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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Maybe it’s just me, but I honestly view graduation as the coming of the apocalypse. When friends talk to me about plans for the summer or next year, I’m almost confused. What do you mean? I have to leave? It’s not even so much that I’m scared of graduating; I’m literally completely in denial. Relationships after school seem irrelevant because I don’t believe anything really exists after school. I’m completely stuck. Panicked.

Okay, so maybe it is fear.

So why do I feel this way? I’m usually fairly good with change. I’ve definitely felt ready to leave HBS at various times along the way and I’m none too sad to stop reading cases, so why the terror?

Well, the past two years here have seemed like an intense, turbulent and exciting roller-coaster ride. I’ve been strapped in my seat, seatbelt in place, protective bar locked and secured, as the world has whipped by.

I’ve seen things upside down, sideways, and straight on. I’ve felt extreme happiness and glee and I’ve experienced the very depths of depression. I’ve been shocked then delighted, disappointed then ebullient. And I’ve been through the whole ride with the same group of people, all of us going through every twist and turn together.

Now that the landing strip is in sight and I can see the next group of passengers all lined up and ready to board, I find it almost unimaginable that life back on land could come even close to the amazing experience I’ve been having. I panic at the thought of all my fellow journeyers dispersing in the crowd, heading back to far-reaching areas of the world, leaving me with others who couldn’t possibly understand what the ride was like no matter how well I describe it. I cringe at the thought that I can no longer depend on the roller-coaster operator and physical structure of the ride to guide my every move, knowing that I’ll have to be in charge of where I go and what I do. And I feel scared and alone imagining a life not entrenched in such a strong community. Yes, I know that even though I’ll be getting off the ride, I’ll still be in the amusement park. But somehow it’s just not the same.

So I close my eyes and pretend the ride isn’t ending at all, that the end is not in sight and that I don’t have to disembark. I scream even more loudly, I embrace the feel of the wind through my hair and the sound of the machine moving across the tracks, I grab the hands of those around me and I wave my arms in the air, beaming. And I deny that in a very short time, I’ll be kicked out of my seat, left to brush my hair, smooth out my clothes, collect my belongings and walk away.

When outsiders suggest I think about how to get home from the park, who to leave with, what to do for dinner or how to spend the rest of the day, I recoil with horror. I don’t want to think about any of that, I reply.

Let me enjoy this last part! Don’t ruin the few moments of fun I have left!
I guess this long-winded analogy is just a way to say that I’m having trouble coping with leaving school. Logically, I know that life after business school will be great. After all, my life was wonderful before I came so why shouldn’t it be afterwards?

Perhaps life will even be better! I’ve recently changed all my plans to ensure that. I’ve decided not to move to rural New Hampshire (and have broken up with my long-term boyfriend), but to go back home to New York and move back in with one of my roommates from before school.

I’ve decided to pursue a new career. Plus, I’ll be surrounded by my family and all my old friends from high school, college and now from business school. How could it not be wonderful?

But still I worry. After all, things have changed. My other roommate from before business school was killed by terrorists. My hometown has been attacked and no longer feels safe, despite the increased security. My country is at war. And I have woken up to the dangers of real life, the protective bubble has been shattered. Can I just go back and pick up where I left off? I’m not so sure.

So for now, I’ll just try to enjoy the rest of my time here. I’ll go out as much as possible, do as many things as I can, spend all my time with great friends and try to face the fact that change is what makes life interesting. And that staying on a roller-coaster indefinitely would undoubtedly make me sick. After all, it was partially the quickness and intensity of the ride that made it so enjoyable.

I know it’s time for others to get their turn. But boy, what a ride.

April 7, 2003
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