The older men on the court next to us were joking around with one another, and I thought about sixty-year old Anna hitting the courts on Saturday morning. I'm going to be so good at retirement.

25. I need to get a job first.

26. About that - no update, but I think I'm taking some necessary steps to my world takeover by age 30.

27. Guys, I'm one year away from 30! I'm not gonna lie. I think I'm going to rock the last year of my twenties.

28. For real, though, this game is a shoot out; TCU Oklahoma is next. And Michigan Purdue. What a day.

29. I can't wait until I'm 100 and get to share 100 thoughts with y'all!

* As opposed to my usual filtered window.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Tattoo

Hey there, Stephen. I stopped by the other day to say hi, but I haven't gotten around to writing. School's been a whirlwind. Six classes may have been a lot to chew, especially when they're covering topics I know little about. I just finished venture capital, and I like to think my sweetness and big-eyed gaze compensate for my complete ignorance. Unfortunately, I think the big-eyed gaze also increases the likelihood of me being cold-called and sounding ignorant, so it's a trade-off. Business school is a very good place to realize all you don't know. I should probably be reading for that class, but I wanted to stop by.

I recently visited Dublin and passed a stand of used books during a walking tour. I was inspired to find the quote from the Dubliners I have tattooed on my rib cage. You remember, the one Mom and Dad did not like in the least? I wanted to read it in context since the last time I actually read the Dubliners was in high school. I didn't get the tattoo until years later, and the story in my head went something like this:

There was a man who didn't pursue his love in his youth because he was scared of rejection, of failure. And years later, he saw his former love and her husband of many years at a Christmas party, and he lamented: "Tis better to pass boldly into that other world in the full glory of some passion than to fade and wither dismally with age."

I found the Dubliners by James Joyce and flipped through to the Dead, the final pages of the book. There was a woman, a childhood love, and a marriage, but it was very different than what I remembered:

A man and his wife were returning from a festive party, where they had enjoyed all the luxuries of a fine life. On the walk home, the man's wife told him about a childhood love. They had frolicked in the summers, and before she had to return to boarding school, the boy, who had pneumonia at the time, ran to her window in the rain and told her he didn't want her to go. He caught severe illness and died. Much more depressing than I remembered. But years later, after hearing his wife relay this emotive story, her husband lay in bed and lamented that he had never felt that passionate about any aspect of his life.

I had been telling myself the wrong story all these years - and I'm sure Mom and Dad would appreciate the fact that I had something permanently affixed to my being without actually knowing its meaning. As it is, I like the real version better. The Dead wasn't about love lost due to lack of action - which could have been useful knowledge that time I confessed my feelings to the rando at the coffee shop. The Dead was about settling and the fact that it's such an easy thing to do without even realizing you're doing it.

So here we are. Year two. I think there are two routes I can pursue. One seeks comfort. It sees business school as the next step in a series of check boxes leading to what those around me define as a successful life. A job that pays $250,000 in two years, a nice bonus, a coveted status, a life that affords all comforts. The other seeks discomfort. It sees business school as the next step to something greater, though I'm not sure what that is yet. The interesting aspect is, discomfort could ultimately lead to a life of comfort, but the underlying motivation is different. And it's that motivation that will prevent me from looking back years from now and lamenting that I didn't pass boldly.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Dome Dominates NYC: Numero C

I was ten years old when I first visited New York City. My mother took my sister and me on a girls’ weekend, and it was magical. We ate a decadent Oreo sundae at Serendipity*, saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, spent a day in SoHo, and passed through Nike Town so often, my mother befriended the staff.* I loved it. The massiveness, the energy, anticipating when the walk sign was going to turn. The trip coincided with my burgeoning passion for tennis and quickly fading obsession with interior design, so I spent the summer practicing against my garage, imagining my life in a lush Midtown apartment that had an uncanny resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld's, breaking from tour as the next Anna Kournikova. Not everything turned out as planned.

