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My fiance and I merged Netflix accounts when we moved in together earlier this year so that there would be one little red envelope sitting unopened on our coffee table instead of two.
The plan was to keep his account and add my movies to his queue. What did I find? Lots of serious, critically acclaimed and intensely depressing movies. The Deer Hunter. There Will Be Blood. Amadeus. Hotel Rwanda. Apocalypse Now.
The recommended movies? Schindler’s List and Requiem for a Dream.
I have nothing against critically acclaimed downers and I’m sure I’ll see most of these at some point. But we were staring down our first winter in the dark, frozen tundra that is Minnesota. That means cold, snow and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, which is how you feel after you watch The Deer Hunter and don’t see the sun for four days.) I knew we were going to need the movie equivalent of cotton candy and Skittles to get us through. So I got to work doctoring the list with such classics as Friends with Benefits, Kung Fu Panda and the complete fourth season of Entourage.
But I didn’t realize how much I’d altered my fiance’s Netflix identity until I logged on last night and saw the recommended movies. Gone were the Nazi dramas and stories of heroin addictions. In their place were these two categories: “Feel-good comedies featuring a strong female lead” and “Movies starring Hugh Grant.”
It’s going to be a good winter!
Apparently I’ve struck a chord.
In the last 7 days, the search term that brought the most readers to my blog was “slutty Halloween.”
The second most powerful term: “slutty Halloween girls.”
The third: “slutty Halloween porn.”
The fourth: “slutty Halloween costume porn.”
Also making a cameo appearance: “slutty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”
Hmmmm. I have a feeling most of my slutty Halloween readers were disappointed by the blog post they found. All hail the power of the search engine!
One of the best things about second year is free evenings. I loved my learning team, but it’s wonderful to be able to do stuff besides spreadsheets at night.
Like see Lady Gaga in concert at JPJ!
Gaga put on an amazing show — 12 costume changes in two hours, four different sets, a slew of sexy back up dancers and even a couple ballads with Gaga playing the piano. Turns out she has an amazing, belt-it-out voice.
But most of all it was one big love fest. UVA loved Gaga and Gaga loved UVA. A fan offered her a UVA t-shirt he’d spangled with sequins and she promptly slipped it on and tied it to expose her mid drift. During one of her ballads, she told the crowd that she used to date an architecture student at UVA when she was 16, but “I lied about my age, so it didn’t last. It’s kind of ironic I’m here.”
And most of all, she seemed to love to say Virginia. In her Gaga accent it sounded more like Vahh-ginn-YA.
Several times during the night, she looked out at the crowd of boys in eye makeup and high heels, and girls wearing dresses made of caution tape with soda cans wrapped in their hair and said, “You’re sexy, Vahh-ginn-YA.”
Yeah, we are. And you’re pretty awesome too.
It dawned on me today — in the 5 minutes I lifted my head out of my intern haze — that at this time last year, I was preparing to move to Charlottesville.
Which means, right this moment, about 300 First Years are preparing for the very same thing.
I remember being very well-rested having quit my job at the end of May and traveled around Southeast Asia for awhile. I remember being excited to move somewhere new after feeling I’d stagnated in my last year or so in Florida. And I remember being scared that I’d just traded a career I’d once loved for a big ol’ honkin’ bunch of unknown.
That fear was rooted in a few different places.
Fear I wouldn’t be able to hang academically at Darden and would fail miserably. (Reality: Totally unfounded. If you’re smart and put the effort in, you can do it. You wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t.)
Fear my classmates would be a bunch of business automatons who only talked about “leverage” and “value-adds” and had no appreciation for anything that didn’t fit in a spreadsheet. (Reality: I’ve met a wide variety of interesting, smart and engaging people at Darden, some of whom have become dear friends. But they do occasionally use the phrase “value-add.”)
Fear I would never find anything I’m as passionate about as I was and am about journalism. (Reality: The jury is still out on this one. I’ve discovered a passion I never knew I had for entreprenuership, especially businesses that solve social problems. But nothing yet has given me the rush of writing a 1A story or reporting on deadline.)
And I have to imagine that this year’s incoming business school First Years have some of those same fears right now. You’re not alone and chances are you’re over-reacting. But I realize saying that won’t help. I certainly wouldn’t have listened.
