By Dartmouth - Tuck September 13, 2011 Leave a Comment

It’s hard to believe that summer is over and we’re now back on campus for B-school: Part Deux. The atmosphere among my classmates is considerably more relaxed than it was at this time last year. From this vantage point, and because I’ve had a few T’13s thank me for my candor during ASW and beyond, I’m going to go out on a limb here and get a little more personal about my first-year experience than I have in my previous (shamefully few) posts.

Here goes: Last year was the worst year of my life.

I think something the people with the easiest transitions into the Tuck lifestyle take for granted is the idea that whether you sink or swim here is solely dependent on your background and ability. Well, without getting too specific (see me at Murphy’s for the full story over Shipyard Pumpkinhead), I broke up with my boyfriend of 4.5 years during the first week of Fall A, following month-long agony over the exact type of betrayal you’d imagine. This was the person I’d planned to marry and raise kids with. Our families spent football weekends and holidays together. We’d adopted a rescue kitten when we first moved in together, into the tiny West Village apartment we imagined we’d look back on fondly when we were living in one of the $6 million places we loved to look at on the Corcoran website. Where we listened to Zeppelin on vinyl and ate bacon-and-pesto pizzas formed from his homemade dough. The word boyfriend seems trite and hollow here. This person was my life.

Now, I’m a smart woman. The GMAT was the first standardized test I’d ever taken where my verbal score surpassed my math score. I am good at math, but I prefer to trade in uncertainties, in questions that lack a set answer. So while my background was in some ways an obstacle to making it rain Hs at the TSoB, the way my brain works was unequivocally not.

Except that, when you’re dealing with a major life transition, your brain won’t always show up to the game. I could not think during fall term. My brain was a sieve; any information that went in — whether through attending class, reading cases, or listening to my study group members — immediately went right back out. As a child, I would memorize A.A. Milne poems for funzies (I still know my favorite, “The Engineer”). As an adult, I tend to remember an awkward amount of information about people I meet, to the point that I need to pretend to forget certain things so as not to seem like a total creeper. Having my brain shut down this way was absolutely terrifying. I would have panic attacks every time I tried to do something as simple as designing a PowerPoint slide. I dropped down to my high-school weight. Here was someone who had managed board operations for one of the largest nonprofits in the country, unable to manage my time. It was like having PTSD, which I say not to trivialize the experiences of people who’ve been through trauma, but because I’d had PTSD before and I could not believe that a breakup could draw out the same symptoms.

And then there was my study group. It might be hyperbolic to say they saved my life, but they are definitely the reason I made it through fall term. I am not often a publicly religious person (you may note that my Facebook profile correctly identifies me as a lapsed Catholic), but that I was put with this group of people was clearly an act of God. There is no question in my mind that I was complete and utter dead weight last fall. I was incapable of learning, of thinking, of doing anything, really. And instead of getting angry, they carried me.

And that’s the thing about Tuck. I’ll admit, it’s not always my favorite place. I am no longer drinking the Kool-Aid. The way my mind works, the way my heart works are not always valued in this environment. But the people you will find here, the ones who seem to drop in your lap, whom you probably wouldn’t have the sense to choose for yourself, they will carry you.

Danny, Eric, Hudson, Ritesh, and Tara: Thank you.

Me, Eric, Hudson, Danny, Ritesh, and Tara.

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