Friday was the last day of my internship. I had my laundry guy, Mario, and my coffee guy, Zach. I had my 7:45 gym crew. I gave directions to a couple foreigners on the train the other day. Not just general directions. I gave them the optimal route. I finally figured out the conference system at work. Obviously, it was time to leave.

Grad school seems to be a constant transition. The moment you’re comfortable with class material, a new quarter begins. The moment you’re comfortable in your own skin, recruiting starts. The moment you’ve established solid relationships, it’s summer. And the moment you’re comfortable with your work, you leave.

It’s also a time for experimentation, to be selfish, and to figure out your best move forward. New York City was an experiment. When I began grad school, I desperately wanted to return home when I finished. After all, there is so much that I love here, and not a Sunday went by that I didn't miss family dinner. And then I spent a summer in New York.

I don't know if I can do any description justice, other than that it gets me. Opportunity is everywhere to create your own adventure, whether it's listening to a bluegrass jam all night, strolling through the Met*, or people watching in the park. It's a place where I can sit on the subway and create narratives for any of the dozens of people around me, like the man texting the contact "unknown caller." Maybe it was a joke, or maybe the contact was labeled "unknown caller" because he was hiding something. They were texting about a hotel room. Were they meeting for a drug deal or a torrid affair? I'm an optimist, so I decided he had hunted down his wife's long lost sister, wanted to keep it a secret, and today was the day for the big reveal over a steak dinner.

It's a place I can sprint down the street with my ten pound gym bag and heels because I had gone to the wrong restaurant location and not run into someone I know. Where I enter a bar at noon to pick up my credit card from the night before and am greeted by three men on holiday from Switzerland, insisting that I have pickleback and join them on top of the bar, dancing to Springsteen. Where I was not asked once why I was still single or when I was going to meet someone.

But I did meet so many people. People who don't have everything together but are figuring it out, and in that chaos and grind, there's a sense of unity. Despite what I had heard, even the strangers were lovely: from the man who carried my bag down the subway stairs to the sweet girl dancing to the subway violinist. I didn't get cat-called once, but I did receive multiple compliments from random men, including how fabulous my eyelashes are - thank you, fellow residents of the West Village.

Of course, it had its annoyances. For instance, the credit cards. I don't understand why every bar doesn't enact the policy: give back the credit card, if I don't cash out, I get charged 20% gratuity. The fact that I spent $70 on ingredients to bake cookies. In retrospect, I should have just gotten one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I needed milk and dark chocolate for the integrity of the cookie. The multiple restaurant locations. The seventy year old man waltzing into the kitchen in tightie whities.* The stickiness of the subway, though even that was made better by the cool breeze signaling the approaching train. Still, every Sunday, I spent catching up with random friends passing through, enjoying brunch with new ones - which inevitably turned into an afternoon drink - or simply recovering from the week. While there was a moment or two of missing home, those moments were brief and slight rather than lingering and painful.

I'm back in Chardon. I can smell the fresh air, see the trees for days, and hear the crickets and birds. I gave gifts to my nieces and nephews, continuing to solidify myself as the favorite aunt, and they told me all about their summers. I spent the afternoon talking with Grandma, listening to stories about Frannie, who I'm apparently supposed to remember, and Ruthie, who died this past week. I went to dinner as the seventh wheel with my siblings and their spouses, laughed heartily and got a dessert all to myself. My dad talked through wing-T strategy and what the team needs to improve before the season starts. I love it as much as I always have, but this will always be here. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited that the next stage of life may be somewhere else.

* I didn't share.
* that’s not surprising, though, because she makes friends everywhere.
* That's right, guys. I'm cultured.
* That can be avoided the next time around
* Perks of being single

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Dome Dominates New York Part Deux

First things first. Follow @theinfamousdome on Instagram. I'm still building the inventory, but it's going to be a strong handle.

