Saturday, May 28, 2011

Just to be clear...

Joe likes to joke that my dramatic waffling between schools was all an elaborate rouse to move in with him.

It wasn't, for the record. :)

(I hope he's joking!)

A Near Novel on my "Year of Change"

"Be ready for this year. Things are going to completely change for you."

With the risk of sounding ridiculously hokey, I "experienced" this message last year on my birthday.  To be specific, I was walking through the IKEA parking lot of all places, when I got this feeling that brought me to a stop. I just stood there and felt like some inner voice was speaking to me, and very clearly I got the message referenced above.  Don't ask me how I "got" it... I just know that I did and I somehow knew it was true.

Fast forward a few months, and there I was walking across Congress Avenue when Joe called.
J: "E. I may have the possibility of a job in Europe. Want to go with me?"
E: "Forget about me, that's great! You have to take it if you get it!"
J: "That wasn't my question. Do you want to go with me?"
E: Silence. (Combination of freaking out & total excitement ensues...)

To make a long story short, Joe clearly didn't take a job in Europe. Yet, the idea of moving there was definitely mind-opening & intriguing.  Plus, during the potential move research time, I realized that I wouldn't be able to join him unless I had a visa. The only visa I could see getting was a student visa. Well, that would be cool - I could use my MBA so why not get it in Europe?!

It quickly became clear that in order to apply to European grad schools, I would still have to take the dreaded GMAT.  I'm terrified of standardized tests, by the way, and that fact combined with my lack of formal study since 2001 was pretty intimidating.  Luckily, I had a completely random conversation with my friend Ben who had also been considering a European MBA (who knew?!) and we decided to embark on GMAT prep courses together.  We started the Princeton Review on November 2nd and spent every Tuesday night (and about 15 additional hours per week) reviewing verbal & quantitative problems and analytical writing. There was rarely a time I didn't have my study books in tow. By the end of the course, I was a mental headcase. (Which is pretty typical for me, honestly!) I felt completely unprepared, but I still took the test on December 30 and figured "what the hell. I can always take it again if I bomb it."

I am relieved to say that I did not bomb it. The GMAT is an adaptive test that plays mind games with you for 3 hours (meaning it gets progressively harder or easier based on how you are doing, although you have no idea if you are doing well and you start over-analyzing every question.) And after all of that, you can opt to see your score right there. Right in front of you. No hiding. Or, you can opt to delete your test and never see the score and have to start over again. Tempting, I tell you!! But I decided to keep the test, luckily. Upon seeing my score, I cried from the testing center, down the hallway, down the elevator, out the building, and on the way home. I called Joe, who initially was scared until I told him the number, and he kept saying, "E! This is a good thing! Stop crying!!" (Haha, poor boys!!)

You know me, I couldn't just relax upon finishing the test. I had to immediately start researching schools, looking at admissions deadlines, checking out programs and rankings, and come to the realization that if I really wanted to get my MBA, there was no reason I shouldn't start applying and start school in August.  (Except that I might have to face the possibility of rejection, which had me nearly as scared as taking that darn test. Headcase much?!) Ironically, all of this new found pressure to apply to US schools started with just a simple solution to living in Europe. Crazy how life works.

Then I had an idea. I love Seattle. I want to live in Seattle. Seattle is home to University of Washington, which has a great program. Why not go there? Then... I learned that the MBA Preview Weekend was in 2 weekends. Fate!? So I went, and fell in love with the city all over again, met some great people, really enjoyed the school, worked hard on my application, and applied and... then... a little voice popped up that said "Are you going to UW for the MBA or for Seattle?" Oh. Hmmmm. Wasn't there a smarter (and cheaper) way to get myself to Seattle rather than shelling out nearly $100K for my MBA? (Yes. But even so, declining my acceptance was heartbreaking for me.)

Meanwhile I had applied to Texas (because I had to apply to my hometown school) but I wasn't digging the idea of going there. In fact, I was conjuring up every reason I could think of why I shouldn't go to Texas. The red tape! The same program as my undergrad! Not taking a chance at new opportunity! For some reason, to be explained later, I tried hard not to go to Texas. I did still want to learn as much as I could about the program, and I went to a Texas Schools MBA Fair just to give Texas another shot.  While at the fair, I found TCU's accelerated (1-year) program and became instantly stoked about it. So much so, that within a month, I had visited campus, interviewed, applied, been accepted, and been offered a full scholarship. Clearly this was where I had to go, right? I loved the admissions staff and the alumni who had introduced me to the program. I felt like it was a great fit for me. I would be able to get my MBA quickly, while experiencing a new city that wasn't *too* far away from Joe or my family, and I would graduate debt free. How could I turn that down? So, I accepted in late February and started planning my life in Fort Worth.

