What it feels like on the last day of the school?
There is something about knowing that it’s the last time you are doing what you are doing. Every damn thing starting from zoom breakout rooms to case preparation becomes more interesting. You want to notice every detail and perhaps hold on to it for as long as possible. Even poor jokes seem funny. Our professor in an accounting class asked what’s ‘Fs and Us’? With excitement and smile, I said Favorable and Unfavourable variance. And professor quipped, that’s not the first thing that comes to mind when someone says Fs and Us, and we all laughed like anything.
Yesterday, to my surprise, I woke up at 5 AM. Perhaps for the first time this quarter. The pressure to end everything at a good note has always been huge on me. On a funny note, one thing that is proved in science about pressure is that it’s proportional to temperature (The Pressure Law), and Chicago summer is here. Jokes aside, the point was I wanted to get it right, at least for the last time. I’m still bothered that I could have finished things differently at IIT. That’s why even after a late-night party, I woke up to read the case for two three-hours lectures I had yesterday. I literally had sticky notes prepared 3 days in advance on what to do on my last day. It’s not like I have to prove it to anyone, or it matters to the outside world. Somehow it matters to me.
After winding up my lectures, I took a leisurely walk and spent a couple of hours reflecting and writing. It’s probably the best time of the year in Chicago. The classic Chicago chilly winds felt pleasant during my walk. The sun was at its best in the horizon (scientifically speaking — the earth was at the best place in its rotation and perhaps even revolution), and the temperature was perfect. Perhaps, it was a last-ditch attempt of Evanston to make me miss it a bit when I shift to the Bay Area, and it was working! I sat near the lakefront, enjoying the beautiful view of the sun lying inches above the lake, which had the perfect blue color with a hint of gold as a result of rays reflecting from its surface. It was close to total internal reflecting as sun rays were pretty slanted at that point in time, but who wants to focus on science on the last day of school! Sitting there, I wrote a letter to myself specifically asking to continue believing in things that have kept me going over the years. One of the key messages in the letter was about my deep faith hard work, belief, and sincerity — if you do your best day after day with full faith and humility, despite struggles and setbacks, magic happens. It’s easy to say or believe at this point in time, but one could argue that when faced with a few struggles down the line, my confidence in this message might erode. That’s why through this letter I asked myself to continue believing in this message irrespective.
One of the recurrent feelings on the last day was nostalgia. A big portion of the day was about recreating and relieving the cheerful moments with people who mattered in the last two years. I had a Zoom call with my section mates in the afternoon where someone mentioned how it reminds him of the first day when we introduced ourselves for the first time. In some respect, Zoom had made some difficult things possible. Isn’t it almost a social network now? They just need to expose more APIs to third-party developers and some developer outreach. But again who wants to focus on tech on the last day of the school! Incidentally, my peers and juniors want to. The evening was all about hanging out with close group friends who quarantined together and watching our farewell on Zoom, hosted by first years. With the magic of the last day, every jokes and song seemed to be on point, and no one dared to bailout yesterday. Guess what, I was voted to be the one from our batch who would go on a date with Mark Cuban and talk about tech.
Finally, how could you wind up the last day without thinking about what you learned? It’s a tough job distilling the learning from economic forces analysis, strategy, marketing, tech, machine learning, design thinking, etc. Throughout the day I was struggling to put it in simple words. Should I measure the learning against MBA goals or skills that matter? But over the drinks in the evening, intermittently my thoughts would point to one word — ‘judgment’. Perhaps, everything I did in the last two years — cases, classroom learning, or discussion with peers, has in some way or other helped me improve judgment. It wasn’t what the firm did in the case. Firms could achieve a bad outcome with the right action. Instead, the takeaway was always about the judgment to deal with a business situation. Judgment to work in a crisis. Judgment to deliver when it matters.
That’s how was my last day. Strangely, despite everything, I’m not sure I would want it any other way.