Partner Perspectives: Why am I here?

In my short time as a partner at HBS, I have experienced several changes of heart and mind. It hasn’t been easy adjusting to these changes, but I am reminded that they keep things interesting. Although there seems to be a new challenge around every corner, I feel that these experiences, good and bad, have helped me answer the question “Why am I here?”

In our first few weeks in Cambridge, I found it easiest to focus my attention on unpacking, learning to get around and complaining about how much harder life is in urban cities like Boston versus our former lifestyle in Austin, Texas. But this approach only worked until I met people from New York who reminded me that life in Cambridge, not even really Boston, isn’t all that difficult. Well, at least not until it snows.

Next I shifted focus to the job search. I scoured websites, cold-called every ad agency and public relations firm I could find in the Boston area, and even branched out to inquire about a few not-so-career-focused positions. After a few weeks of diligent searching, I was invited to interview at a handful of places. But the excitement wore off as soon as I realized the logistical feat of getting there. What? Battle Massachusetts drivers during rush-hour traffic? Or trek through the streets of the Theater District in a suit and heels? My job hunt culminated with an interview that ran over by 30 minutes, leaving me stranded downtown just as my next interview was scheduled to begin.

After the trauma of that experience, I took a little break from pounding the pavement. I began spending a lot of time on the couch, watching TV, organizing our apartment and lamenting our “new life” to my friends back home. Clearly, I was having trouble adjusting to my new surroundings, and the transition seemed worse because I felt alone and isolated. My poor husband returned home each evening, as quickly as he could but never as early as I hoped, with just enough time to eat dinner before returning to his studies.

In those first few months, I saw so little of my student and our time together was so rushed, that I began to question why I was here. I mean, couldn’t he do this on his own? Couldn’t he wake up early, go to class and come home to study for hours on end without me even being there? One dismal day I got up my nerve to ask him, “Why am I here? What is my purpose in this equation? I honestly feel like you could do this on your own, and I should just go back home to my family and friends in Texas.”

He stared at me in shock for several seconds before responding in a way that alleviated all my concerns. He said, “We wouldn’t be here in the first place if it weren’t for your support and encouragement. You are here because I need you.”

I ultimately decided it made more sense for me to choose a job with flexibility, so I took a position as the assistant general manager at the Harbus. For my sanity and my husband’s, it was more practical to sacrifice my career so I wouldn’t miss out on the brief moments of free time he had available to share. I really enjoy being on the HBS campus every day, and I have the good fortune of working with great people and interacting with students. And though my job here at the Harbus is slightly different from what I set out to do, it is, by far, better than any other option, especially given our situation.

I have accepted the career change along with all the other changes, and I am feeling more at ease with our new lives. I can almost find humor in the three parking tickets we obtained in one week; coin-operated laundry machines; the mandatory 30-45 minute cushion to arrive anywhere on time; and the fact that I’ve kissed heels goodbye and wear comfy tennis shoes every day.
We have been part of the HBS community for four months now, and I am beginning to realize why we are here. This is a dynamic place, full of talented people who feel just as out of sorts as we sometimes do. I’m sorry I wasted those first few months resisting changes instead of welcoming them, but I’m glad this new perspective finally dawned on me when it did. I don’t want to leave here in 18 months (but who’s counting?) without having gained the absolute most from this experience.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Towne Williams is the partner of RC student John Williams (NG). She is the assistant general manager for the Harbus News. If your partner is interested in sharing his or her perspective in future issues of the paper, please contact Adam Weber,

December 5, 2005
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