What I hope you WILL pay attention to is my quick list of things I wish I’d known before I arrived at Darden. These are the easy things you can do to make your first year at b-school a little easier:
- Take time off from your job. Travel. See friends. Hug your mom. It’s going to be a lot of work so you need to relax now.
- Tell your friends that after you get to Darden they probably won’t hear from you for about 5 months. They should not be alarmed, but should instead send care packages and happy thoughts your way.
- Did you know you could calculate stuff in Excel? Build crazy models? Type the word “if” and make magical things happen? If not, try to take a quick course in Excel. But if you don’t have time, you’ll survive.
- Sign up for the Accounting pre-matriculation course Darden offers. It’s worth every penny.
- Bring all those crazy costumes, funny hats, feather boas, 1980s outfits and other odd bits and bobs to school with you. You will need them. I swear.
- Do NOT hire U-Haul to move your stuff.
- If you’re living in Ivy Gardens, fill a piggy bank with quarters for the laundry room.
- Say yes to every invitation you get the first month at school. Darden is a lot more enjoyable if you take time to get to know people (even if your drowning in work). But don’t be surprised if it involves a game of flip cup.
- If you’re a nontraditional MBA student, read “Ahead of the Curve” by Philip D. Broughton. It’s a great primer on b-school for the uninitiated (like me).
- Start thinking now about what you want to do when you leave school. You don’t have to make any big decisions but if you narrow down your interests, it will help a lot in the months to come. Trying to recruit for consulting, investment banking, microfinance and marketing all at the same time will be hell on earth.
- Get excited. You’re about to have an awesome experience. … I’m kind of jealous that I don’t get to do it all over again.
If you’re one of my 2.5 faithful readers, then you’ve noticed that I geek out over seasons. Five years of living in the mono-environment that is South Florida have made me freak out at the sight of fall leaves, snow and now spring flowers.
And I think Charlottesville might just be its most beautiful in the spring.
For your examination, here are a few exhibits of Charlottesville’s springtime splendor.
At a tulip farm about 40 minutes outside of town:
The tulip farm had daffodils too:
A wheel barrow full of puppies at the Downtown Mall:
Peeking inside one of the gardens on main grounds:
And, of course, Foxfield, the annual horse races that give all of Charlottesville an excuse to wear spring dresses and frou-frou hats and tailgate all day long.
You’ll notice some wellies in the photos. The weatherman was calling for rain, but not even that could stop Foxfield and the forecast turned out to be wrong. As one passionate Foxfield lover told me, “God loves Foxfield.”:
About a week into the fourth quarter of my b-school experience, it dawned on me.
Darden had taken me off the wheel.
For the first three quarters of the year, I was running like a lab rat on a wheel. I knew exactly what I needed to do and where I needed to be every minute of the day. I couldn’t always get everything done, but I also didn’t have to do much prioritizing. Do the finance case or finish the strategy reading? Those were the kind of trade-offs I was weighing.
But now, it’s like the lab technicians who run Darden have opened up the cage door and set me free. I’m an emancipated lab rat, running in the wild — and I have no clue what to do.
Suddenly my classes are scattered across the day. I have group projects and, thus, group meetings that I have to find time to attend. And leadership roles that require even more meetings. And a social life. And, dear God, how do I juggle all of this?
The ironic thing is I used to juggle all these things quite well. In my old life as a responsible, wage-earning adult, I figured out how to balance work, meetings, a social life and community leadership.
So why couldn’t I remember how to do it now?
Oh yeah. Seven months of Darden programming. Seven months of “put your head down and do it.”
You could argue that seven months was a waste of time and led to the atrophy of my real-world skills. But I honestly don’t know how else I would learn so much so quickly. Without the focus and structure Darden provided, it would have been humanly impossible. For me, at least, it was a hugely productive time.
But I can’t live in that hyper-structured environment forever, no matter how productive it made me. So it’s a good thing Darden released me from my cage before it released me into the real world (i.e. my summer internship).
According to the Hook story, the crowds, drawn by lots of media stories, overwhelmed the small restaurant and Chang said the food quality began to suffer. Chang was embarrassed that the quality had declined and wanted to cut back. According to The Hook, his partners didn’t agree with him so he left.
