Monday, May 23, 2022

Where He Is Now: Eleven Years Later

Me performing a solo, "Take Me To The World," at a community musical revue in April 2022.

Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2022, making it 11 years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since last I posted an annual update.

James and I at the immersive
Van Gogh exhibit in L.A. 
In general, the past 12 months have been fine. When last I wrote, I was about to return to Deloitte, the consulting firm I'd joined out of business school and worked at from 2011-17. A lot has changed since 2017, most notably that the "road warrior" lifestyle has been replaced with primarily virtual work, and the culture seems more embracing of work/life balance. So I'm enjoying both those aspects, especially since I've been working from home (mostly) for the past five years, even before Covid-19, and have personal commitments I prefer to fulfill without pressure to do otherwise. Another adjustment is the role itself. When I left, I was a Manager, which meant I did one project at a time. Now I'm a Senior Manager, one level up, so I juggle multiple engagements and focus more time on POVs, solutions, coaching junior staff, and sales. Also, I used to be in a practice called Organization Transformation (OT), which focuses on change management and organization design, and now I'm in Workforce Transformation (WT), which focuses on talent strategy, although practically speaking my projects have straddled across both. I'm building and leading our "Contingent Workforce Strategies" offering, which is designed to help clients address various challenges they encounter with accessing and managing their non-employee workers. It's a hot topic and a growth area, so there are a lot of demands on my time, but I've enjoyed being back.

Live band Halloween karaoke night
at our tennis club in 2021.
That's me on the far right, dude.
Outside work, life has mostly gotten back to normal as the world moves out of the emergency state of Covid-19. I still play tennis regularly, as my main hobby. Last summer, I captained one of our four Team Tennis teams, each of which was a Hogwarts house. We were Hufflepuff, and we won first place! But during that time, I was suffering from some chronic pain in my neck and shoulder. An orthopedist, a chiropractor and an acupuncturist all thought the root cause was my sleeping position, which I adjusted, and the discomfort eventually went away. Nevertheless, because of that issue, I scaled back my tennis commitments slightly and spent the winter season playing about once a week, half as often as I would have liked. Beyond tennis, my church choir resumed in the fall, in a dwindled-down form, so from then through the spring I went to those rehearsals on Tuesday nights and sang at Masses on Sunday mornings, as I'd done before the pandemic. And this past Spring, I performed in a community musical revue honoring the late Stephen Sondheim. I did "Take Me To The World" from Evening Primrose as a solo and "Tonight" from West Side Story as a duet, on top of a couple group numbers. I've done plenty of karaoke in my day, and have performed in choruses and choirs, but had never sung on a stage in a paid-ticket performance context before. It was scary, but something I'm glad I tackled, and I was well-supported by friends in the audience and got kind feedback.

Me cutting corn off the cob
at our friends' country-themed
anniversary party in Kiawah.
Vacation-wise, James and I didn't go anywhere net-new over the past 12 months, but we were able to take a few trips, including twice apiece to Kiawah, S.C., and Montauk, nearby on Long Island. And even though I'm not traveling for work anything close to the extent I used to, Deloitte did send me to Boston, Las Vegas and Austin. James joined me for the latter two trips, and we attached a jaunt to Los Angeles, his hometown, to the Vegas trip. I also went alone to Florida for unpleasant reasons explained below. Next month, we're off to Riviera Maya in Mexico for a wedding and a short post-wedding getaway to Tulum, and then over 4th of July weekend we're going to England to stay in Lewes, the town where we spent a full month vacationing back in 2014, and will spend a couple days in London.

Stephanie (aka "Stuffs") during our visit
to Wrights Dairy Farm in 2011.
The past year also delivered a couple tough losses for me. In June 2021, my best friend from college, Stephanie, died suddenly at age 41. I wrote about her on this blog a few times, including herehere and here. We had Zoomed just five weeks before she passed away of complications from sarcoidosis, a rare disease that's almost never serious. Her death marked the first time I've lost a close friend my age. She was brilliant, loud, energetic and consistently hilarious. We were inseparably close freshman year at Duke, then lived together (unharmoniously) sophomore year. We reconnected in our 20s, buried the hatchet and got together several times throughout our 30s. I'm very grateful we got to have a second chapter to our relationship. She left behind a husband (her high-school sweetheart) and three school-age daughters. 