I'm at an airport, and you know what that means. I'm going to attempt another Power of the Pen style post, only this time, I have at least two hours, possibly five. My flight to Charlottesville is at 7:45, but I got off work early today - thank you, Founding Fathers, for declaring independence - and I thought I'd try my luck at standby. So here I sit, glass of rose at my side, praying that some soul will be caught in the so-called holiday traffic* - which I doubt exists because it took me one hour from midtown to gate - leaving one empty seat for me. Don't worry, though initially downtrodden, said soul ends up going out in NYC and meeting the love of his/her life. Everyone wins.

Confession: I was invited to a wedding this weekend, and I'm not going. Matt, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. Also, why are you reading this? It's your wedding weekend. Matt is a close college friend, and Maggie's great. I appreciate the invite, and they will get a nice gift from me. My oldest sister prided herself on wedding attendance, but I've determined in my adulthood that it's not my thing. I love a good wedding, and I'll make a reasonable effort to attend, but I'm also of the mindset that the bride and groom are surrounded by so many people who love them, I won't be very missed. Maybe this will change when my wedding comes around, but I really don't think I'll care who comes. Except for my husband - I'd like him to be there.* And my family. And my closest friends. And that person I worked with five years ago who I'm inviting...

Anyways, I could have made the sacrifice and gone, but another part of me just wanted to be home, especially having spent the last five weeks adjusting to new people in a new place.

And cool enough, going to Charlottesville is like going home. I got that "pre-Christmas morning excitement" last night. It's funny how when I was there, there were so many times I questioned the reasons, and now that I'm gone and going back to a number of people I couldn't imagine my life without, it's so very clear.

How's the adjusting going, you ask? I would say well to quite well. After I stopped making eye contact with Steve, my 70 year old neighbor/landlord, he has been coming into the kitchen less often, and I haven't spotted him leering in the doorway recently. Also, my subletter has a pressure cooker, and I used it for the first time this week. Folks, I'm sold. Someone buy me one, please. It's incredible. Twenty minutes and you have succulent meat for days.* Which is good, because due to the exorbitant costs of everything - I got two paper towel rolls for a casual $14 yesterday. For $14 dollars, I want the tree. - I have taken to only eating home cooked meals during the week. This week, it was PB&J for dinner, but I classed it up with some grilling. And bacon.

The job is going well. I caved and made a "that's what she said" joke this week, because the setup was just so easy, but still, no one knows an embarrassing story about me. Even more impressive, I haven't done anything embarrassing yet. I think the lack of open bar probably plays to my advantage in that scenario. Even though there are women the office, I sit in the back with my fellow interns, all of whom are male, and all of whom are younger than me by about five years. Much like the engineers at VividCortex, I pretend they are women and tell them all my thoughts. So they have to hear me pontificate about why the guy who ignored my friend request for months just re-friend requested me. Who ignores a friend request? It's Facebook. You accept all requests if you know the person. I'm not a creep. Obviously, I had rescinded my friend request after two months of being ignored. I can't let someone get away with that disrespect... They sit in silence and look at their computers. Then I tell them I tried on a pair of pants I hadn't worn for two years, and they didn't fit over my thighs. Still, silence. Much like the engineers at VividCortex, I don't really think they know what to do with me.

I had my first - ahhh I'm in a big city moment where famous people live - moment the other day. I got off my train stop at West 4th, and there was an intense street ball game occurring. I had to watch. And lo and behold, Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers was playing, complaining about how handsy the defenders were. I pitied the scrawny white boy out there, but there was one white boy who was holding his own. I've since adjusted my dating strategy to sitting outside the fences, waiting for the players to leave the court and nonchalantly run into them. I'll let you know how that goes.

Crossfit's going well. I'm slowly feeling strong again, and today, when someone asked me how long I had been doing it, I said about six years. Period. And she looked at the weight I had on the bar. And I still said nothing. Work hard where you are.

