Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
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Friday, December 30, 2016

What I Learned in B-School: The Wedding of A and R

...a compilation of mistakes I made in and around grad school, where what I learned was "don't go."

I was delighted this fall to go to the wedding of my b-school classmate and sterling fellow Alex, and his bride Rachel (wherein I also got a chance to catch up with another classmate Greg and his ladywife Liz).  I'm not sure why I went with a quilt based in brown for Alex and Rachel - the wedding color was a superb and gorgeous deep purple - except that I'm down with brown, as anyone will tell you, and it seemed to set off the glowing jewels of these shot cotton squares quite nicely.  (I tried gray: it didn't work. That's about as far as my neutral color palette extends.)  This quilt itself is no great feat, just squares and sashing, so I'm mostly going to write about why grad school was a terrible idea, but I'll still show pictures.  Like this one:

Post washing - all the quilting is in the sashing, so the colored squares look kind of puffy/saggy, but are quite soft.

Granted, Alex was only really my classmate for a hot second before his interest in, and aptitude for, Advanced Corporate Finance far outstripped mine, and we parted ways in terms of curricula, but by then we had discovered a small posse of like-minded folk within the greater group of tiresomely brilliant Type-A financiers, entrepreneurs, and engineers-turning-managers that comprised the rest of the school. Though to be clear,  I was probably the most notably Type-B person in the entire university - even my friends were clandestine over-achievers, though they were humble about it, kind about my LAS-induced lagginess, and often helped me with my homework, which probably seemed laughably remedial to them.  Thus my first mistake was in going to the school I did, which was....over-challenging, shall we say:  as I lamented at the time, I'm pretty sure I only even got in because they needed SOMEONE to be below average.

I was trying to capture the pretty iridescence of these colored
squares, but I'm afraid that subtlety is beyond my phone's camera.

I believe I have mentioned how big of a tragic financial disaster I found b-school to be - part of this was my age when I went back, which basically dictated that I would never make up the truly ridiculous monetary outlay in future salary gains before retirement or death, whichever comes first (am betting on death).  Part of it was my own inability to focus on absorbing the material, an albatross-y legacy of carefree days when I could remember things after reading them once, and majoring in languages and literature, surely the path I could follow with the least effort.  Because, you  know, I like words. (No, it's true. I know it's hard to believe.)

The back: deliciously soft double-gauze. The strip on the left was inadvertent - apparently double gauze
has a directional quality of which I was unaware.

(Side-note: At b-school orientation, of which two-day affair I quite characteristically forgot about/blew off the first day, I learned that on that first day they had shown a pie chart of the incoming class' undergrad majors, in a get-to-know-ya exercise of the sort I find most tedious - "40% of this incoming business school class majored in - business!  The rest majored in Accounting or Engineering." Revelatory! But I know this because the next day a new classmate, upon hearing my undergrad major was Russian, exclaimed, "Oh! YOU'RE the Slavic Languages person!"  and, faced with my evident confusion, explained that the pie-chart had had a tiny sliver of "Slavic Languages and Literature" to account for me; and that the orienteers had announced this to the group, perhaps as evidence of the "diversity" of the matriculants, and tried to find this exotic beast in the crowd when in fact, I hadn't even bothered to show up. (Hmpf. Typical Slavic Language major.) In spite of my mortified mumbled defense, "Well it was a double major with English," this was a clue that I was going to be an anomaly in this cohort right from the get-go, even in advance of my failure to grasp the Weighted Average Cost of Capital or the Dupont Equation or whatever the hell; and probably my only sad chance at ever being considered A One Percenter, to boot.)

The quilting was just 4 lines in each sashing, crossing in a grid at the intersections, easy peasy.
Another mistake of grad school turned out to be the lack of an actual job market for my new skills when I graduated, which was just after the bottom fell out in the economic shitstorm of 2008-09.  And Alex, who clearly did grasp market nuance much better than me (to the surprise of no person), cleverly read the tea leaves, and commenced to taking one class at a time forever, such that he graduated with his shiny new degree as late as possible, when employment prospects were already looking up a bit and that degree was legit just worth more.  (I had wanted to career switch and in fairness, I did end up in a job I love, albeit 5 years after graduation; and despite my employer's protestations that shiny degrees did not matter to them, I have to think that mine at least got my foot in the door.  Curiously, that job was in the same building in downtown Chicago as Alex worked, which we realized to our mutual surprise one day when I saw him unexpectedly in the lobby.  Which made it delightfully easy for us to have least, one time, before my travel schedule intervened, and now he doesn't work in that building anymore. Boo!)