My father with newborn me in 1978.
Then in November, my Dad, Richard, died at age 84 due to a mix of factors starting with a spontaneous hemorrhage in his back muscle likely brought on by blood thinners, and ending with a septic infection. He'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier in the year, so in some sense it was a blessing that he didn't have to suffer through years of dementia, as his older sister did 30 years ago. My Dad was a character. He was a bit grumpy and socially ungracious but had many gifts -- he was extensively knowledgeable about U.S. history and politics, an excellent writer, a surprisingly good drawer, and not a bad singer! We had a functional but not particularly emotionally close relationship. My Mom is now living alone for the first time in her life, but is handling everything with aplomb.

In less somber news, my niece just finished her first year of college, my nephews are doing well in high school, and my partner, James, continues to find ever more success as a local real estate agent. And Derby, our beloved dog, just turned 8 and is healthy. So, overall, there's much to be thankful for. 

Even 11 years out, I continue to reflect on my choice to go to business school and whether it was the right decision. I've never believed it wasn't, because at the time my goal was to quickly reposition myself to make more money, and I now make 10 times what I made as a journalist. I do wonder at times whether law school might have been a better fit for my strengths and temperament, as I find the work my lawyer friends do to be very interesting, but given that I delayed going to grad school until I was 30, I think an MBA was a more sensible route. Regardless, staying in journalism doesn't seem like it would have been feasible. Given that newspapers were in a downward spiral just as my career was starting, nearly everyone I worked with back then has long moved on to another career, and the MBA opened more doors to me than would've been available with just a BA in Journalism. So I still think the decision to pursue the MBA was prudent given my situation at the time, and it's all turned out well in that I've had a nice post-MBA career that I've generally enjoyed.  

See you in 2023!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Where He Is Now: Ten Years Later

Me on a private jet (not mine, of course!) returning from Kiawah, SC, in March 2021.
Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2021, making it 10 years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since last I posted an annual update.

My SOM cohort (Blue) reunites over Zoom.
My business school class had its 10-year reunion a few weeks ago -- virtually because, as of this writing, only 45% of the country is fully vaccinated from Covid-19, myself included. Yale did a good job with the multi-day programming, which offered a menu of lectures, discussions and catch-up sessions. Compared to our five-year reunion in 2016, everyone seemed more content and settled in their careers and personal lives. Lots of kids. It was great to see everyone’s faces and hear their voices. Here's hoping our 15-year reunion can be in person.

After bowling on my birthday
with "the core," December 2020.
Since posting my last update 12 months ago, much has evolved on the employment front. A year ago, I was happily working as an internal HR consultant at BASF, a large chemical company I joined after leaving Deloitte at the end of 2017. I wasn't actively looking to leave, but in July 2020 I quit BASF to work as a virtual contractor for a small tech company. They sounded like they were doing cool things, and the pay was double my salary at the time (although, not inconsequentially, it offered no benefits). My role was to help them build, deploy and fix a highly automated talent acquisition process.

Dose #1 in March. I'm now fully vaccinated!
I did it for 10 months. It was challenging and self-evidently not a viable long-term arrangement, but I learned a lot and made some friends (even though I never met them in person). When I started there, my original backup plan for when it ran its course was to return to BASF, as my former boss said I was welcome to do anytime. Unfortunately, in January, my old BASF team and hundreds of others were notified that their positions were being eliminated as part of a global restructuring. With that option gone, I needed a new plan.