Then came my acceptance to UT, which I received while in England. Yeah, well, good for me, right? I was glad to get in, but I had already made up my mind. Looking back to my conversations with Joe & his parents, I very clearly had not made up my mind, but of course I didn't realize it at the time. I kept bringing up all the benefits of UT, and how much I valued the professors, and how well the school was ranked, and the merits of going to school for two years instead of one... but then I would always finish with the price tag and recommit to TCU.

Then came a scholarship to UT. Oh. Wait. They actually want me to attend their program!? (Joe always rolls his eyes at this, because for some reason I still hadn't accepted that they had accepted me!) If I am being truly honest, it was perhaps at this point that the walls & barriers that I had put up to protect me from the assumed rejection from Texas starting coming down. (Yes, I really did that. I'm not proud, but it's the truth. Now the reason for my other-than-Texas school pursuit comes out.)

I realized I could easily attend UT's Preview Day and be sure I was making the right decision. Ironically, it was the day before I headed to Fort Worth for TCU's admit day. Perfect: Two schools, two days full of information, a deadline to make up my mind... Go!

Should I mention that I had rented out my house during this time? Seriously, as I was driving to Fort Worth, my new tenant was scheduled to move in to my house. My stuff had been furiously moved to Joe's over the course of two nights, all the the assumption that it was a temporary living arrangement.

Back to UT's Preview Day. I admit - I walked in thinking "I'm not coming here. I got a full ride somewhere else and they love me there." Then, the presentations started. Professor Doggett led a class that had me grinning from ear to ear. The conversations with new and current students were insightful and engaging. The burnt orange piece of my heart started to swell, and by the end of the day the little voice in my head was saying "pssst! go to Texas! it's where you belong!"

I won't go much into my final experience with TCU, except to say that it was incredibly painful to tell the admit director that I had changed my mind. They had been wonderful to me, and I have no doubt that I would had a great experience there. However, my gut was finally telling me "Stay in Austin & go to Texas!" and I had no choice but to listen.

So there you have it. Starting August 1st, I will attend the McCombs School of Business full time. I have no clue what the next two years will look like, but I know this is going to be one amazing experience.  It's also going to be insanely challenging, which is why I am taking the summer off and mentally resting and preparing for school.

Please know that I'm not trying to brag about scholarships or scores or anything like that. I hesitated writing about them, but I couldn't leave those details out and still be fully honest about this whole process.  I believe my experience with GMW was what provided me the scholarships, so I am grateful for that!

It's been nearly one year since my "IKEA Parking Lot Revelation." This surely wasn't at all what I could have imagined when I heard that things were going to change for me. But here I am, living at Joe's, no longer working at Southpro, and preparing to embark on graduate school.  I guess there's something to be said in opening oneself to possibilities and seeing what happens. This isn't a move to Europe (yet!) but it's the beginning of a whole new chapter for me. What can I say? I am open to all of it!

I will conclude by saying that being "Open" doesn't necessarily come easy to me. Without friends like ETG guiding my through the college admittance process, or Ben encouraging me to do the Princeton Review, or Melissa helping me to realize I am actually worthy of success, and of course Joe & my parents & the rest of my friends, I may have shied away from "open" entirely. I'm lucky I haven't had to do this alone, and for that - I am even more grateful.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Risk, Failure & Slow Motion Samurai Warriors

Last night I finished Level One Improv at the Hideout Theatre.  Six weeks, 3 hours per week, 16 people, 1 instructor, 1 assistant instructor, and an insane amount of fun.  

The class is advertised as "Have fun, meet new people and learn to improvise in the Hideout’s low-pressure classes.  This six-week workshop is designed for anyone who wants to loosen up, be more spontaneous and learn to take risks on stage and in life." Sounds like something all of us need, right?

The recommendation to take improv came in the most random way. I attended a RISE session about being a consultant, and the presenter said that improv classes were one of the best career moves she ever made. She explained that in her role as a consultant, she had to be okay standing in front of a group of people, not necessarily knowing what to expect, and be confident in her ability to succeed. As soon as she said this, I knew I had to sign up.

