We all are guided by mob mentality in varying degrees. When last year my husband finally announced his long time ambition to go for an MBA, it raised quite a few eyebrows. “But, you just had a baby!” A few said. “There must be marital discord”, said a few others. Because once you are thirty, you stop being ambitious, because most of life’s adventures are already done and dusted and now it is time to commit yourself to a routine of work, home, kids and holidays. Because once you are thirty, you are practically middle aged and not exciting at all. Why, quite a few B-Schools even rejected him outright, because he’s lived on this earth a bit longer than his fellow applicants. “Older Applicant”, they said!
In such a society, to live like a nomad takes a lot of determination and commitment. It’s very hard to not “settle” and “grow roots” once you are over thirty and when everyone else around is in a frenzy to do just that. It’s doubly so when you have a baby to be responsible for. Yet, we spent most of last year, not house hunting, like the peer pressure would have us do, but honing his applications to schools known to be a little more lenient toward older candidates (to think GMAT was the hardest part of admission), saving money for the tuition rather than the down payment and searching a new job for me, all the while tending the little infant and marveling at the new vocation of ours – parenting.
In this process we found out that schools were obsessed with “diversity”. What an irony it was, I thought, as I proof-read my husband’s applications. All our lives we have been conditioned to conform to the society norms. We have done what everyone else was doing, we have thought what everyone else was thinking.
The following fact is disturbing, but just goes to show the extent of our alikeness – everyone I know of my age, got married during the winter of 2010-2012 and everyone became parents in the years 2016-2018. For us, the struggle to maintain the appearance that you live the most beautiful perfect worry-free life on Instagram is real. To ask diversity of us is heartless indeed when the rest of the world we know is so keen on shaming us for that very reason.
Why do the schools want so though? Do they not want to belong? Turns out, it is us whose reality is only our assumed comfort zone, not really real. We have fallen prey to our own lives and the sameness has become out of control. Yet, the farmer who has lived through the Mt. Galunggung eruption in Java and his ambition to turn his small farmland on lava soil into a tourist attraction are real too. Or the former Olympian with a high school degree, who now aspires to become a sports manager after a crippling injury, is equally qualified (and even preferred over an academician) to want to go for an MBA. Or the mom to three toddlers, who is brave enough to take on the additional responsibility of a rigorous curriculum such as a fulltime MBA.
When thrown out of our comfort zones, we all deal with adversities as bravely as we can. But to proactively choose the uncertain over a life of placidity based on only a vision but no certain positive outcome – now that is the kind of courage I have not often seen in our society. Many identify such risk-takers as reckless or foolhardy, eccentric even. As such, we too have been plagued with numerous doubts and questions, this last year. It has been a constant debate whether it was a right thing to do to make such a huge investment with no assured return? Ought we really concentrate more on our son instead of poring over those application essays? Should we go out for the date night we’ve been putting off and get ourselves drunk instead of practicing an interview? Now that those days are over, we are still constantly worrying and moping about what’s to become of us in the next year when he is off to Oxford. This tug-of-war of excitement and anxiety is ever-present. Again, it is just the middle class conditioning in action.
Yet, when I see the profiles of my husband’s fellow students, I cannot help but feel a little happy. There is no shortage of “eccentric” people like us. It’s just the matter of stepping out of the comforting warmth of our bubbles to really realize how much we don’t know about the world and what big pretenders we all are.