Derby will turn 7 in two days!
Still a good boy.
After meeting with an alumni career coach from Yale's Career Development Office, reflecting on the past 20 years and looking ahead to the next 20, I decided I wanted to go back to consulting and build on the "future of work" area I'd been specializing in. It seemed obvious, then, that my next step should be to go back to Deloitte, the firm where I worked from 2011-2017. It's the top consultancy for that type of work, I already had a network there, and I knew I would enjoy being back. So I applied, reached out to a few people in my Deloitte network who were still there (and, lucky for me, in influential positions), and they supported me through the re-application process. I've now accepted an offer to return next month as a Senior Manager (one level higher than when I left) in their Workforce Transformation practice, which was created during my hiatus. I'm excited to be a "boomerang" and focus more on strategic talent issues vs. doing change management for big tech adoptions, which is what I fell into during my last stint.  
Me back in my first bedroom.
When I lived there, these beautiful
floors were hiding under carpet.
So it's been a bit of a tumultuous year work-wise, but I've ended up in a situation that I think is going to be awesome. In personal news, one of the more unusual adventures I had over the past year unfolded last month, when I found out that my childhood home was up for sale. Without hesitating, I headed to St. Louis to see it during an open house. "Surreal" is an overused word, but the right one here. This house, my home for the first 20 years of my life, has been the setting of my dreams at least once a week since my parents sold it in 1999, so to be back and roam around was phantasmagorical. I'm very grateful I got the chance to do this, and to finally meet some members of the family who lived there after we did. It also happened that our visit was a week before a family friend's 100th birthday, so I got to see her and give her a card in person. Even though she's fully vaccinated and I was half-vaccinated at the time, we wore masks and greeted with a fist bump.

Me with my parents in May 2021.
My family is generally well. My father had a heart attack last month, was discharged, then had a fall and went back to the hospital, but is now recovering nicely. My mom's mobility has declined over the past year or so, and she now uses a walker all the time. I was able to visit them down in Florida two weeks ago, for the first time since late 2019. My niece is 17 and graduating from high school a year early; she'll be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University this fall. My older nephew is about to turn 17, and my younger nephew is almost 15 and just wrapped up his freshman year at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. 

Last year, I won a B-level mixed doubles
round robin to raise money for cancer research.
It was my first tennis trophy ever.
Back home in New York, our oasis during these past 12 months has been our tennis club, which gradually started reopening last May and offered us social and recreational normalcy. I also took on a new role at the club as Chair of the Nominating Committee, which means I'm leading the effort to determine club officers (president, secretary, governors) for the next term. I'm also co-captaining one of our summer tennis teams, and organized a weekly Thursday evening mixer on the red clay that just began last week and will go through mid-October.

In Cancun for James' birthday.
Despite Covid-19, James and I managed to take a few trips over the past year, including to Cancun for his birthday in January. He's doing well in the real estate biz. I mentioned in my 2020 post that I'd stopped drinking for Lent and was continuing to live alcohol-free during the pandemic. I’ve remained sober since, 15 months and counting. This lifestyle change has been better for my physical and mental health, without question. It's a relief never to have to nurse a hangover or feel nervous that I can't remember the previous night's conversations. It's also pushed me to spend my social time doing things I genuinely enjoy instead of subconsciously gravitating toward activities where there'll be alcohol. And even though the past year has had many stresses, I believe I'm coping better as a totally sober person than I might otherwise. 

Looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months bring us! See you next year.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Where He Is Now: Nine Years Later

One of our first experiences with Zoom in the early days of Coronavirus.
Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2020, making it nine years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since last I posted an annual update.

Preparing to buy groceries
in Queens, March 2020.
Obviously the biggest development from a year ago is that the COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands of people, disrupting societies and devastating economies around the world. Here in New York City, as of this writing, we've had 340,000+ confirmed cases, 22,000+ deaths and inestimable job losses. I am healthy and employed, so the impact on my life is tiny next to the suffering of so many. Still, I'm affected. If you look at my update from a year ago, you'll read how excited I was to be enjoying a bunch of stuff I'm now prohibited from doing.

It feels like a lifetime ago,
but James and I won an
exhibition "cage match"
at our tennis club in August.
My partner, James, and I both believe he (and therefore I) had the virus in March, although we didn't qualify to be tested at the time, so we can't know for sure. But James had the standard symptoms, including complete loss of smell and taste despite no congestion. I had no symptoms aside, perhaps, from a brief fever one evening. Our antibody tests in early May came back negative, but that doesn't definitively tell us whether we were ever infected, it only tells us that when we took the test, we didn't have the antibodies -- and even that conclusion assumes the test was accurate, which is debatable.

Visiting my parents in December.
My small family is fine. My parents live in a South Florida senior living community that's been duly cautious given the facility's risk profile. Meanwhile the biggest challenge for my brother and his brood in Upstate New York has been maintaining therapies for my autistic nephew. My niece in Michigan turned 16 in April, so it was a bummer that she had to celebrate that milestone during this time, but overall she and her mom are fine too. And James' family, primarily based in California, are all healthy.