Within minutes of the first class, our group was standing in a circle and taking turns jumping out while yelling our names and making a funny gesture.  (I was "Energetic Erin" and jumped out like Mary Catherine Gallagher.) For the next three hours, we played lots of games, acted out skits, and most importantly - learned how to fail.  This was one of the most important lessons I learned through the class - how to fail graciously.  It is a given in improv that you will get stuck in some way, so it's necessary to learn how to be okay with it. I liken it to learning how to fall before you learn how to ski.  We partnered up and took turns saying how we each had failed that day, while our partners applauded loudly and cheered on the failure. It went like this:

E: "I didn't go to the gym like I had planned. I FAILED!" (Failure Bow)
Partner: "Wahoo!! Way to go!! YEAH!!" (Massive applause)

Partner: "I meant to send my mom a birthday card, but I forgot. I FAILED!" (Failure Bow)
E: "AWESOME!! Way to fail!! Whooo!!!" (Massive applause)

Talk about putting some perspective on our little life mistakes! When you mess up, take your failure bow and wait for the applause!

Throughout the rest of the class series, we played hilarious games, worked through countless improv exercises, and learned to take risks with ourselves and each other.  Some of my favorites included:

  • Perform a slow-motion samurai warrior fight, and die gloriously if you are killed
  • Come up with 5 things on the spot to answer questions like "What would you say on a date with Santa?"
  • Play human rock/paper/scissors with goblins/giants/wizards.
  • Act out skits, starting each new sentence with the next letter in the alphabet.
  • Tell stories in changing styles of theme
  • A synchronized dance routine mirroring your three partners
I can't say enough about how wonderful this class was.  I can't say that I feel 100% confident standing in front of people and knowing I will succeed. However, I have learned that it's okay if I mess up, or look silly, or even blank out.  At least I try.  Taking the risk is half the battle, and in the end - it can actually be a whole lot of fun. 

When I thought I was moving to Fort Worth, I figured that I would take this class, milk it for what I could, and move on with my life.  Here's yet another reason I'm happy to stay in Austin: I'm already committed to Level Two Improv, and I am so excited to share my Wednesday evenings with my amazing classmates and equally amazing instructor, all of whom I now call friends and supporters.

While improv might not be your thing, I encourage you to take a risk and try something new. You never know what you'll learn... and how much fun you can have in the process! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Yesterday was definitely the hardest day post surgery. I decided it was time to ween myself of the pain medication because 1) I haven't been hurting and 2) it makes me feel really sick. Yesterday I was feeling particularly proud of myself and my progress, especially at the doctor's office. I was cracking jokes and having fun... until the boot came out. (Joe keeps calling it "Das Boot" in a very german accent.) I hate the boot. It's so cumbersome and uncomfortable. I wore it home, and after an hour I had to take it off because it hurt too much. Which meant I had to take more drugs, which meant I was sick all evening. I ended up watching Biggest Loser, Dancing with the Stars & the Voice for 3 hours. Someone please save me!!

Anyway, I officially am tired of being stuck in the house. I need to get out! I need projects! (Okay, I have lots of projects but I need motivation to do them.)

I know things are bad when I am starting to annoy myself. Being locked up and stationary makes me cranky. I don't like that one bit.  

I'm venturing out today. I'm meeting Jess at Whole Foods in one hour and I'm going to drive for the first time in a week. Exciting stuff! Then I'm going to Improv tonight for my final Level One class. I hope there are lots of stationary robot roles tonight.

(Sorry to complain. I feel kinda silly, but I'd rather complain to my blog than be cranky in person.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ms. Daisy

If I thought it would make sense, I would photoshop Joe's face on Morgan Freeman & my face on Jessica Tandy. Instead I will just say this. Joe has been amazing at chauffeuring me around the city since last Wednesday...and I really don't meant to complain... but I feel like between my old lady foot surgery & the chauffeuring, I have a little too much in common with Ms. Daisy!

I'm hoping I can start driving again tomorrow. I honestly am having a little trouble not having control of my own independence. Who would have thought? :)

Cabinets! Not Ugh!

It's a good thing I'm unemployed this summer. My day was consumed with looking at cabinets online and in person at Home Depot. Our cabinet person is awesome - awesome meaning we drive past two other Home Depots to get to her - and she worked with us for two hours today.  I would like to present the inspiration photos that led us to our choice of dark cabinets and light silestone countertops. 

While we are at it, here's the inspiration for the bar/wine area, too:

I'm excited. Yay for all day searching kitchen photos and stalking our cabinet lady Home Depot! Ah, the Summer of E is just as I planned!

By the way... I am most excited about the whole kitchen - the storage, the appliances, the layout. Joe is most excited about purchasing a kegerator which will live in the corner of the kitchen and have taps leading both into the kitchen and out to the pool. Boys. :)

Foster Puppy

We are fostering a puppy from German Shepard Rescue of Central Texas. She's adorable, especially with her one super floppy ear. This is the same group from which we got Junebuggers, so it's nice to be able to repay them.  However, not sure how smart the mindset of fostering a puppy post foot surgery is... Oh well - she's super stinking cute. And if anyone is in the market for a giant cutiepie of love, she's available! 

