Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Morning After

I don't feel very well today. I've come down with a mild fever of some sort with the added garnish of a wierd headache that seems to start at the corners of my eyes. Not a good day to be working.

My thanks to everyone who left me kind comments yesterday, I really appreciate your words of encouragement. I must say I was surprised at the result when I saw it. Have thought about it a bit and what I still don't understand is what went so wrong. In my feedback session last year Alex said that there were no specific comments on my app about areas for improvement, they thought that all the essays, scores, and recommendations were good, and it came down mainly to a timing issue. It was not stand-out-of-the-pack stuff that is needed to make the cut in R3. The reapplication requires only two essays - I rewrote the first one with updated career progress (in the 6-odd months since), reaffirmation of my goals, and why W. I also made it a point to make sure this stood on its own. The second essay was more of a personal one. I did get an interview invite so I figured I was in the ballpark.

So, was it the interview then? I definitely did have a very hard interview, almost making me wish I had gone on campus for a 30-minute chat with a student. I wrote a little note to my interviewer yesterday informing him about the bad news and thanking him again for his time. He wrote back this morning and his words of encouragement sounded really genuine. It was interesting to read his classification of the admissions process as an imperfect science, with sometimes the best qualified people getting rejected and the least qualified people getting through the cracks.

Ah well. What's done is done. Am I disappointed ? Yes. Am I down and out? Absolutely Not. There are other decisions to be awaited, and plan B's to be executed. For now, I am going to take a little break from blogging. My brother and sister are going to visit later this week and we are going to have some family time together and travel to meet relatives and other friends. On a related note, I am so looking forward to 2004 to be over. It has been pretty eventful, I must say, but very unsuccessful. In the spirit of new beginnings, I hope 2005 brings good things.

Before I sign off for the year, many congratulations to the admits - BritChick, Megami, Riter, GoDidiGo, Kalki (among the bloggers) and everyone else on the s2s and bw boards. An extra round of applause to BritChick for her fabulous day - K & W, that's something.

Best wishes to everyone else who had a dream denied yesterday. I am sure we'll all bounce back. Do you remember this very day a year ago - December 22, 2003? Brett Favre started for the Pack that monday night, with their playoff hopes hinging on a win, a day after his father unexpectedly died. He played the game of his life, somehow managing to channel his sorrow and grief to put on a display of impossible perfection and lead his team to victory. That has been the most inspiring performance on a sports field I have seen. Recently, I read a transcript of an interview where he was asked why he still shows up every single game at his age to take the knocks.

"When it counts, I still think I'm the best," he said. "And that keeps me kicking myself in the butt and being not quite ready to leave yet."

Happy Holidays everyone and here's looking forward to a great 2005 !

Tuesday, December 21, 2004



Monday, December 20, 2004

'tis the night before ...

and i bought myself a pair of shoes ;-)

The End of Things

I have been almost, to quote my roommate, outwardly nonchalant about the upcoming Wharton decision. This mirrors my inner thoughts too. There is a calm today that surprises me. This is so different from the waiting for my first decision, Tuck, last March.

March 11:
"Feels great to finally be waiting for my first decision. An end in sight to all the work of the past few months."

"I'm actually feeling good in expectation. I don't know why, not scared or sceptical. I think I'm building myself up to a high. The fall would probably be bad, if it happens, but I wouldn't want it any other way."

March 12:
3:21 AM - "I'm wide awake and just broke the golden rule - yes, I opened up my Tuck application and re-read all my essays :-) This is obsessive, but I also want in that bad."

6:45 PM - "Ding"

10:24 PM - "Everything seems the same all around ... Yet, something's different. I failed at something I worked very hard for. There's a voice inside me which reasons that it was an application that was denied and not me, yet asks if I was really good enough to be accepted at Tuck. Another questions if I am good enough for any business school."

"And I was sincere about every single word I wrote in my essays. It was completely my work, a recounting of my successes and an admission of my failures. I spelled out my dreams, my ambitions, and why I want to be a part of Tuck.

But, evidently, it was not enough. I trust that the admissions committee found candidates more capable, more interesting, and more desirous of Tuck than me, and I wish the entire incoming class well. I loved the place and am sad that I will not be able to spend time there. While the sadness will linger, and I think it should as a reminder of all my efforts, I'm done pondering about this.

I will move on. I fucking very well will."

I still remember that sadness, and I have moved on from that disappointment. Along the way, I have discovered something very interesting about myself. These experiences can not be brushed away as much as I may try. I can not box them up and say 'i wanted something and worked for it but didn't get it' and move on. I can think I am, but their effects linger. The hardest part for me was to make the decision to reapply. It was not just about writing a new set of essays or asking for more recommendations. It was, at a very fundamental level, about believing in myself. When I started on this quest last year I pictured myself as an MBA doing the great things I wanted to do. After six brutal denials of the validity of this vision, I had a difficult time seeing the same picture again. I think it was because I was reminded of the pain of the process to its realization.