It's crazy to think my time in New York will be halfway done when I return. Time does go so quickly. And then school, and then life. I wrote on the Fourth of July a couple years ago about the freedom of choice, and at the time, I was applying to grad schools, wondering if I would be accepted, if VividCortex would take off, and I had to actively stop myself from thinking about the unknown.

Two years later, I've all but let go of the need to know my future. Talk to me in six months, and I may feel differently, but for now, I'm content doing the best I can now and being open to anywhere that may or may not lead.

As for the upcoming day of independence...

Thankfully, my job only requires me to be abreast of the latest sports new, so I'm still blissfully ignorant regarding most political topics. Unless it's about legalizing sports gambling. But, hey guys, Trump's been President for almost six months, and for everyone who thought we would - we haven't imploded! We're still a nation. Unfortunately, the Cavs are no longer world champs, but I'd choose the former if I had to, despite my intense loyalties and love for Richard Jefferson. Point is - this country is still a land of opportunity, and we still have the freedom as individuals to work toward the change we want to see.

I sometimes get frustrated with myself because I'm not where I want to be. But the truth is, I'll never be where I want to be. There's always going to be room for improvement, and while it's good to recognize that, it's also important to recognize how far I've come. How I have grown.

I've been obsessed with these 1920s Netflix series, and they make me grateful to be a woman living in 2017. To be able to work hard and be rewarded. To make my own decisions. To vote.

I think, often, it's easier to be negative than positive, especially when it comes to important issues. And while I know America has many areas where we can improve, the Fourth of July is a reminder of how far we've come. From a group of bold men who demanded independence from what they saw as an oppressive government, to the countless immigrants who risked everything for the betterment of their children, to leaders who marched for independence they didn't have, to the names of famous people if I actually read history, I'm grateful for the people who came before me. And I plan for whatever my future is to be a tribute worthy of their sacrifices.

*It seems people always exaggerate the transit time to airports. I've missed my share of flights, but it's never because I underestimated the process time. It's because I slept through my alarm. Very different.
*Need a date first, Anna.
*Could she have said that? I think so, yes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dome Dominates NYC: Part One

I don't know how many parts there will be.

I did Power of the Pen when I was in middle school.* They give you a prompt, and you have 45 minutes to craft a narrative. I took fourth in state, which annoyed me because one judge* gave me a poor score on the prompt, "Color me blank..."(you fill in the blank). And my storyline was so good. It was about the orange crayon who wanted to be green because green got used so much more. But then fall came, and the orange crayon realized that, he, too, had his season to shine. Clearly, the judge didn't understand my depth.

Many times, usually when I'm in an airport, I tell myself I'm going to blog PoP style - 45 minutes then publish. I usually start, then get distracted by a glass of wine or the person to my left, and finish the post days later. Today, though, I'm going to do it. 45 minutes, 6 of which I've already spent on the intro. My prompt: Initial reactions to NYC.

Why now? I wanted to sit outside to enjoy the humidity-free air that smells of petrol, tar, and the occasional hint of marijuana. Plus, I needed to step away from my desk. Apparently when people hear MBA, they think, "stats!," and I have been tasked with running a multiple regression to test for statistical significance of factors. Stats class. 1. I'm not going to give myself zero, yet, though, because I actually understand what I'm doing. I think business school may be teaching me something, after all.

I apologize for not updating you sooner. It's been nearly a month, but time does go so quickly. The first couple weeks I spent as a vagabond, bumming around from place to place until my apartment was ready, but as of two weeks ago, I am officially a resident of the West Village. The neighborhood of quaint architecture, tree-lined alleys, beautiful men who have chosen to pursue their own sex, and overpriced everything. I think I lose fifteen dollars every time I step out of my apartment.

Once I do step out of the apartment, though, I have a nice little routine. I hop on the subway and make my way to the gym. I'm not going to claim I've mastered the subway system, but I'm getting pretty close. At least getting on the subway. Getting off is a different story. Rockefeller is my stop, and I think I've left from a different exit all ten times, which seems statistically impossible.

