Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Surviving an emotional rollercoaster of an MBA
Back in Fall 2017, I decided to go back to school at Aurora University to pursue my MBA. Being the second person in my family to receive their Bachelors Degree (my older sister was first), my competitive spirit made me want to be first to receive her Masters. Who would have known it would be an emotional rollercoaster of an MBA that would take me for a ride – and how I would stay on the tracks.
Imagine yourself on a rollercoaster, climbing to the top… you’re so excited… anticipation is building… and then it drops… and you feel your stomach go with it… well, that was how my MBA journey unfolded. Throughout my time in business school, I had multiple ups and downs and battled emotional distress and depression. I was struggling financially, working 12-hour shifts five or six days of the week as a server / bartender at Olive Garden, and waking up before the sun to drive with Uber from 5 to 9am. Still reeling from a toxic relationship of five years, and now unable to pay to live in my beautiful townhome on my own, I moved back home with my mom and stepdad.
Making it happen, and pursuing #selflove
You’re probably asking, “how did she even sleep or have time to study?” I still wonder how I made it happen. Not only was I now learning Applied Business Research and Operations Management, but I was also learning how to love myself again. Let me be the first to tell you: not even a professor with a PhD can teach you that part.
I was drowning, distressed and debating whether finishing my MBA was worth it, when at the time, I wasn’t even sure of what I wanted to accomplish. What are my plans after graduation? Which career paths interest me? What is it that I want to do? I remember calling my dad, crying and procrastinating… my focus was just not there. However, he pushed me and told me to take a step back and breathe, gain my focus and get right back to it… but whatever I do, DO NOT give up. His words gave me the nudge I needed to help me get centered and back on track.
A few months after that conversation, my friend passed away – a tragedy and another major drop. Just as everything was getting better, I had to deal with a losing a key person in my life, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it all. I had a talk with my stepdad in September of last year: I was crying my eyes out to him, telling him I was going to drop out of the MBA program, it was all too much. His exact words to me were: what good will that do you? You are so close to the finish line. Don’t give up.
Overcoming tragedy and sticking with it
I kept working hard. Even when my ex tried to discourage me, saying, “you can’t be nothing with a degree, but in debt” I couldn’t let my ex be right. When people told me, “you don’t even know what you want to do, you’re wasting your time pursuing that degree,” I wanted to prove them wrong! I bought a planner to stay organized and a journal to write down my goals. My sister helped me understand and articulate my plans for after graduation, sending me motivational goal-planning activities, and helping me think beyond the MBA. Financially, I was doing great. And most importantly, I was working toward the goal called “loving yourself.” This emotional rollercoaster of an MBA was climbing again, and I was getting excited.
The final drop, however, happened two months ago when my stepdad passed away unexpectedly from his battle with pulmonary fibrosis. Since I recently moved back in with him and my mom, I directly feel the stress and emotions of dealing with his loss: I was unable to complete assignments and homework, and started losing focus again. But as I continue coping with his passing, I know one thing that is helping keep me on track: he would have wanted me to push forward, and not give up.
Life can be hard, but diamonds are formed under pressure. Keep pushing! The ride will have highs and lows (I could write a book) but I am glad I never gave up. This emotional rollercoaster of an MBA comes to a stop on May 4, 2019. I am wrapping up my business school career with 5 interviews at top Fortune 500 companies, a 3.9 GPA, the ability to say I’m the first in my family with a Masters degree, and a self-love that I never thought possible.
Stay on track; even when the odds seem to keep stacking up against you
Some lessons I learned along the way:
- Stay focused and do not give up
No matter how hard it gets, don’t let the battle defeat you! Getting your MBA is not easy, but it’s worth it. Let every experience serve as a lesson and a building block for you, and never let them discourage you.
- Remember your purpose
Know the reason you embarked on this journey. Keep your goals written down, and refer to them regularly. Write down things that motivate and inspire you, and help you remember your purpose. When you start doubting yourself, reflecting on these and surrounding yourself with people who inspire and motivate you will help you get your mind right and stay on track.
- Take time for yourself (schedule it if you need)
We aren’t machines. Especially if you’re dealing with multiple stressors or events in your life while pursuing your degree, you need to take a step back and take care of yourself, and let yourself process everything going on. Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Schedule time for yourself if you need to (you can move them around and be flexible if necessary, but make sure those blocks exist in your calendar). Take time to breathe and look at the big picture before diving back in.
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