The Road Not Taken

“Congratulations, grad!”

“Ms. MBA, we’re so proud of you!”

“Class of 2011: We did it!”

In my typical pre-flight procrastination routine, I sat in front of my computer hypnotized by my Facebook newsfeed. My half packed suitcase lay open in the middle of the floor, begging me to finish and head out the door. Instead I stayed, entranced by my thoughts of what could have been.

I nearly skipped all the way from the 72nd Street stop to the front door of my new Upper West side abode.  It had been three weeks since I signed the lease and I couldn’t wait to buy new furniture and get settled. I couldn’t get the key in fast enough, and with nervous anticipation, I flicked on the lights.

It wasn’t nearly as big as I remembered. The bold blue walls had been replaced with a fresh coat of drab white.  Two oversized roaches scurried across the floor to a new hiding place. Out with the final remnants of furniture and its last inhabitant went the remaining breaths of life.

My heart sank.  What had I gotten myself into? I sat in the middle of the floor and cried.

“Thank you for the offer of admissions, Linda, but I have decided not to matriculate at Columbia Business School.”

I couldn’t believe those words were coming out of my mouth. For the last two years this is what I had worked for. Even though I had already earned a master’s degree in engineering, I was sure a spot in a top business school was the answer to my problems, my savior from the stress, boredom and torture of work and general uncertainty in life. But after countless cross country trips, too many informational sessions to count, 8 applications, 7 interviews, 6 acceptances and one hefty tuition deposit, I threw it all away.

I had awoken early as usual, showered and ate a filling breakfast.  All errands were done and my apartment was spotless. I threw some final items in and zipped up my bag. Passport? Check. Camera and charger? Double check. The essentials were accounted for and I was Tokyo bound.

No MBA appended to my name, but in the same time span it takes to earn one, I had snapped out of my funk and got back on track. I downsized my life and rented out my condo, moved myself cross country from Atlanta to Los Angeles and renewed my commitment to walking the earth, meeting new people and getting into adventures.

As I roam the streets of Shibuya, taking in the foreign sights and sounds, I’m reminded that I made the best decision for me and my life.

Cheers to the next adventure!

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  • vaishali says...

    Very thought provoking article indeed. I am planning to go for an MBA and I am confused whether I should move forward with this idea or not. I am also a travel enthusiast. but one thing I am doubtful about is from where can one manage finances while travelling only and not have any full time job.

  • Alisha says...

    Hi April,
    Wonderful to read your posts.i have an opportunity to pursue a fully paid MBA program but it’s not what i really want to do.I like to travel and the reason why i am considering MBA is a) i get to experience a new place b) i’ll get paid well post MBA to make travel dreams happen.
    I know none of those may happen but i really love to travel,infact i did solo backpack but on a lavish budget ,so i’m still a novice!
    I would really like to know from you if i should take up this degree and what are your thoughts on relating MBA with travel

  • PranayI says...

    Hi April,

    Fantastic post because not only the oration is so great but also it exactly presents the situation I am into now. The only difference is I am yet to pay the apartment deposit and my BSchool is a tier 2 school. Over lst few days, I had so much confusion! I use to sleep with a mindset that I will attend the program and wake up with not attending the program and vice versa. I was confused with this behavior but now understand that it is a part of incremental thought process and realization. My family is fed up with my ever changing decisions! I am yet to conclude and let the incremental thoughts flow in. I am sure if I don’t go, I will explore nature and learn from it to be robust decision maker than to learn it in classroom. Later, If I realize then I will reapply and attend Bschool to get $ besides decision making. ;)

    Excuse me for mistakes because I am not as good as you are in writing.


  • N M says...

    April, Thanks for such a wonderful Post. It is really encouraging.

    I completed my MBA a year ago and am working for a large company. But I get a constant feeling that I don’t belong here and need to move on. I have a few things in mind, but have no idea how to make such a big leap. In one of the comments above you have mentioned that it was not an overnight thing for you, rather incremental steps. Can you offer some perspective/help on how you went about it?

    • Hi NM, Thanks for your comment. It was incremental because I didn’t go to sleep one day miserable and wake up the next day with all of my problems solved. First was getting to the point where I was OK with the fact that what I wanted wasn’t what everyone else wanted for me. Next was being extremely grateful for the situation that I was in and everything that led me to that point. This really allowed me to stop blaming others and my “situation” for not living the life I wanted. After that it was just a matter of putting a plan in place to move forward and staying consistent on execution. If you’d like to learn more and get some guidance, I’d be happy to help. You can learn more here:

  • Beth says...