I found a Crossfit gym near my office, and I'm going routinely again. This week was the first workout I've done in a while that I attacked. Crossfit's great because wherever you are, you can assume the people going are generally kind, social, and interested in at least one similar thing. Even if it's just for an hour at the gym, it's nice to have a social outlet. Crossfit's not great because you measure everything. So when I see my scores are not nearly as good as they once were, I have to check my ego and remind myself to work hard where I am. I find myself making excuses when people ask how long I've been doing Crossfit to justify the performance that I consider subpar. But I'm making a conscience effort to not do that, because the excuses don't matter.

I notice that in work, too. I asked for feedback the other day, and the feedback was valid and constructive. While I accepted the feedback in a generally professional manner, I still found my mind wandering to the reason for this behavior, or why it could be justified. We don't have to try to make excuses. We have to actively ignore the excuses.

Speaking of feedback, not one embarrassing story has been told, and no one knows my nickname from high school. Indeed, I may even be perceived as classy. Especially today, because I'm wearing my 20s-inspired drop-waist green dress with open toed boots and freshly painted nails. I'm practically Sarah Jessica Parker. Except instead of a Gucci bag, I have a ten pound gym bag filled with sweaty clothes, instead of a closet full of shoes, I have a seventy year old man who thinks it's kosher to waltz into the kitchen in his tighty-whities, and instead of Big, I'm surrounded by the aforementioned neighbors who, while beautiful to look at, are not interested in me. I do drink champagne, though, so I'm practically living Sex and the City.

Other than my assumed reputation of mysterious class, the internship is going quite well. Turns out, I like working in sports. It's been exactly what I wanted for the summer, although I do think it's ironic that one of our projects is to build a five year plan when I couldn't build a five year plan for myself.

As for New York. I like it. For all the reasons you would like New York - the food, the parks, the art. Who am I kidding - I haven't been to an art museum yet. The 4 am pizza. The large amount of fellow Rossers interning here for the summer. I had a case of the Sunday blues a couple weeks ago, as I do when away from my family, and it was so nice to be able to have brunch with a friend. Every time I've moved, I've done so alone. Doing it with people you know and who know you makes the transition much easier.

Most of all, I like the grit. I went to the gym especially early this morning and saw that the 5:30 AM subway crowd was much different than the 7 AM. I looked around at all the men in the car, all dressed for blue collar jobs. Maybe it's a naive comment, or possibly insensitive, but I appreciated seeing blue collar in the city. Not poverty, but blue collar. Because I saw my grandpa in those men. Doing their best to work hard, provide for their families, and build a life. And that made it feel a little more like home.

Welp, time's up, and I only got partway through my editing, so apologies for any typos.
* Nerd alert.
* Likely from Germany

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Favorite Travel Buddy

Retiree wine pourer at Sonoma Valley winery... says something about San Fernando Valley.
Me: "Ahh yes, the San Fernando Valley. Is that not* where the Xalisco boys initiated the black tar heroine trade?"
Retiree (with some enthusiasm): "Yes. My book club just finished a book about that. Dreamland."

I told you my newfound knowledge was going to be relevant to stimulating conversation. On a different note, I think I'm going to be very good at retirement. Although, let's be honest, I spent the last three weeks traveling and the three weeks prior working an average of two hours per day,* so I'm well on my way.

I still have to take over the world before official retirement, though, which brings us to my current state. I just finished over-packing two bags that probably won't fit in my New York sublet and am waiting for my mother to pick me up.* This seems the perfect time to write one last post from my favorite spot in Ann Arbor - my little porch. With a cup of coffee, Head and the Heart in the background, and an overly comfortable squirrel shamelessly ogling my breakfast. The topic for today: my favorite travel buddy.

I was twenty years old, and it was the first time Julie and I vacationed alone. Four days at a resort in Mexico. We spent the entire time on the resort, probably in part because neither of us wanted to go out and lose the other - more than likely, I would be the one who got lost.

