There are 71 days between today and my graduation ceremony. I know that there are 71 days because I keep refreshing this web page on my phone, encouraged as I anticipate the return of Thursday nights and Saturdays, sleep and maybe even a social life (however unlikely.)
People keep asking me what I’m going to “do with my MBA,” as if the diploma is the critical ingredient in some world-changing concoction I am expected to manufacture, thereby proving it was worth sitting in a classroom for two years and amassing all that debt.
I have never known how to answer this question. It is narrow in its implication that I am required by the Masters Degree Gods to immediately change jobs upon graduating. I am still learning, challenged and motivated in my current job, and in today’s market, I know very well how fortunate I am to be able to say that. It is uninformed in its premise that I will not begin to apply the knowledge acquired in graduate school until I am done. I have been working full-time throughout the program, and in that time have completed many projects I would not have been able to manage without the skills I learned in my last class. And it is ignorant in its presumption that I went to graduate school to learn how to step on other people on my way up the corporate ladder (in case there’s any doubt about that, I did not, and that’s not actually what they teach in business school.)
And yet I do agree that in a greater sense, accomplishing this goal is an opportunity for reflection. Am I making the most of the chances that are given to me? How do I learn from this experience to be a better leader/daughter/friend/partner/etc.? How do I pay forward the gifts others have shared with me? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions either, but my nightstand is supporting a pile of books like this to help me harness my thoughts into something productive.
The title of this blog was inspired by something I use in meditation, when my mind is full of unanswered questions and disorganized thoughts. It’s no secret that I want to be a beekeeper (why is a story for another post,) and that in many ways, I think bees are smarter than people. When I am overwhelmed and anxious about the future, my mind is like an unhealthy beehive. Without a leader (a queen bee), the inhabitants of the hive run in all different directions, making lots of noise without getting much of anything done.
When I meditate, I visualize a healthy, swarming hive, in which the voices of individual bees are indistinguishable. Each bee is completely focused on performing its work, which it does in order to sustain the hive. It’s not a competition to get ahead. No bee sits in the corner of the hive complaining “What’s in this for me? I work so much harder than the other bees. I have a masters degree and they treat me like just another drone. No one ever notices me in this hive. My life is so unfair.” Self-absorbed bees would never be tolerated in a hive. In fact, when a bee stops contributing, it is immediately and unsentimentally removed by the other bees (for more about bee behavior and its applicability to us, read this book.)
Ultimately I think my answer to the “what will I do next” question will not be about using my degree to get the next bigger and better and fancier thing. It will be about applying my skills in a more meaningful way, and one that does some good for people beyond myself. I don’t need to know right now how I will accomplish that; I just need to keep an open mind, and remember that I can do anything for 71 days.