Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Welcome aboard the emotional roller coaster. Please fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride.

I loved roller coasters when I was younger.  I would stand in line for hours in anticipation with a grin from ear to ear.  And then a funny thing happened when I got to the front of the line - I would get a pit in my stomach and start to shake.  The reality of the impending "doom" would set in and I couldn't help but  look for a way to jump out of line.  I wasn't ready, but it was too late - I was on the ride, buckled up, and there was no turning back. 

That pit-in-the-stomach feeling describes the last few weeks of my Darden experience.  After months of preparation, we finally embarked upon interview season - and it has been painful.  No one did, or perhaps could have, prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions that my classmates and I would face.  The smiles, tears, excitement, disappointment, joy, frustration,  anxiety, relief...this sheer emotional exhaustion has now just become a part of our daily routine. 

A month into the process, some of us are celebrating our signed offer letters, but most of us are continuing to explore, weigh our options, and strategize next steps.  Despite which category we fall in, at one point or another all of us have re-calibrated and re-adjusted our initial thoughts on who we are and what we want.  We have asked tough questions about the industries we want to work in and the people we want to work with.  We have thought about our lifestyles, the tradeoffs of our decisions, and the implications our choices will have on family and friends.  We have thought not only about our own personal happiness, but also about how our professional careers can best make a lasting impact.  We have defined and re-defined our view of "success".   We have been forced to take a moment to think critically about our lives, and in most cases, we have learned something surprising along the way.

As I think back to those amusement park afternoons, I realized that all that time I stood in line for the roller coaster, I just imagined the ride would be "perfect."  I never thought about the ups and downs, the loops that brought me back to where I started, or the sharp turns that made me feel like I might not make it in one piece.  Miraculously, after I got off the ride and took a deep breath on solid ground, I would forget everything that terrified me during the ride, and only remember how much fun I had. 

So here's to hoping that when I get off of the roller coaster, I will think back, remember all the imperfections and emotions, and then realize how perfect the whole experience was because ultimately the process forced me to find and define me.

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