One day, we indulged in massages. It was my very first massage. The women left the two of us in the room with instructions to de-robe and lie on the table. Until that point, I had been very conservative around Julie, always changing in the bathroom, but I looked at the table, and thought, "Alright, I guess I have to listen to them."

Julie, laying on her table, looked over and graciously corrected me: "Anna, you're supposed to put the sheet over your body."

Ahhh the wisdom of your elders. Eleven years is a large age gap, especially growing up. Julie and I were constantly at different stages, so very few aspects of our lives were relatable - until I graduated college, at which point, many of Julie's friends were beginning a different stage of their lives, getting married and starting families. Since both our other sisters were married, my flexibility made us ideal travel buddies, though there were still some differences. When our first dinner bill in Charlottesville was $100, I gasped in pain, and Julie smiled at how cheap it was compared to a dinner in Chicago.

Our trips have taken us to five continents, one of the seven wonders, countless restaurants and wineries, the Prime Meridian. At least we think. The landmark was closed when we got there, so we had to extrapolate where the Prime Meridian would be and straddle the imaginary line. We've missed a flight or two, underestimated distances, miscalculated directions, had near meltdowns due to lack of food. But we've laughed more,* grown closer despite being on opposite ends of the world, and found that our travel styles are nearly perfect complements.

Julie is happy to plan, and I am happy to let her do so. In February, when I casually suggested a potential trip in April, I was not surprised when three text messages later, she had booked a 7-day stay at a resort in Southern Thailand.

We share a relative disinterest in history. It's not that we don't appreciate history. We just don't appreciate paying ten pounds to climb a flight of stairs in a dilapidated structure that some guy named Henry inhabited at one point and would rather soak in the culture by means of meandering through a city, stopping at reasonable intervals for food and drink.*

We could spend an hour discussing whether we would rather have pizza hands or sweat cheese, along with all the nuances and unintended consequences one must consider when answering such impossible hypotheticals. But we can also talk about careers, love, and hardship. We're also happy to sit in silence and read. For about ten minutes. Then I share a new thought about cheese, or Julie updates me on her body temperature. Or a classic song begins playing, I sing off-pitch, and Julie hums.

When you spend so much time with someone, a squabble or two is inevitable. Like in London, when I thought we should get tea but couldn't grasp why it was exorbitantly expensive.

Me: We're in London. We should get afternoon tea.
Julie: Here are the options in the city.
Me: Why are they all 40 pounds? Why would I spend 40 pounds in the afternoon on tea? This is absurd. There's not even any alcohol.
Julie: I understand your frustration, Anna, but if you want afternoon tea, that's what it is.
Me (indignantly): Well, maybe I don't want tea.

We drank wine and ate cheese instead.

Or in Buenos Aires, when I ordered dessert and set the expectation that I was, under no circumstance, sharing. And then Julie asked for a bite. I think I eventually gave her a bite, though with great hesitation. I may still hold that once the expectation is set, there is no social obligation to share. Especially when it comes to matters of dessert.

Clearly, most squabbles revolve around food.

But food is also the source of much of our joy. From Peruvian ceviche to Malaysian street food to a well-balanced charcuterie board, we both begin thinking about our next meal after the last, and continue to reminisce on its goodness throughout our journeys.

Some things haven't changed over the years. A Seinfeld reference still seems relevant about every day. Cross-cultural massage etiquette still confuses me. For instance, in Thailand, they don't leave the room and expect you to de-robe in front of them. And then they sit you up and wrap the towel around you, repositioning your appendages and grunting. It's all very awkward.

But some things have changed. Netflix, for instance. We watched the first season of Los Chicas de Cable during our nights in Southeast Asia, and I have a new obsession with Spanish men and 20s fashion. We need to bring the top hat and low-waist dresses back. Also, if your name is Pedro or Francisco, I may shamelessly try to win your affections.