I ultimately did see that picture again, but a funny thing seems to have happenned. I think the possibilities of disappointment are now hard-wired into my expectations. I must clarify. I am not saying that I now expect to fail, only that I am not an unbridled optimist with regard to this process anymore. And deep down it hurts, this change in approach - it really does, because I used to passionately believe that anything is possible. Why am I not on that high today, waiting with bated breath for the life-changing decision to happen tomorrow ? Why ? Why ? Why ?

You know, there may well be a purpose to the whole saga. Maybe I needed to learn some life-lessons. Maybe I needed to overcome some of my naiveties. Maybe I needed to learn, once again, what it means to stand up after being knocked down. Maybe, just maybe, I needed to grow up.

A few days before my Tuck decision, I wrote from what I consider the book of life - The Alchemist. I re-read that post today and I can now better understand, make that Feel, every word.

"So what should I do now?" the boy asked.

"Continue in the direction of the Pyramids," said the alchemist. "And continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is."

"Is that the one thing I still needed to know?"

"No," the alchemist answered. "What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream. That's the point at which most people give up. It's the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.'

"Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with the victor's being severely tested."

Truer words have never been spoken. In late August last year I had wanted to cancel my GMAT because I wasn't prepared and scoring badly on the prep tests, but it was too late to get a refund. So, I straggled into the test fully expecting to have to come back again to retake it. I walked out a very surprised man. An unexpectedly good score gave me the confidence, oh I must say a right, to aim for the best schools. I have come to realize now that my search for an admit did indeed begin with Beginner's Luck. And I can claim to have been tested before it ends.

But, how will it end? If The Alchemist is to be believed, it matters not.

"You old sorcerer," the boy shouted up to the sky. "You knew the whole story. You even left a bit of gold at the monastery so I could get back to this church. The monk laughed when he saw me come back in tatters. Couldn't you have saved me from that?"

"No," he heard a voice on the wind say. "If I had told you, you wouldn't have seen the Pyramids. They're beautiful, aren't they?"

Maktub !

I have done what I could, and I really hope Wharton sees it fit to offer me a place. Here's wishing the best to everyone else waiting for 9 A.M. tomorrow. A lot of sweat and tears have gone into everyone's applications, and I can only hope we are rewarded for it.

Monday, December 13, 2004


n. A punishment or retribution that one deserves; one's just deserts.

yesterday, on a lazy sunday morning, i was watching a PBS show on the power of intention and how our destinies are predetermined etcetera and i thought to my berkeley mba application saga. i took last friday off from work to finish up the application before the round 2 deadline of 11:59 PM pacific. but i get a call from my boss and i have to go back to work to do some work that had been promised to one of our clients. vacation means vacation, no? not in this case it seems. anyways, i run to work and what was a half-hours worth of work turned into a couple of long hours. get back home and it was cleaning time. we are working on a lounge area for our living room and there was furniture and boxes all over the place that needed to be cleaned before we had guests over to celebrate a birthday. all the time i am thinking why didn't i finish my work earlier? but that just isn't me, as anyone who knows me knows fully well ;-)

so, everything put in place i sit down to finish my app and again things take a while. close to the deadline while. it came down to the wire and as i try to submit i get an error ! i am missing a few essays, i am told !!! it's a couple of minutes to the deadline. so i go back in and took me a minute to figure out that the short and optional essays that don't apply to me need to have responses uploaded too - with an 'N/A' in them. scramble to do that, and this time just to make sure nothing else is missing, i re-read the pdf. everything seems OK so I go pay the fees and submit.

It's finally complete. At 12:11 on 12/11. poetic justice, anyone?

I love my life for these little surprises. Can't help but smile 'em away.

And it's a big smile i have on my face right now. Just heard from Haas that my application will be considered for round two. Maybe my true comeuppance has just been delayed. Time, or the one pre-determining our destinies, will tell.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

chicago is ic

Dear Application-of-mine,

I was very pleased to read today that your status has now changed to In Committee. You must be sitting on a desk somewhere all nice and printed waiting to be read by what I can only imagine to be wonderful people. I know you will do the darndest to tell them what a good person I am and why they should admit me. Over the next month, you will be passed around, hopefully with admiration and good things scribbled all over you. There is, of course, the chance that parts of you may be torn up in disgust or used to make someone's fireplace burn brighter. For this, I apologize in advance, it will entirely have been my fault. Regardless of how they treat you, I want you to know that you are very cherished. On your pages are my values, my aspirations, my dreams. I can only hope that they read what's written.

May the Force be with you,

Monday, December 06, 2004

Diarios de Motocicleta

There are the movies that take you to a world of fantasy, others that make you regret the money you spent on a ticket, and then there are the rare ones that make you think. I finally got around to watching this movie thanksgiving weekend and I still can't get it out of my mind.

