Dear 26-year-old Mona,
First thing first, on day one of Orientation week at INSEAD, chill out. No one’s going to bite you.
Everyone is friendlier than they seem on that first day. Your B-schooler’s classmates, MBA partners, professors, visiting professionals and keynote speakers, are all looking for the same thing as you are: authentic connections. That cockiness is a front. That’s the big secret everyone will realize soon enough. So have the courage to be yourself, and don’t worry about the rest.
Change is inevitable here, so you might as well embrace it. Saying goodbye to everything you know and leaving the comfort of the familiar is not easy. It’s a natural response to resist it at first. But once you go past that and accept change for all its benefits, opening yourself up to possibilities and opportunities, there’s no telling what lies around the next corner for you. As crazy as this might sound, it will actually start to feel really good.
Stop asking yourself if you did the right thing. This will do nothing but fill you with worry. Be an enthusiast; embrace this experience with arms and mind wide open, and do your best to choose positive energy: gratitude, humility, patience, courage, happiness, charity, and kindness.
Line up things you want to do. Remember the times you said to yourself, I wish I had more time? Well now you do. Explore, experiment and experience all that you can. Reconnect with your childhood passions for starters. And don’t forget to write it all down, as seeing them in your own handwriting has a powerful effect on your mind – it is as if your desires become so tangible that you can almost feel them.
Ignore that tedious inner critic and believe in yourself. This voice is only trying to protect the status quo, and that’s long gone in this chapter of your life! You are smart enough and you can do it. Know the difference between this subjective voice and what you know to be true: the facts.
Don’t be put off by the bad plays on the MBA acronym —be it Marriage Breaking Academy, Married But Available, or Marriage Breakers Association. Take the stories they tell with lots of grains of salt; most of them are exaggerated anyway.
However — talk everything out with your hubby. One year can be long sometimes, and a “quick fix” won’t fix anything. Before you become a ticking time bomb, talk things out with honesty. But try not to sweat the small stuff; they won’t matter in a few days anyway.
Get involved and get out. The B-school partner experience is what you make out of it. No matter how you feel, get up, get dressed, and show up. Sign up to the clubs, check out the university bar, host a barbeque. Live in the present moment mindfully and purposefully—nothing else is as real as right now.
And finally, look at this year in the bigger aspect of your whole life. As you well know, every journey comes to an end. This one will, too, as unique as it will be. You will be surprised at how fast time will fly. It will only be a string of memories soon enough—so start a countdown and live each day well. Ultimately, you will realize that your failures don’t make you undeserving and your successes don’t make you superhuman.
Best of luck,
Mona Bijjani is a Singapore-based author and entrepreneur.She was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Lebanon, and has since lived in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. She is the author of the recently published book, The Unofficial Guide to Business School Partner Life. Bijjani was an INSEAD MBA partner in 2015/6 and will be an INSEAD MBA candidate starting in January of 2018.