My friend Lori, whom I hadn't
seen in almost 20 years, and I in
Chapel Hill, February 2020.
I've been working at home since December 2017, as an internal consultant for BASF, so I didn't need to adjust to a "new normal" in that sense. Uncharacteristically, though, last winter I was traveling regularly to Durham, which happens to be where I went to college, for a project, but of course those trips were suspended and replaced by virtual workarounds. My company seems to be doing fine overall. Some business units have been disrupted, but others have actually been stimulated, so the overall impact is somewhat neutral, and for me there's been no material change. James earned his New York real estate license just days before this all started, so he's had to delay starting that career journey for now.

Hard to say no to that face!
We live in a two-bedroom apartment with a balcony, and our building has a gated courtyard, so we have some semi-private outdoor space. The playground next to our building, though, was closed by city mandate, so we lost the place we used to surreptitiously take our dog for off-the-leash fetching after sundown. We don't have human children, so there was no extra caregiving to take on due to school closures. And with James here with me, I haven't gone stir-crazy from solitary confinement. (If anything, as an introvert, I've had to carve out my "me" time.) So, overall, we're certainly fortunate.

Live-streaming a recital
for about 50 fellow tennis
club members in April.
The big changes for us have been the suspension of all our leisure pursuits. Before Coronavirus, my typical week included a tennis game or two, community musical rehearsals on Sunday and Monday evenings, Tuesday evening choir practice and performance at Sunday Mass, a yoga class, and perhaps a swim and a steam at the Yale Club next to Grand Central. For the past two months, all that's been replaced by an infinite loop of Backgammon, karaoke on Smule, long walks with my dog, Zooms, dishwashing, piano playing, iPhone games and hitting tennis balls against whatever walls I can find. But we just got good news the other day -- Gov. Cuomo announced that a few low-risk recreational activities could resume, including tennis. So our club reopened about half its courts as of Saturday. We just had a gorgeous weekend, and I got to play twice. It was wonderful to be back there and to see people, if only to wave from afar.

Toasting after our choir's
Christmas concert.
As per tradition, I'd given up drinking for Lent (starting Feb. 26). But breaking tradition, I've been abstaining ever since. It hasn't been too hard because I see it as a reward rather than a sacrifice, thanks to a persuasive book I read called This Naked Mind (Annie Grace), which I'd recommend for anyone interested in cutting down on their drinking. Many of our friends have interpreteded the lockdown as permission to drink. That's their choice. (Or not, actually. This Naked Mind would argue that satiating a subconscious craving to a highly addictive drug is not a choice.) For me, in this time of boredom, stress and fear, I believe I'm better off having the benefit of my full wits, avoiding hangovers and potentially hazardous decisions, and building more of a cushion in my checking account. So our home bar has been collecting dust, and I feel good. Cheers!

"Hey where's everybody?"
I asked myself facetiously
during a fall 2019 visit to
Yale SOM's former building.
When I was in business school in 2009-2011, stories were still circulating about the mess that the previous few classes had faced hunting for jobs during the Great Recession. Subsequent studies have suggested that those who graduated in 2008-09 continue to experience lower incomes and less advancement, even 10+ years later. I assume that the Class of 2020 will experience even more significant long-term consequences. Of course, there are worse situations to be in than having just earned an MBA. But, relatively speaking, it's unfortunate that some students' experiences are being shortchanged, and that their nontrivial investment in their education may not have the return it should.

Celebrating our friend Pablo's
50th birthday in Cartagena,
Colombia, in November 2019.
Putting the Coronavirus aside for a moment, over the past year, we managed a few getaways, the most exotic of which was last fall to Cartagena, Colombia. James and I were among about 20 people invited to celebrate our friend Pablo's 50th birthday. He and his partner, John, took wonderful care of us, and we had a fantastic time exploring the area. It was my first time in South America, so now I've been on four continents (minus Africa, Asia and Antarctica). We also went to L.A. for James' sister's wedding, took a trip to Vermont to stay with friends who'd recently moved there, and visited my parents a couple times in Florida. We had some spring and summer travel plans that were postponed, of course, but c'est la vie.