It’s a sad, sad day for Charlottesville diners…
If you live in Charlottesville and you care about food at all, chances are you heard about Taste of China this week.
Thanks to this New Yorker story by Calvin Trillin, the hole-in-the-wall, hidden-in-a-strip-mall-on-29 Chinese restaurant is the hottest spot in Charlottesville.
I read about on Thursday while I was flying to West Palm Beach for a friend’s wedding. I finally got to dig into my New Yorker and settled into a story about an eccentric and talented Chinese chef named Peter Chang who only works in tiny Chinese restaurants around the Southeast. And who has a legion of followers who track him down every time he pulls up stakes and moves, without warning, to a new town.
The story tracked him from Fairfax to Atlanta to Knoxville, following his frustrated fans as they tried to keep up. The biggest clue, other than the unusually yummy menu at an otherwise unremarkable Chinese restaurant? A collection of cooking medals and photos that Chang takes with him whenever he leaves and hangs in the front of all his restaurants.
Then I read where he was now and I almost dropped my magazine: Charlottesville. In a strip mall just up 29 (Albemarle Plaza. For those of you planning to go, it’s just past the mall on your right.). I couldn’t believe my good luck.
When I got back to Charlottesville, everyone at Darden was talking about Taste of China. So last night my boyfriend and I drove up 29 for dinner – and found a handwritten “Closed” sign on the door.
It was 7:30 p.m. and the restaurant had already started running out of food. We still snuck in (don’t ask how) and were the last ones seated. I spotted the famous photos and medals hanging behind the cash register.
Taste of China was out of most of the signature dishes, but we had scallion puff pancakes, pork dumplings, garlic shrimp and crispy chicken in special sauce. All of it was delicious and much more nuanced than you’d expect from a typical Chinese restaurant.
I’m planning to go back to try the things I missed. And I’m getting there at 5 p.m.
Every good UNC grad knows that Thomas Wolfe (UNC 1920) said that you can’t go home again. Lucky for me, he was wrong in this case.
This weekend I returned to my adopted home for the first time since coming to Darden. I grew up in North Carolina but spent the last five years of my life living and working in West Palm Beach, Fla. In some many ways, these were some of my most formative years. I was out on my own for the first time, navigating a journalism career, relationships, friendships and a new city. It was Mary Tyler Moore with palm trees.
Perhaps that’s why West Palm Beach feels more like home now than North Carolina. True home will always be where my family resides, but West Palm Beach is the place I know best, the city I can rightfully claim as mine.
All that said, I was ready to leave when I departed for Darden this past summer. I left at a low point, a period of professional stagnation and personal difficulty. I simply felt I’d outgrown the opportunities South Florida could provide me and was itching for a new challenge. Saying goodbye to my friends was hard, but I felt many of them were moving on with new and different lives too. And abandoning Florida in the stifling heat of July was very easy.
So it shocked me a little when I touched down in West Palm Beach on Thursday night and felt a rush of excitement. I could pick out my old neighborhood from the plane window. When the clerk at the car rental office asked if I needed directions, it felt good to say, “No way.” And driving down the sunny, palm-lined Intracoastal plastered a goofy smile on my face. I missed this place!
And my friends … Let’s just say returning to a place where people know me to my core was refreshing. These are the people I grew up with, the ones who helped me develop into a grown up.
But first, you have to understand about Saturday night. I was in town for my dear friend Leslie’s wedding (read the NYT wedding announcement here) and Saturday night was the bridal shower. I watched Leslie surrounded by 15 women and 1 man who she’d known in all stages of her life. There was her twin sister, her childhood friend, a college roommate, friends from her first “real” job and then those of us who knew her in West Palm Beach.
We all donned pink plastic tiaras, raised glasses of champagne and spent two hours telling stories about our friendships with Leslie and each other, the memories we carry with us when we’re apart. Looking around that room I was amazed by all the good friends Leslie had collected and kept close during her 38 years.
And it reminded me of something.
I can’t completely give in to the busyness and excitement of Darden and my new life. While I love the challenges and the new people I’m meeting, it’s so important to nurture my wonderful existing friendships, the women and men I hope to still be calling up 20 years from now, the ones who know me completely, the ones who will don a pink plastic tiara if I ask them nicely.