Our relationship has changed, too. Those trips, those hours and hours spent with only each other, have made us that much closer. I am very grateful to have another person who can share her experience, encourage me, and challenge me - all while making me smile.

My favorite part of having Julie as a travel buddy is that she's forced to like me the rest of my life. And when we're retired, and she's visiting me in my Sonoma home, we'll remember that day in Queenstown we stumbled upon a cozy inn, drank mulled wine and played an impossible game of LOTR trivial pursuit. Or that meal in Argentina, with steak, Malbec, and so many sauces, that was simply divine. Or that night in Penang we decided to stay up past our usual ten o'clock bedtime. We got the last table at China House, drank the most well-garnished lychee martinis, enjoyed hours of incredible funk,* and finished the evening running through the empty streets in torrential downpour. And we'll sip our wine and laugh.

* I said isn't. But is that not sounds sophisticated.
* Kind of an exaggeration.
* I lent Maleek to someone for the summer, and I'm already missing him, especially because he got in a brawl and has a brutal black eye. And I can't even be there for the path to recovery.
* And louder than anyone
* So every hour.
* They have funk in Malaysia!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Year One in the Books!

I've been thinking about this post the past week. My first year of MBA life came to a close, and I know my ten readers are on edge, clamoring for me to relay my insights and inspirations. Unfortunately, I could not document them immediately, as I began the break with an approximate sixty hour journey that would have been seventy hours had I not made the last minute decision to change my 7 AM flight to 4 PM. One thing the last year has taught me is that I do not do well with 5 AM wakeup calls. The trip included a night in San Fran, where I enjoyed tacos - because Ann Arbor's Mexican game is not strong - and catching up with a friend; a night in Shanghai, where I first applauded myself for not getting ripped off, then got dropped at the wrong hotel, then meandered around the dark streets until I found the correct hotel; and a lot of sleeping in uncomfortable positions. Finally, I landed in Chiang Mai, the beginning of my second tour de Southeast Asia during the hottest time of the year. The first four days, my body was heavily rebuking me for the last eight months - or, more succinctly, the last three weeks - of school by means of a horrendous cough and head cold. Thank you, Julie, for tolerating a level of snoring disproportionate to my size.

Now, sitting on the porch of our incredibly inexpensive but luxurious villa in the South of Thailand, listening to a tropical storm pass through, having finished Dreamland: the True Tale of America's Opium Epidemic, seems the perfect time to finally reflect. When will my newfound knowledge of the spread of OxyContin, prescription painkillers, and black tar heroin come in handy? I'm sure it will arise in cocktail conversation at some point. And when it does, I will be at the ready with a fifteen minute synopsis of how a small, enterprising Mexican town's new take on drug dealing coincided with the perfect storm of Big Pharma, the pain revolution, the deindustrialization and subsequent job loss in the Rust Belt, the rise of WalMart, and of course, health insurance, to wreak havoc on, not the ghetto where heroin once reigned, but the middle to upper white middle class, with Ohio being at the heart of it all.

For my next book, Julie suggested I consider a romance, a book peppered with phrases like, "throbbing manhood." I told her the only time my reading would encounter throbbing manhood is if it was a medical journal on erectile disfunction or STDs. I don't mix reading with pleasure.

Fair warning: this post may be more verbose than usual. The last seven weeks of school, Ross first year students participate in MAP - Multidisciplinary Action Projects* - around the world. It's a great way to experience group work, as you are on a team with three to five other students, tackling a consulting-type problem, although with much fewer resources and likely lower expectations on the sponsor's end. I realized during the project how little group work I have actually done throughout my career. I was the marketing department at VividCortex, and in client work, while I may have been on a team for the same client, there was generally a clear delineation of power and responsibility, so this project pushed me in different ways. Among them was my communication style, which, believe it or not, can be seen by some as, "too much talking." Shocking, I know.*

I think I did a fair job adjusting, though as I type, both my brain and fingers are relieved to be free from the shackles of stifling structure. They want to sing, dance, and break into the Phoebe run.* With that caveat, let's recap year numero uno.

