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Part III: Home Again, Home Again

So here it is – the last post. I’ve been procrastinating in finishing this – exactly a week before I start my job

I’ve been procrastinating because it means I finally have to face the facts. I finally have to own up to being an adult again. I finally have to sunset the tremendous fun and intellectual stimulation I had while in New Haven and at SOM. I get to move on. I find solace in the friendships, which are permanent; in the skills, which will last throughout my career; and with the memories, which will last as long as this sieve of a mind chooses to hold them. Until then, I’ll have to make do with the San Francisco Bay Area and the ~40 SOMers from my class who came out here with me.

THAT’S RIGHT – Nearly 40. 

That’s a full 16% of my class, snuggled up here in the Bay. Every day is like a reunion here. I’m not kidding. Between my classmates, the 2013ers, the 2015ers who were finishing up their internships, and older alumni at networking events, I’ve seen probably 60+ SOMers since I got here in late July.  So I guess I can put off that whole ‘moving on’ thing for a little bit, right?

So what was it that made me decide to move back to the Bay Area, a place I left when I was 18 and though I wouldn’t return to until my retirement?   I was certain that I was going to go back to Brooklyn and live the happy New York life that I’d envisioned since my freshman year at NYU. However, when Adam and I got engaged in November, the two of us sat down to talk about what cities/markets would be great for what we were looking to do (he was graduating from Architecture School in North Carolina at the time). We talked about careers, whether we wanted to raise kids, about climate and public transportation, and rich, urban life, as well as the great outdoors. Basically a much more adult conversation than I thought I was capable of having.  At any rate, New York wasn’t on our mutual list of cities.

Throughout the rest of the year I wrestled with what I wanted to do with my life. I’d gotten the offer from SYPartners, still had the soft offer from Etsy, (though only in Brooklyn), and was in final rounds with the aforementioned giant tech company’s (in Part II) Global Rotational MBA program. There were also enticing options in Seattle and Portland, Austin and Denver, or maybe even abroad.

Ultimately, there was no one deciding factor for me. It was a combination of elements that drove me back to the Bay. My parents were in San Jose, just a short drive/train ride away.  Both Adam and I had great job prospects and passion projects in the area. The climate was ridiculously nice.  Oakland is the new Brooklyn. And let’s not forget the 40-ish classmates who’d be joining me there. By the time Spring Break rolled around, I think we just felt right about California.

Here we are on the roof deck of our new apartment overlooking the beautiful Lake Merritt in Oakland.

So, yeah. A little anticlimactic. I know. But that’s how it should be. I wasn’t swayed by one thing – neither money, nor weather, nor trains, nor nature had primacy in our decision-making process. And it didn’t need to be angst-provoking, or require us to cry tears of blood before Adam and I arrived at our conclusion. I hope that this is encouraging to the 2016ers reading, (and future 2017ers, 2018ers, and so-on), that the next step in your life should be about you and those you love. That is what is important.

A couple of final things as I wrap up my last post on this storied blog. At the very end of the year, I was asked by Maya, our Student Government President, and my boss, to Co-Chair the Class Gift Campaign. My background is almost entirely in fundraising, and even though I’d come to SOM to change direction in my career, I felt a duty to my school and especially to my class to take it on.

We picked a bit of a doozy of a time to conduct the campaign. I’m sure you’ve read about the grading policy changes and the ensuing hoopla that happened from February – April, so I don’t need to recount it here. What I will say that it was still definitely fresh in the minds of all of my classmates as I went around asking them to make significant, multi-year pledges to our school. I know that philanthropy means very different things to different people. What I might consider a stretch gift amount may be completely out of the realm of possibility for one of my classmates, even if we have the same salary; there are too many other variables that I’m not privy to. Likewise, for some classmates, giving back to your school means volunteering time, or donating your company’s resources, recruiting prospective students, or hiring current ones. The beauty of the campaign was that it afforded my teammates and me the luxury of meeting with our classmates one-on-one, to hear their side of the story, and to tell them why we were supporting the cause. In hindsight, it was one of the most rewarding activities that I did while I was at SOM, because it was the capstone to the process of getting to know these 248 incredible people who I got to share a walk with on May 19th.

Ok – that was sugarcoating it a bit. It was hard. It may have been supremely rewarding, but it was also extremely emotionally taxing. A part of why it’s taken me so long to finish these final few blog posts is because I needed the time to process all of the conversations I’ve had with my classmates about the Class Gift. Asking your friends and peers to give money after they’ve already invested so much of themselves in a school is already a big hill to climb without adding the weight of a major policy change to it.  Still, I’m proud to say that we raised $330,000, and that our alumni giving rate still ranks among the highest of all business schools. In fact, it was a banner year for SOM fundraising overall. What’s more is we were given, as a class, the right to name a space in the new building. As the historic bridge class from the old campus on Prospect and Sachem to Evans Hall, it fills me with a special kind of pride to see us immortalized in our new building with our very own concourse. During the campaign, one of the phrases I repeated was that we were all “standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us,” and this was our opportunity to do the same for the next generation of SOMers.

Our very own concourse.

My last thought goes out to the Class of 2014. Everyone says “It’s been a wild ride.” I don’t believe that phrase applies to me. I sit here staring out my window at the rippling waters of Lake Merritt and reflect on how I’ve changed from orientation. Words appear in my mind like thought bubbles, like the seabirds surfacing on the lake. Sublimation. Alchemical. Hatched.  Simultaneously buoyed and anchored. Warm embrace. All appropriate, all apt to describe the effect you have had on my life. I cannot thank you enough for the gifts that you have given me, gifts of wisdom, friendship, and support. As I veer into borderline tooth-achey sincerity, I just want to make sure I get the chance to express my appreciation to all of you. But then as I think back upon our time together, a song we discovered in the middle of last year, which felt like ours alone, before it appeared everywhere, it plays in my head.

Clean Bandit says it best – “When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be.”  See you in 2019.