Here's hoping things go back to normal, and perhaps even better than normal, very soon, and that my 2021 update doesn't need to address global despair! See you next year.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Where He Is Now: Eight Years Later

Me after my 40th birthday (surprise!) dinner in December 2018.
Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2019, making it eight years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since last I posted an annual update.

Our crew at the WSTC's
grass courts in August 2018.
These past 12 months have probably been my favorite since business school. I'm in my second year of my second post-MBA job, as an in-house management consultant for BASF. I continue to enjoy it, and especially continue to enjoy working remotely, which has enabled me to plant roots in my community and generally enhance my life on all fronts. These days, 90% of the time I'm either at the West Side Tennis Club or home, a 12-minute walk away. I often do my BASF work out of the club's library, and make nearly daily use of the tennis courts, pool, gym (not as often as I should), and bar (more often than I should). The club also hosts summer concerts at the stadium and special events in the clubhouse like trivia nights and karaoke, so we're there a lot. It's the first time as an adult I've felt like I had a home away from home. In fact if we could take our dog and a couple sleeping bags there, we'd probably never leave.

My country club swim
team portrait, 1986.
When I was growing up in a suburb of St. Louis in the '80s and '90s, my family belonged to a country club across the street. My mom spent a lot of time there, playing golf and bridge. I was on the swim team as a kid and played a little bit of tennis as a teen, and we dined there at least once a week. It was a beautiful facility, and the source of fond memories (although, admittedly, young me wasn't always jumping for joy about dressing up in a coat and tie to spend three hours at dinner). It also lived up to some of the negative reputations of country clubs -- formal, stuffy, exclusive, pretentious. Fortunately, our tennis club in Queens is casual, relaxed, welcoming and jovial. More importantly, we've developed genuinely meaningful friendships that have seeped into our broader lives outside of just tennis. Throughout most of my 30s, I didn't have a lot of close friends physically nearby. Now I've made some, and it's added a lot of enrichment to my life over this past year.

Our church during the
Easter Vigil service.
For almost a year now, James and I have been going to church every Sunday. I'm Protestant and he's Catholic, so we were alternating between two nearby churches. A friend from our spin class encouraged us to audition for the choir at the Catholic one, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs. We joined, and now perform every Sunday morning, and rehearse every Tuesday evening. Being in the choir has had a lot of benefits. It gives us an opportunity to work as part of a team, be rewarded for practice, and hopefully enhance mass-goers' experiences. And I've learned a lot about Catholicism, which initially intimidated me. Singing with the choir has ended up being one of the most emotionally and spiritually fulfilling endeavors I've undertaken. And my late brother was a devout Catholic, so I also feel like this is a way to continue to honor him and keep his influence relevant in my daily life.

My BFF from high school
took me to a "Golden Girls" drag
show for my 40th birthday.
I turned 40 in December, and overall I'm excited about this age. I launched this blog when I was 30. When I reflect on the past 10 years, what I mainly see is growth (professional, personal, spiritual, physical), resulting from a nontrivial amount of effort, sacrifice and even pain. Unlike my breezy but stagnant 20s, my 30s saw a battery of challenges, confrontations, rejections and losses that forced me to dig into who I am, what I believe, and where I want to go with my life. I think elderly future me will see my 30s as a period of investment in what I hope will be bountiful subsequent years.

James and I celebrated New Year's
Eve 2018 at a Yale friend's wedding.
My 30s had joyful times as well, of course. I met my partner, explored many new parts of the world, met dozens of fascinating people who'd have remained strangers had I stayed in Texas, adopted a wonderful dog, and rediscovered various passions and interests I'd let expire. Now as I move into my 40s, I feel more optimistic than I have in a long while. I'm excited for what's next.

See you next year!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Where He Is Now: Seven Years Later

Me at Yosemite National Park in California, two weeks ago.
Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2018, making it seven years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since I last posted an annual update.

The two biggest updates from the past 12 months happened last fall. On the professional front, there was good news: I got a new job. But there was bad news on the personal front, as less than a week after I accepted that offer, my brother Rick died.

My official BASF photo.
I'll start by elaborating on the professional news. In November 2017, I accepted a job offer at BASF, a German chemical company, and resigned from Deloitte, the consulting firm I joined out of business school in 2011. The new role offers better pay, a slower work pace, greater emphasis on my areas of interest and, most importantly (to me), the flexibility to work from home, which has been a game-changer in terms of my overall wellbeing. So even though Deloitte is a great company, and I grew tremendously while there, ultimately this was the right offer at the right time.