Cabinets! Ugh!

Joe has graciously allowed me to help (i.e. coordinate) his kitchen remodel. We're supposed to pick out our cabinets today but I am clueless what to do! We have run so many different combinations and come up with so much different pricing... It's kinda crazy. Anyway, I thought I'd post some pictures of inspiration...

The first one is our current favorite, and the rest are possibilities. (Enjoy, Katie!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Forced Rest

One of the benefits of my foot surgery is the mandatory forced rest. This has meant keeping my foot elevated as much as possible, keeping my movements to a minimum, walking only when necessary, sleeping a lot, and confining myself to the house. I've tried to do some work, but until today I couldn't stay awake at my computer after 5 minutes of it being on. So... little to no work for me. Just mild web surfing, tv, a puzzle, and lots of naps.

1000 pieces - check!
okay, so I may be doing a *little* bit of work :)
I really wanted to go to Home Depot today to finalize our cabinet order for Joe's kitchen remodel. When I asked Joe if we could go, he said "probably not." When I called the cabinet lady, she said she was busy today and couldn't meet. Conspiracy much?! ;) So my one chance at leaving the house today fell through, and I'm forced to rest some more.
All that being said, this is the first time in at least 10 years that I feel like I am allowed to take a break and don't feel obligated to be productive. I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts!

Hop, Hop, Thump, Thump

My first order of business for the SOE (Summer of E) was foot surgery, which is ironic since it takes me out of commission for many of the things I wanted to do all summer. (Work out, swim, box, crossfit, run, bike, etc...) However, it needed to be done and really there just wasn't a better time.

I've been fighting pain in my right foot for over a year now. It started with these painful burning sensations on the inside of my foot that felt like a hot knife was slicing through my skin. Then came the pain right from my right bunion which really started to take its toll on my running. Long story short, this was a problem that would only get worse over time and it made sense to fix it now.

I wasn't scared about the surgery at all - I was mainly concerned about how long I would be out of commission. However, about 3 minutes before they put my under, I got panicky. I'm not sure why exactly, but Joe says the nurse asked me to take my ponytail holder out, and I went "WHY??!" and got wide-eyed and fearful. Luckily, the next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room, saying "I'm hungry!" to anyone who would listen. (I couldn't actually eat though because the anesthesia made me so nauseous. Go figure.)

Joe brought me home and had to carry me to bed because my right foot was so numb/asleep that I almost feel down when trying to walk. If I had to get out of bed, I utilized the "Hop! Hop! Catch my breath and Hop!" method. Lovely.
By yesterday I was feeling better and I could finally take steps with the boot. Now it's more of a "Thump! Thump! Shoot did I step on something? June stop biting my boot! Thump!" kinda walk. I'm not doing much though. I completed a puzzle, I'm taking lots of naps with my elevated foot, and I'm trying to regain energy to get back to my to-do list. (It's really hard to focus and stay awake right now.)

I feel pretty good. Joe has been great, although it's weird that I'm the one with the problems this time around. (He is still winning 3 to 1 in injury world, though!) I'm looking forward to leaving the house again, although I must admit it's been nice to have a forced rest. And speaking of rest, I think it's time for a nap...

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Summer of E

Today was the first day of the "Summer of E."

Yes, I selfishly named the summer after myself. But it's fitting, because this summer is all about me.

Let me back up one moment... if you would have asked me even a few months ago if I would be taking the summer off, I would have thought you were crazy. I mean, it's well known that I'm a busy-a-holic. The idea of taking time off is a bit...well... frightening to be honest. A full 2.5 months without any firm obligations? Yikes! However, knowing that I'm about to emerge myself for 2 years in my MBA program, I thought some time off would be a good idea.

So... here we are! My last day at Southpro was last Friday and so begins my summer. I thought I would blog about it to get back in the habit of writing and to share my experiences.

Ironically, today wasn't that different that a "normal" work day. Went to the gym at 6:45, made breakfast at home, created my weekly to-do list, met Yvonne & Michelle for lunch, hung out at REI & BookPeople, met Taline for coffee, came home and worked on some projects, went to Target, watched the news, and lost all motivation for productivity by 7pm. Pretty average day for me. :)

Anyway... I hope to keep blogging all summer and share my "Summer of E" with my one or two readers. If you have any suggestions, by the way, I'm all ears!