    Great post, April – so easy to relate to! I quit a master’s degree at the halfway point. It’s hard to walk away when you have time/money invested, but I think it’s just as hard to keep going down the wrong path. Glad you figured it out!

    • Thanks Beth! Yup, it really is hard when you get down to the “wasted” dollars and cents. I still cringe a bit at how much I spent in the MBA application process plus the tuition deposit and apartment $ that I had to walk away from. But regardless of the dollar amount, the peace of mind that came from it is priceless!!

  • jenson says...

    im presently pursing my majors in engineering and i have a feeling that something is still missing , this is not me , this is not what iam …
    .. i have always thought of going out travelling , photography , meet people of different races and learn about their culture and experiences , but sadly april i dont have the courage and guts to follow , i really appreciate that you did and u r doing amazing … i wish i was like you ..

    • Hi Jenson,

      Thanks for your comment. I totally understand. It took time for me to get brave enough to make some changes. And don’t be fooled by my article, it took time and small incremental steps to get there. You don’t have to quit everything and go travel. If something is missing, focus on finding things that do bring you happiness and excite you. The only way to do that is try different things. Try a photography class, do a road trip close to home or maybe explore an ethnically and culturally diverse area of your or a neighboring city and go from there. If you need more guidance and help setting goals, I’m happy to help. :-)

  • Sumanto Dutta Chowdhury says...

    I enjoyed a lot while reading your post.
    I was surfing the net regarding MBA(as i’m preparing for it) when your post came as a stress buster for me.
    The way you wrote it,couldn’t have been better than this…

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I wish you all the best on the MBA journey!

  • Camilo Delvasto says...

    Just love the way you write!

  • […] deciding not to escape my job for business school, I made a promise to myself to make some drastic changes There’s no silver bullet to […]

  • Brandon says...

    Love the way you wrote this…..and it’s totally you. :P

  • MzFreelancer says...

    Awww yes, a blog that speaks to my inner spirit! This is such a well written post. For a moment, I stepped outside my self and not only could I see you there.. I could see myself there because I experienced it in its totality this summer!

    All I can say is go on with your bad self!

    • Thanks girl! I appreciate it. I can only imagine the impact your summer in Colombia had on you. But you know what, anytime you want to make a change, you can! :-)

  • Cha says...

    GREAT READ! Just read your post on the Tribes page and as fellow engineer who is now studying (or finishing) my MBA I was intrigued with hearing what you had to say. I am as big on Travel as I am on my Career and I wanted to commend you on doing what must people don’t, which is being honest with yourself. Some may call it quieting but I think that its harder to do what you ultimately want to do and love to do than what family or society decided you should. Trust me even though I have found a good middle ground by achieving my MBA abroad not too many people thought I was crazy when I decided to get my career as an engineer to study abroad during a rescission for my program. Just remember it takes GUTS to be GREAT! Keep pushing the bar of your imagination and best of luck. Keep in touch!

    • Thanks Cha! Most of my engineering friends are going through the same thing right now as well. It is hard to stop listening to all of the other voices and do what that little voice inside tells you to do. Lord knows I doubted and questioned myself fifty-leven times before I made that decision, but I’m thankful I had the guts to follow through.

      Thanks so much for the support and congrats on your upcoming graduation!

  • This is a FABULOUSLY written post. Sometimes I get all caught up in “what I could have been” had I opted to go to Law School and become “more” than “just” a high school teacher. But then I realize that I am so so happy to have taken the path that I did. I really hope we meet somewhere in the world some day!

    • Thank you Oneika! Our paths will definitely cross sooner than later!

      Oh, and I feel you, but get out of here with than just a teacher nonsense, especially given you teach foreign language (and all teachers are important) and you doing what so many dream about, but will never do.

  • Akilah says...

    This is precisely why I come to your blog, April! You speak FLUENT Life Design, and I love peeking into your life by way of your posts.

    I hear you! I opted out of law school after spending more than a year at a great law firm (as a file clerk), getting my paralegal certification, and spending countless hours studying for, taking, and re-taking the LSAT.

    I don’t regret it for one moment, and I can only imagine how much less you’ll regret foregoing your MBA status when you visit your gazillionth new country, or get hired by OWN network as a travel writer! *figured I’d put that out into the universe while I’m here*

    Safe travels, April!

    • Sometimes I feel like I’m still a big mess, but I enjoy those moments when I have those moments of clarity AND I’m able to share it with (and hopefully help) others.

      So didn’t know about your law path, but I know you are 100% happy with your decision. I’m happier and happier everyday with the little tweaks I made to my journey to get me closer to my goals and dreams.

      Putting a lot out in the universe lately and will gladly claim OWN as well!!
      Thank you for that and all of the amazingness you bring!

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