Me with my new team after
"escaping the room" in December.
My new title is People Consultant, which is essentially an internal management consultant who focuses on HR projects. I found out about this opportunity through a head hunter to whom I was introduced through an MBA classmate, adding yet another reason why an MBA was a good investment -- the network really can pay off. Even though the work is similar to what I did before, it's my first time working in this industry, or in this function, so I'm learning a lot.

Rick and I, November 1984.
Back to the personal news, my brother was 49 when he passed away on Nov. 2, 2017. He had struggled with alcoholism since he was 13, and in this case suffered a relapse from which he didn't recover. I had seen him just a few weeks before when I was in St. Louis for my 20-year high school reunion, which happened to fall on his birthday weekend. We saw each other three times, so I'm grateful we had those moments. Nearly 200 people attended his funeral, many of whom I hadn't seen in decades, and his burial was in Nashville in our family plot, which goes back five generations to the 19th century.

Rick and I on his birthday,
October 2016.
Rick was a personable, irreverently funny intellectual with a passion for history, including our family ancestry. Although we all grew up Presbyterian, he had been devoutly Catholic since converting for his first marriage, and was a single-issue voter on abortion (anti). But he had a strong rebellious streak, too. He'd gotten around via motorcycle since I can remember (see drawing below for evidence) and had several prominent tattoos, including one on the back of each hand. His nickname for me was Fuzz; he's the only one who ever called me that, and that's the only thing he'd ever call me. He left behind a daughter, who recently turned 14 and lives with her mom, his second ex-wife, in Michigan. (Here's an old post featuring them, from 2009.) I'm angry, sad and annoyed he's not here anymore. At least once a week, something pops into my mind that I want to tell him, or ask him about, and I remind myself that it's too late.

A family portrait I drew in third grade.

Mom reads her 75th birthday present.
Depressing, right? Yes. But on the bright side, it's prompted me to do a lot of reflecting about the long-ago past, and take solace in these memories. And the real takeaway, of course, isn't to wallow, it's to appreciate that our time here is pretty short, and that it's important to invest that time wisely, especially when it comes to connecting with loved ones. For example, a couple months ago, my mom turned 75. For a gift, I did what I did for my father's 75th birthday six years ago and leveraged my newspaper design skills to create a faux front page in her honor. It was a time-consuming endeavor, but well worth it, and I'm thankful I was able to see her read it in person.

A Boardwalk Empire-themed
New Year's Eve!
Beyond all that, the past 12 months were generally pretty good. James and I, as usual, managed to take a few enjoyable vacations. Most recently, we went to Puerto Vallarta for a friend's (surprise) 50th birthday, and the following week spent time in California, including the Bay Area for a Yale classmate's wedding, followed by a few nights in Yosemite National Park, and wrapping up in James' hometown of Los Angeles. James has been focusing most of his energy on growing audience for his website ( Since we both work from home now, we rejoined our local tennis club and have been making the most out those facilities, along with our memberships to a nearby gym. Almost every day we do something active like tennis, weightlifting, swimming, hiking with Derby (our dog), or taking an exercise class at the gym like spin, yoga, abs or Pilates. At the beginning of the year, I vowed to lose 40 pounds for my 40th birthday, which is this December. I was trending in the right direction until these past couple weeks of vacation, so weight loss will be a top priority over the coming months, as will post-vacation financial frugality.

See you next year.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Where He Is Now: Six Years Later

James and I toast his milestone birthday in Turks & Caicos, January '17.
Today is Commencement Day for the Yale School of Management's Class of 2017, making it six years since I graduated from their MBA program, and one year since I last posted an annual update.

