Rollercoastering

Life runs in fits and starts, in ebbs and flows.  It has always been thus.  How many times have we found ourselves taken up with a new hobby, only to burn ourselves out and move on to something new?  Oh, you’re really into knitting?  Let me know how that works out for you once your friends start asking for scarves for every gifting occasion.  What’s that, you’ve started writing a gritty murder novel based loosely on the characters of Scooby Doo just for fun?  I’ll give you two weeks before you realize that your social life dies a grisly death when you lock yourself in your fortress of solitude to become a reclusive genius of the written word.  I’m not denigrating this tendency – I’m guilty of it myself.  I’ve probably tried to start writing in a journal unsuccessfully a dozen times.  For the first couple of weeks I can write daily entries, but at some point it gets to be a chore and I convince myself that it’s better to actually live my life than to spend time writing about living it.  I’ve gotten hooked on shows like Mad Men and How I Met Your Mother binge-watched whole series within a matter of a week or so.  It happens.

I think these fads and passing fancies illustrate an important point about life and the human condition.  We crave variety.  We need something to break up the monotony of daily life.  As much as we joke about comparing the MBA degree to putting your mouth to a fire hose, that’s not a sustainable way to live.  We need the ups and the downs.  I’ll tell you this much: if you’re looking for a rollercoaster, you’ll find one almost anywhere you look.  I found myself riding one from May to August, and it doesn’t look like it will stop any time soon.  In a nod to my oft-abandoned journals, here’s a map of my rollercoaster – one full week over the course of the longest and shortest summer of my life.

MAY 6: A SUNDAY
Tensions are high.  I’m coming off of the Junto presentations this past Thursday, which went smoothly, but they always say there’s a calm before the storm.  My first year is about to come to an abrupt end.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday bring final exams in Managerial Accounting, Macroeconomics, and Operations.  I have a background in none of those, and my grades to this point reflect that fact.  Study rooms in the basement smell like endless coffee, Red Bull, take-out food, and despair.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but between here and there stretches an almost infinite abyss of sadness.  I’m at the height of an emotional rollercoaster, and from here summer looks like the best three months of my life.

MAY 2: A MONDAY
Everything hurts, but it hurts so good.  I just woke up from a four-day bender after finishing out Mod 3 exams, and I’m ready to start my summer.  I’m saying goodbye to some of the Major General James Wright (MGJW) Fellows as they will have graduated and moved on by the time I come back to Williamsburg.  Some of my classmates are getting ready to drive or fly across the country to get settled in and start various internships.  I’m faced with three weeks of an increasingly empty Williamsburg as I wait for my June 1 internship start date.  The rollercoaster of my first year of MBA has ended, but the ride isn’t over.  The car is slowly cranking up a hill and I’m about to hurtle forward on one of the craziest rides of my life.

JUNE 12: A TUESDAY
What the absolute hell is going on?  Just ten days ago I moved to New York City, a place I’ve only been once before in my life, and only for three days over winter break.  I’ve just successfully transitioned from the slowest time of year in the smallest city I’ve ever lived into the most hectic hustle and bustle I’ve ever seen.  In Williamsburg I did a bit of one-off work for a professor, but by and large my time was my own.  I reached out to the hiring coordinator and my supervisor at my internship to see if there was any research that would help my hit the ground running, but they told me all I had to do was show up on June 3.  The past six work days proved them wrong.  I’m in over my head, and the jargon being thrown around is such a foreign language that I wish I’d taken a whole semester to acclimate myself to it – much less six days.  This English major is looking at spreadsheets so big a statistician would blush.  The learning curve is steep, and the fact that I’m a country boy trying to find my legs in the biggest city in the country doesn’t help.  This rollercoaster just hit a loop-de-loop, and I find myself severely unbalanced and discombobulated.

JULY 4: A WEDNESDAY
The Fourth of July.  Independence Day.  A day when I feel like I’m on top of the world.  I’m in the greatest city of the world, which I now navigate with ease.  I take off from work, having accomplished my daily tasks.  I’m by no means a pro, but I’m keeping my head above water.  I’m contributing valuable input to my supervisor and I’m learning a ton now that I actually understand the world in which this company operates.  I’m meeting up with a group of friends to go see the fireworks over the Hudson.  I could see myself living here.  The hustle and bustle, while startling at first, have faded away as I acclimate myself to the lifestyle.  I’m considering living here after graduation – it really is the center of the universe in many ways.  The rollercoaster is settling down, and I’m coasting through the summer.

AUGUST 2: A THURSDAY
I need sleep.  How is the summer almost over?!  Some of the other interns are already phoning it in.  I sometimes think we aren’t even interning at the same company.  How can they come in at 9:00 and leave at 4:30?  I’m here 8:30 to 7:00 on a good day!  Lately I’ve been pulling 13-hour days.  My supervisor has been swamped all summer, but it’s starting to get ridiculous.  My days are consumed with number-crunching spreadsheets and editing, adjusting, tweaking, printing, and binding presentations endlessly.  I’ve upped my caffeine intake to five cups a day.  The heat is less intense than it was in July so I’m no longer sweating through my suits on the 15-minute subway ride, but I barely have time to run out and grab lunch to bring back and sit in front of my desk.  Instead, I’m going downstairs to Whole Foods and eating a sad salad (no, not a “side” salad).  If this isn’t the bottom of this rollercoaster, I don’t know what is.

AUGUST 17: A FRIDAY
What just happened?  Somehow I’m back in Williamsburg, and classes (!) start on Monday.  Somebody pinch me.  I’ve said goodbye to my new friends and coworkers, said goodbye to my best friend of eleven years, and said goodbye to the strange city I’ve come to love.  The past week has been a refreshing break from what was a stressful end to my internship – just because of the workload, not because of the experience as a whole.  I made some great connections and know that I’ve got a support network to assist me in my career search as I look to finish my degree.  I’ve visited my family and friends back home, and caught up on all of the sleep I hadn’t been getting in the city that never does.  Wait, do I need books for my second-year CAMs?  Oh, and isn’t the MBAA social tomorrow night at the Corner Pocket?  I wonder what the first years will be like.  Man, it seems like just yesterday that I was in their shoes.  I bet they have no idea on what kind of a rollercoaster they’re about to embark.

SEPTEMBER 15: A SATURDAY
This just got real.  Who was I kidding, thinking second year would be easy?  The Class of 2012 straight lied to us – or maybe they were just better planners than I.  I guess I’m not taking the easiest path at the moment, with the Entrepreneurship Field Consultancy and an elective in addition to my already work-intensive CAM.  I’m dealing with new team dynamics now that my first year team has run its course – and I’m facing multiple deadlines for various classes and committee responsibilities.  The craziest part is that my CAM effectively ends in two weeks.  Hang on, I’ve been back in school almost an entire month?  This rollercoaster just doesn’t stop…

… And I don’t think it ever will.  But you know what?  I think I’ve learned that’s actually a good thing.  Here’s to a wild ride over the next eight months.

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Dan Brandao

Dan Brandao is a Full Time MBA candidate in his second year at the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary. Dan graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Anthropology. Prior to coming to the Mason School, Dan worked in Charlottesville at a small internet marketing firm, first as an analyst and then as a product manager. This summer, Dan interned at a large private real-estate firm based in New York City. After graduation in May 2013, Dan plans to pursue a career in marketing.

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