It’s been a while since I’ve had to breathe deep and act normal. I’ve had the usual worries, niggles, fears – but nothing that’s ground me to a halt. Until last week.
I received an email out of the blue a few weeks ago from the MIT Sloan School of Management, inviting me to an MBA event in London. Turns out, they think I’m a ‘stand-out’ woman. I’m sure they say that to a lot of women, but it still made me chuckle. I rarely talk about my day job on the blog, for fear of chasing away people with how truly nerdy I am. I get excited about automating process flows, for Pete’s sake! So for MIT to take notice of my nerd skills was entertaining, but not something I really wanted to explore if it involved networking. Otherwise known as talking to total strangers about myself. Eeeeek. And hyperventilate.
When I didn’t respond to the original email invite, I got a follow up. This event was going to be a face-to-face meet and greet with all the top global business schools, and a chance to ‘sell’ myself to them and their programs. Didn’t I want to invest in myself? (A bit of history here: I started an MBA the year before the global financial crisis, and when I took voluntary redundancy, I negotiated a lot, but not the ongoing funding for the MBA. It’s a crippling amount of money, and I just completed the first unit.) I was all set to RSVP ‘Hell No’, when Husband Dear urged me (strongly) to attend. So I did.
There were several points during the day when I nearly talked myself out of going. I had no idea what to expect which made it impossible to map out contingencies which set me firmly outside of my safe zone. Ergo spiralling discomfort and panic. I dropped DD to ballet and had a calming coffee. I read something trashy on my Kindle. And then it took 70 texts back and forth with Husband Dear to get me in the building. I was a mass of knots, which was strangely not evident in the very calm face I saw reflected in the elevator mirror. I had on a very pointed pair of shiny black shoes. The pain from my squeezed toes gave me something to focus on other than my spiralling panic.
I took a small lap around the snack area – well, for stand-out women they offer canapés and other fancy finger foods – before I took a deep breath and walked into the networking area. Commence asphyxia. Focus on hobbled toes. Unclench jaw. I almost drew blood from curling my fingernails into my palms. Cue the fake smiles and the “Hiiiiiii, yeah, I’m exploring my options….”. I was almost dizzy with breathlessness, and a lack of food.
I finally hit my stride at the Copenhagen Business School, where I was sounding more like myself and less like a constipated chipmunk on helium. My heartbeat was almost back to normal. There was a really good alumnae panel after the networking section which also made me realise that what I lack in confidence, I make up for in age and experience. So I went back round again, a lot calmer, to check out a few more programs. And it turns out, the ones I really felt at home with, or synced the most with where I am and where I want to be, are the London programs. Who da thunk?
Now I just need to figure out if I really want to do this. We’re talking 18-24 months of some serious studying. Something tells me it’s going to put a huge crimp in my blogging time and my TV time and it might actually mean I have to get a responsible job at the end of it (no, running my own company doesn’t count as a responsible job).
Any words of advice? An eight-ball I could borrow? A tarot reading? How do I know if I want to ‘invest’ in myself? Am I really cut out for this if terms like ‘investing in myself’ make me cringe and giggle in equal measure?