Me with the U.S. CEO of Deloitte,
Cathy, whom I met at "The Hunt,"
a horse racing tailgate event in
Far Hills, NJ, October 2016. 
Work-wise, I'm still doing human capital consulting at Deloitte, the firm I joined out of business school in 2011. For the past 11 1/2 months, I've been staffed on a project at a media company based in Manhattan. I'm leading the change management program on a multi-phase, multi-year order-to-cash transformation. In a nutshell, this means I'm in charge of making sure that this client's employees are ready and willing to use new technologies and follow new processes from the point at which an order is placed through the point at which payments are applied to the accounting records. I lead a team of nine. There are things I like about the engagement: It's local, the people I work with are great, the schedule is generally predictable, and I feel capable of doing what's being asked of me. That said, a year (and counting) is a long time to be on one project, and I know from previous experience that the longer you're on a project, the more shielded you get, and the harder it is to transition to the next gig, whenever that may come.

Me trying to punt
in Oxford, June 16.
Although not much has changed on the employment front over the past year, in two weeks I'll be transferring from my regional service line into a new national practice called Digital Enablement. This group of about 200 practitioners will focus all its attention on topics such as the human implications of robotics, artificial intelligence and digital transformation. These are cool topics, so I'm excited to join this new team. I'm on the transition team and will be attending a planning session tomorrow.

Derby in front of a new
mural, April 2017.
James and I are still together, four years and counting, living in Forest Hills with our beloved dog, Derby. Over the past year, our main focus has been on adopting a healthier lifestyle. We've been going to a personal trainer twice a week since September, playing a lot of tennis, eating lighter and drinking less (or not at all). James has been particularly dedicated, going to at least one fitness activity a day, be it kickboxing, Pilates, boot camp and/or yoga. (He works from home, so he can organize his work around these activities.) He's lost 60 pounds and looks amazing; I've only lost about 15, but I've never been in better shape. So looking back on the past 12 months, I'd say that's been the most meaningful shift for the better.

High school BFFs Jenny, Shiri and
Tracy in St. Louis, October 2016.
I've also traveled a decent amount over the past year, to destinations far and wide:
  • Durango, CO, with friends from my Texas journalism days;
  • Seattle, to visit a friend from summer camp who lives there;
  • Oxford, London and Lewes, UK, because we love it there;  
  • St. Louis (my hometown), for a high school friend's wedding; 
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, for a work training and to visit friends from back when I lived there; 
  • Fort Myers, FL, three times because my parents live there (my dad turned 80 in March); 
  • Orlando, FL, to hit the theme parks; 
  • Nantucket, MA, with friends from Yale for Labor Day weekend; 
  • Montauk, a "fishing village" on Long Island; 
  • New Haven, CT, several times for recruiting events and to visit a friend from Yale who moved back there; 
  • Key West, to visit friends we made in Paris a couple years ago; 
  • And, the highlight of all these trips, Turks & Caicos, to celebrate James' 50th birthday.
Next week we're driving upstate to spend three nights at The Getaway at Glen Highland Farms, a rural retreat for dog owners.

Me with Dave and Ryan, friends
from my Texas newspaper days
 in Durango, CO, June 2016.
So, in general, things are still good. Time is flying, though. It's been 10 years since I took the GMAT and started thinking seriously about quitting journalism to get an MBA. Did I do the right thing? I think so, but I'll never know for sure. Maybe I should've gone to law school instead. Maybe I should've gotten a PhD in a passion area, like film studies. Maybe I should've stuck with journalism but pivoted from local newspapers into a more stable (or growing!) sector. Maybe I should've made a bigger push to pursue my songwriting. Maybe I should've gone with my Plan B and become a high school teacher. Maybe I should've moved back to my hometown, leveraged family connections and gotten a 9-to-5 job in some office. There's no way to know which path will make us happiest. The main thing I'm grateful for is that I was able to choose that path on my own terms. As for what's next: My boyfriend is starting a business. I'd like us to move into a bigger house as soon as it's financially feasible. And I'm going to try my best to live in the moment next week on the farm.

And, certainly most importantly, my mom and my friend both beat breast cancer this past year!

Those are the highlights. See you next year!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Where He Is Now: Five Years Later

Derby and me in Central Park in April 2016.
Today is Commencement Day for Yale SOM's Class of 2016, making it five years since I graduated from my MBA program, and one since my last post.

