By Gong Ke Gouldstone
Gong Ke Gouldstone reflects on how her relationship fared in RC year, and gives thanks for the challenges the RCs year provided, and the solutions it provoked.
Thanksgiving kicks off the annual holiday season ritual, with gifts, travel and a time for reflection. It’s two and a half months into the first year at HBS. You’ve certainly met lots of new people. And, perhaps you’ve realized some major things about yourself and your relationships along the way.
As much as we try to put on a happy face at social events, HBS can be a tough place for relationships. The entire first year is a non-stop deluge of activities and experiences, each designed to dig deep and uncover or create a part of you that you didn’t know existed. It is a mentally, physically and emotionally challenging time.
It would take hours to unpack and share the rich learnings and inspirations in detail with our partners. Hours we don’t have because they are already earmarked for reading cases, prepping for recruiting events and going to coffee chats. Little by little, the gap grows and pretty soon, you find yourselves in different places, miles away from where you started.
I’m not proud to say this, but my husband and I went through exactly this last year. By day, I packed my calendar with a random walk of classes, speaker events and meetings. By night, I make it through dinner with watercooler-level of conversation and engagement (or lack thereof) because my mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Then after course work and emails, I’d stumble into bed to recharge for another day. After a couple of months, we started to realize the negative effects of the new routine.
One advantage of being married is that it keeps you together while you work through the kinks. So, borrowing a page from the faculty evaluations, I asked: “What should we keep doing, stop doing and start doing?” When the lists got too long, we modified the questions to be “five things we like” and “five things we don’t like” about the current state of affairs. Over the course of a couple of months, we instituted some seemingly obvious measures, such as date night and better listening skills (for me). We even took notes!
A year later, we’re doing just fine. I thank, in part, the more relaxed EC schedule. I also think something magical happens during the summer that makes ECs return to campus with a new perspective. Perhaps it’s the graduation around the corner and with it, the looming return to the ‘real world’. It’s probably a combination of all of the above.
In hindsight, I am glad that we went through this trial last year. Without the HBS pressure cooker, we probably would’ve coasted smoothly into a midlife crisis without ever having to actively protect our relationship. By then, I think it might be too late. If we’re lucky, our last year’s experience would serve as an immunization shot against taking each other for granted or working so much that we don’t talk any more.
So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the man in my life and the trial that has made us stronger. I am also thankful for all of you, who made it worthwhile for me to pack my calendar in the first place!
Gong Ke writes about family and career at www.mbaparent3.com. You can contact her with feedback or story ideas on Twitter @mbaparent3 or by email at email@example.com.