I had a lot of firsts. First Wolverine football game. First Wolverine t-shirt and subsequent first time my parents seriously considered disowning me.* First keg stand - which, I'm surprisingly good at. Terrible at slap cup. Pretty good at keg stands. Finally, the fruits of those second period study hall Nalgene-chugging competitions with Bobby Doyle are showing. First time I made it to every class in a quarter - only one quarter, but I did do it.

I got rejected a time or two. By a venture fund, for peer coaching. Ross Diaries. The German immersion class. Pretty much any serious spot I tried to obtain. How am I not qualified to go to a country hailed for beer where beautiful tall blondes roam the street? Probably because I'm Polish. I've managed to get over it as I sit here with views like this.

I didn't get rejected from the bus, though, and you better believe Nips Navs will be vying for best white girl moves on top of that sucker every Saturday home game. I also will be helping direct Follies, the b-school version of SNL, where my sarcasm, knack for shameless humiliation, and song writing abilities can really shine. I think if I'm perfectly honest with myself, my talents are best suited there and not on venture funds.

I had to make some big decisions. I volunteered to ref the MBA2 games which are an opportunity to showcase the extent to which your athleticism has continued to deteriorate over the course of two years with the competitive vigor of a post pubescent teenager. Section two was going for a two point conversion, and I had already made a controversial call against them. The quarterback threw a dart, the receiver caught the ball in, questionably, the back corner of the end zone, bobbled it as he fell, and secured the ball as he came to the ground. To make the judgment more difficult, someone had thought it okay to step in between me and the end zone. I went with my gut. Incomplete. I then had five angry men in my face, demanding my first born child's birthright.

I also had to decide which internship to take.

I acquired some nuggets of knowledge. Although let's be honest, much of my homework was done watching NFL at Hopcat, my go-to sports bar that isn't quite as good as Citizen's, but has some phenomenal crack fries.

I had a few accomplishments. Like getting the arbitrary award of best laugh in section five.

I met some wonderful, lovely people. Ones who made me laugh, who encouraged me, who stretched my thinking, and who could belt out every nineties classic with me. I also met a few I care never to see again. But definitely more of the former.

The time has affirmed much. While the generation of Seinfeld lovers is fading, those who appreciate a reference to yada yada, the soup Nazi, or the Elaine dance are true gems. You should never be bummed about not being included. You should just invite yourself. And anywhere you go can feel a bit like high school, so it's best to smile a lot and not involve yourself with frivolous aspects of the experience.

I hate winters in the Midwest. They begin tolerable enough, but around day thirty of no sun, as my skin becomes translucent, I question my decision to leave the mild months of sun and chill in Virginia. Then I remember how much I love being closer to family.

Mostly, though, it has affirmed my decision to pursue grad school when I did. When I left Charlottesville, I quoted Andre Agassi's book, Open*: "Get yourself tired. That's when you'll know yourself. On the other side of tired." My six years had solidified that.

There were times that were harder than others. But even during the week in Winter A when I desperately wanted recruiting to end, and the week in Winter B when I seemed to be an endless stream of sobs, I never once questioned who I am, what I value, or why I'm here.

And I'm freakin pumped that it ain't over yet.

* Very high letter to syllable ratio with this acronym
* I'm also too sarcastic from time to time.
* May I just say, I think it interesting that in situations where one style of communication is less structured than another, it is generally assumed that the less structured style should adjust. I think both styles have their place and advantages. What if, instead, the structured communicator listened to the unstructured communicator and put a framework around what the unstructured communicator said?
Also, the Phoebe run is my ten second burst when I want to feel absolutely uninhibited. It has been done on many streets, many university quads, and a winery or two.
* I kid, I kid. I'm too cute to disown.
* Read it!