In spite of all of this disparity in ability, Alex proved to be an absolute rock-solid friend, a true salt-of-the-earth fellow, and another alum of our flagship state school (where he went some years after me, and where I'm quite sure he did not major in Russian, given that he and his family had emigrated from Ukraine sometime around the first heady days of Glastnost.)  And since each of my favorite b-school buds were Secretly Weird - this one collected Ivy League degrees, each of which made him successively less employable; that one kept her dirty dishes in the freezer when she did not feel like washing them and hoarded incandescent light bulbs; another had apparently been some kind of semi-pro soccer player - it was no surprise to me that Alex's secret hobby was collecting antiquities from ancient worlds, an off-shoot of his love of history.

I went simple on the label - a wedding date, and a blanket-stitched heart for the newlyweds. 
(History to me is one of those infuriating sandhills that one labors to climb, only to discover 50 million shifting layers lie between you and the "truth", or whatever truth got recorded, at least.  My brother Hercules also has a head for history, inherited from our mom, and sometimes I like to hear him take flight, with as little prompting as: "Knights of Malta, 16th century - go!"  Alex is quite the same way.  I trust in the future I will get more opportunities to shoot the shit with him over some beer and hear his collected historical truths.  As always, I am sure to have a LOT of questions in those cases, as I struggle to connect whatever random pieces of information have lodged in my brain without context or details, such that I might brightly burp out "Queen Anne Wars!" or "Boxer Rebellion!" or "Bessarabia!" at odd intervals, like Wikipedia talking in its sleep, possibly while also experiencing some mild dyspepsia.)

Sadly, I have only met Rachel on a couple of occasions, once when she had to run the gamut of our grad school posse on a lovely summer day at a riverside bar after work - which is really an overwhelming sort of way to meet a pile of people; and again on the day before her wedding, when I foolishly and hilariously got the date of the ceremony wrong and showed up 24 hours early, right at the end of their rehearsal.  How I managed that I will really never know, but Rachel to her everlasting credit did not laugh me out of the venue, but instead kindly asked if I would like to join them for the rehearsal dinner - which generosity I truly appreciated but hastily declined, as there's already enough stress and expense in a wedding as it is without dopey friends of your fiancĂ© showing up a day early expecting to be fed.  In any case, she is accomplished and fascinating in her own right, having been a roving news reporter at several local stations before moving into the already saturated news-media market of Chicago to be with Alex....and I have a lot of questions for HER about that, and how she likes the job switch, and whether maybe we shouldn't go on that canoe trip down the Chicago River like we'd talked about three years ago.

Here's the label from the front: just a ghost heart on the purple.

But not really getting to know Rachel does highlight the last mistake of b-school, which is:  losing track of my b-school friends.  Because this was a part-time/weekend program, everyone already had jobs and lives and in many cases families of their own, so it was dissimilar to undergrad in that it was not the sole pre-occupation of most of us.  And let me tell you, there's nothing you want to do more after 8-10 hours of work than sit in a classroom for another three hours, twice a week, squinting at formulae and modeling economic theory and TALKING TO PEOPLE SOME MORE.  (Well, the economic parts weren't that bad.)  But b-school was nevertheless a deep bond: of fatigue and of stamina, of handling hyperactive partners in group projects, and trying to sort out when one might have time to write a 15-page paper; of meeting to grab some Chipotle for dinner to fortify ourselves before a slog through Implications of Foreign Currency Valuation, and meeting afterwards for a relief beer in the student lounge.  And while I do not miss those classes particularly - especially the stats class that made me cry every week and required me to run on a treadmill for two hours after each class to decompress - I miss the hell out of those people, and their quirky secret weirdnesses, and their brilliance, and their willingness to let me play their reindeer games, despite being a Slavic Language (and English) major.  To not know their spouses - or children, or about their new jobs and how they might be applying that wretched degree to them - strikes me as the worst mistake of all, one I hope to rectify, and soon.

I was going to put "Sept 24", for the day
I showed up to the wedding, but is it really
something I should commemorate?

So, Alex and Rachel, congratulations to you, you delightful weirdos - I trust you will revel in each other's eccentricities for many many years to come, and I hope to be able to appreciate them some more in the future myself.  Because if there's one thing I learned in grad school - and actually, it might have been just the one thing - it's that appreciation increases the value of things over time; in business, in friendship, and with some luck, in marriage, too.

Besos to you both and Mazel Tov!


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