The Motorcycle Diaries chronicles the travels of Ernesto Guevarra and his friend Alberto as they set off from Buenos Aires on a beat-up motorcycle to see the continent of South America - a land, as they put it, they have only read about. I found it to be very funny, beautifully shot, and somewhat lacking. The movie attempts to be more than a travelogue, with Ernesto turning into Che towards the end of the movie with a speech on the unity of the peoples of America etcetera. I thought that the effect of the travels on the young man should have been explored in more depth rather than giving us a conclusion, but i loved it nonetheless.

The visual imagery is breathtaking, with the natural beauty of the continent in full display throughout. It is refreshingly ironic then that the soul of this movie should be found in a scene shot in the dark. While hitchiking though the Atacama the protagonists meet a poor Chilean couple. That night, the woman explains that they are travelling to find work at a mine to feed their family, and asks why these guys are. Ernesto, seemingly aptly named for the moment, replies : we are travelling just to travel. The expression of incomprehension on the couple's faces to this reply is haunting. And it's gotten me thinking.

Why do I travel?

For the longest time, I associated travel with getting someplace - my ancestral village, grandma's house, some new city. That's not to say that the journey itself was inconsequential, but there would be no compromise with regard to getting where we were going. But, slowly, I have changed. Can't say when or how exactly this happened, but it has a lot to do with my travels with people who had that certain attitude. I knew the conversion was complete during a solo trip last year to accomplish one of my things-to-do-before-I-die: bike the Slickrock Trail in Moab. Everything was planned in advance - car, maps, bike rental, hostel. I set out from Las Vegas on schedule, but I never got there ! I was so impressed by my surroundings as I drove through Utah that I stopped where I could, ending up searching for places to stay in strange cities and visiting national parks hundreds of miles off my original route. The Slickrock Trail still remains un-checked on my to-do list, but I got to experience places and people I'd never considered exploring. I can't claim to 'travel just to travel', but I am not oblivious anymore to the journey itself and its potential to take me places I didn't intend to go. The destination, though important, isn't sacrosanct.

I think to a journey of another sort I hope to undertake next fall and I find myself troubled. I see the two years of an MBA program as a chance to explore the unexplored, find new interests, do things I have not had the opportunity to before. I may end up where I intend to go, but then again - I might go someplace much more fascinating. However, one is not ALLOWED to undertake this journey unless they know where EXACTLY they intend to go.

I find it interesting that AdComs talk about the transformational etcetera nature of the MBA program, but in the same breath advise that I don't, in my essays, leave any room for the two years of the MBA to dictate what choices I want to make career-wise. And yet, they acknowledge that MANY people write about wanting to be X in their essays but end up doing Y. Am I justified in reading that the message the schools are sending is: the ends justify the means?

I understand that they want to know if, as of TODAY, I know what I want to do with my life. But again, these goals are based on opportunities I have had until now. What should really matter is what I have made of those, and my potential once the interesting opportunities that an MBA program offers are placed before me. NOT just to go through the program as a step in a non-negotiable pre-determined path.

Last night I was talking with a friend about this, why I really want an MBA, about happiness, and I realized that what actually troubles me is how OTHERS view their MBA experience. Journeys, unless made alone, are also about who you travel with. I guess what this rant boils down to is : Would I be happy being among a set of people for whom the destination matters above all else? Of course, this question assumes that there are indeed many such people at business school, which may not be entirely true.

My friend I talked with also found the Chicago essay questions quite fascinating, and had an interesting question for me. If I could choose one essay to ask of potential classmates, what would it be. Right now, there is only one I can think of:

Why do you travel?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

ay ay I

Yesterday AM, I did a routine check on my Chicago application and saw that my status had changed from 'R' to 'I'. I was surprised because I thought it went to IC from R. Maybe it's a slow thing ? R - I - IC :) Turns out I stands for Incomplete ! Did a quick check of my email to see if they had sent me anything about missing materials etc. Nada. No details on the status page either. So, I called them and was forwarded to their "Processing" department who told me that one of my transcripts was missing. I swear I uploaded everything, but as I had mentioned in an earlier post, the printable application does not show any of the uploaded docs, so my guess is that there must have been an error in uploading and I never knew about it at the time of submission. Anyways, I was told that I could send it in but with no guarantees on (non)delays in processing. The cool thing about the whole things was that I emailed them the self-reported transcript as soon as I got off the phone and 15 minutes later my status was back to R and the transcripts verified status had moved to Yes. That is some efficiency !

So, current status is:
Status : R (for Received)

Fee Received & Verified : Yes
Recommendations Verified : Yes
Test Scores Complete : Yes
Tests Waived : No (I'm thinking this has to do with my TOEFL waiver)
Tests Verified : No
Official Transcripts Verified : Yes

Phew, glad I got out of the "I" status thing alright. One less thing to stress about.