James channeling Elvis
Since last I posted, the basic bio remains unchanged: I still live in Forest Hills, Queens, with my boyfriend (James) and our dog (Derby). We also now have a roommate, Matt, a friend to whom we're renting our spare room. This July, I'll celebrate five years at Deloitte, where I'm still in the human capital consulting service area, focused on the TMT (Technology, Media, Telecom) industry. My projects have ranged in topic -- outsourcing, tech adoption and learning strategies. And as a manager I have ever-increasing responsibilities, like playing counseling/coaching roles, interviewing candidates and leading project teams. I still like what I'm doing but am not sure whether it's what I want to do long-term. I'm starting to suspect I'll say that every year until I retire from Deloitte in 2041.

Five-year reunion photo.
Given that I'm now at "Five Years Later," I'm probably supposed to sound surprised by how quickly the time has passed, but actually business school feels like a long time ago. I continue to visit Yale regularly for recruiting, and went there last month for our five-year reunion. It was much better-attended than I expected -- about 90 students from our class of about 230, traveling in from as far away as Australia and Switzerland. It was good to catch up with people, and in some cases have longer conversations with them than I'd ever had. Most of them looked the same. Some seemed tired and beaten down, others refreshed and revived. Many brought kids.

Business school seems especially long ago when I read this blog, which I do every now and then. I make a point not to change any posts unless I spot a typo; I'm horrified there are so many, since I used to be a copy editor. When I read old posts, especially the very old ones, these are my most common reactions:
  • Confusion about why I was so anxious. I often can't believe how stressed I was about what now seem like relatively unimportant things, and how guilty I felt about "wasting time" by doing things like watching TV or going out. Wish I could go back and say to myself, "Dude, relax."
    Me in New Zealand in March 2010.
  • Incredulity at how much energy I had. Especially when I read posts that go into (painful) detail about my day, I just don't know how I managed, or where that energy came from. Don't think I could swing the hectic lifestyle of a student today.
  • Puzzlement over events and people I don't remember ... at all. Seriously, some of these posts I read and I have absolutely no idea what I'm even talking about. Like this post about musicians I'd met and wanted to start a band with? I met a flute player, a harpist and a trumpet player? I'll be. 
  • Amusement, and perhaps mild regret, about having avoided discussing my dating life. I dodged this topic for obvious reasons, but the result is that the blog is an incomplete story.
  • Affectionate embarrassment about my general naiveté. My age and inexperience shine brightly throughout this blog. And that's understandable, since I was transitioning into unfamiliar waters, and all of us are always learning. But sometimes it's funny to read.
  • Gratitude I found the time to keep up with the blog. It would have been very easy to just drop the whole thing and focus on the task at hand. I'm glad I made time to keep plugging away.
Back to the update: 2016 also happened to be the 15-year anniversary of my graduation from undergrad, and although I didn't attend any reunion events, I did take James down to visit my old stomping grounds in the the Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. I hadn't been back there since 2001, so it was a very interesting experience -- a combination of memory overload and total disorientation.

My friend Carla and me in Seattle.
I did some traveling over the past 12 months, though not as much as the year prior. My business trips tended to be one-off jaunts for a specific purpose, like to attend a workshop, observe a facility or conduct in-person interviews with executives. In the past year, work took me to Miami, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco and Wilmington, DE, but I'd estimate that 80%-90% of the time I was in the New York area. Vacation-wise, I made it to a few nice places, like Seattle, Orlando and South Florida, and have upcoming trips planned to Colorado, England and Key West this summer.

A Whole30 meal we made.
The past year also has been good for healthy habits. I got a personal trainer, continued to play a lot of tennis, went on the Whole30 diet/cleanse three times (total: 90 days), and in all lost about 25 pounds. Whole30 is a paleo-inspired diet that's fun to challenge yourself with if you have the means to prepare your own food. James and I did it together, and it prompted us to cook more, something I used to enjoy doing but got lazy about once I moved to New York, where kitchens are small and delivery is abundant.

In my spare time, I'm populating two blogs. One is a joint effort called Was It Dope?, about the '90s. So far I've been doing the content about music, while my friend Carla has been doing posts about films. The other is about new music, called New Good Songs. Visit both today!

Me and Mom, then and now.
Among life's inevitable bumps over these past 12 months was the somewhat recent development that my mom and one of my best friends were both diagnosed with breast cancer within days of each other. The most common and treatable kind, caught very early, fortunately. And so far, knock on wood, they are responding well to treatment and pulling through in good spirits. But, still, a reminder to appreciate those around you amid life's unpredictable wrenches.

See you in 2017.