I’ll admit it: I was ready for a nice long winter break. I was eager to get back to reading bestsellers and memoirs, seeing old friends, renting movies, skiing for hours on end. I even triumphantly abandoned my computer on my desk at school to collect dust as I traveled and relaxed.
But after I left, something unexpected happened. I just couldn’t stop thinking about school. First, every night of vacation I had a stress dream about class, my favorite one being unable to turn in my exam because Aldrich 108 had actually turned into Radio City Music Hall and I couldn’t find the drop-box.
Second, everything I did seemed to remind me of school. When I visited my boyfriend’s family outside Detroit, I actually asked his father for a tour of his diesel engine manufacturing plant, and asked him question after question about the operations. Where was the WIP? What was the capacity? Was there really a deep-seated conflict between all manufacturing and product engineers? Did they use any “kanban” techniques like Toyota did? And I actually cared what the answers were! Unbelievable. Who knew TOM could be such an effective way of getting on the good side of your boyfriend’s dad?
Then there was the whole airline fiasco. I must have spent at least two hours per flight waiting in security lines. I just stood there, inching forward, inwardly seething, mentally redesigning the flow of people and information amidst the mayhem, gripping the Starbucks vanilla latte it had taken 45 minutes in line to acquire. Where was the bottleneck? Why did I have to wait outside in the freezing cold at 6:00 AM? Why was the guy going through my bag again? How would I ever keep my nails trimmed if I continually got my nail scissors confiscated? Was there some sort of conspiracy between manicurists and security people? And why wouldn’t those screaming kids just shut up for two seconds so I could hear myself think!
To escape the commotion, I tried reading the newspaper. But HBS thoughts intruded there too. I read about Chrysler recruiting Daimler-Benz German talent to redesign their cars, heard about their need for leadership, and immediately thought of Lee Iacocca and LEAD. I read the coverage of Mayor Bloomberg’s Inauguration Day speech and reflected on all the rules of effective communication that he had broken. I even ate dinner one night at Benihana and shocked my co-diners with the high salaries of the hibachi chefs and my knowledge of why we had to wait in the bar.
Had I been brainwashed? What was happening? This was vacation yet I couldn’t stop questioning and analyzing even the most mundane occurrences. It seemed every other sentence I uttered started with, “Oh, I read a case on them and…”
First semester was difficult, academically and emotionally. But, just like our bodies need to stop and recover after intense exercise to strengthen our muscles, so do our minds. Now, rested, recuperated and raring to go (in my new sky deck seat, may I add), I am eager to extract even more knowledge out of HBS. And this semester I’ll know that even though each individual case won’t change the way I view the world, collectively, they will be changing the way I think. And that dedication to learning is one New Year’s resolution I actually might keep.