“Middle-market. Leveraged capital buyout. T–M–T.”
My friend is wearing a pink striped tie and a blazer. He has a video interview tonight, his eleventh recently, and recites contrived phrases as he paces the room.
“Enterprise software solutions. Accretion.”
I am lounging on a bed wearing a loose-fitting kurta and sipping iced coffee. I do not have an interview tonight, nor have I had one this month or the month before.
“This isn’t for lack of trying,” I would like to write. But, except for a few consulting applications, I haven’t embarked on my Junior Year Internship Search, that all-important third-year rite. Until now, I’ve hurdled through my college years like one of those Spartan racers. Having overcome classes and clubs and jobs, I feel like a mud-streaked champion, successful if not graceful. Now, an unexpected roadblock. I can’t bring myself to upload my resume and click submit.
My friend’s business-speak incantation winds around the room. I’m sure it will work, because it has before. Over the past months he has racked up first- and second-round interviews. Offers wait on the horizon. My iced coffee is delicious.
There is a Buddhist term, muditā, which Wikipedia calls “joy unadulterated by self-interest.” It’s what a better person might feel in this moment. But I can’t overlook a sliver of jealousy. The pieces of his life seem to fall so neatly into place, like train tracks.
I discovered muditā at an early age, when my parents gave me free range of the bookshelf. In this manner they guaranteed I would never turn to hard drugs. Books were my fix; for hours I would vanish entirely into their vibrant guarantees. I pursued this feeling indiscriminately, in classics, in horror, in poetry, short stories, historical nonfiction. Frequently I wouldn’t hear my mother call my name.
Try muditā out. Feel it in your ear, on your tongue. Compare it with “synergy.” One is a five-course meal cooked by someone you love. The other is an old McDonalds French fry.
Nonobjective, snobbish: I grant these and other objections. However—to attempt an unlikely bit of redemption—I insist I’m not in business school for nothing. I also love analytics. These two words are not often put side-by-side. Business analytics is a field you might call “hard-boiled” if you spoke like a Watergate-era journalist. In class we use computer programs with many acronyms. Subjectivity is tightly leashed.
Thus, my internship search acquires life-defining significance. Fact or fiction. Which to choose?
As I practice for consulting interviews, swallowing talk of “frameworks,” I genuinely enjoy the puzzling, the cutting certainty of it. Then I browse marketing postings, wishing they were more concrete. When I get my first reply from a consulting firm, the second paragraph begins, “Unfortunately…” It’s not hard to imagine that my existential hedging colors my applications.
“The consulting people are the ones who really want it,” I explain to a friend, incoherently. What I’m trying to say is, “How can I compete with the real analysts?” I imagine these people, their minds whirring like supercomputers, ice cold. Hard-boiled.
All my books are silent on the matter.
One day, I’m exploring the Babson College website. I’m in full avoidance mode, poking into cobwebbed corners, no risk of coming across a rogue internship application, when a snippet of text catches me. It’s really nothing special.
“Because you are empowered to take action, you can control the future.”
“Oh,” I think, “I have a choice.” Where does my surprise come from?
A deep hum of anxiety quiets. A spell lifts. I see my distaste for business-speak for what it had become: a conduit for fear. Inside words like “middle-market” lurk visions of myself working as a corporate analyst, books in unread stacks at home. Only a powerful fear, like a storybook wizard, could have made a shining revelation of this phrase.
I guess certain beliefs take reinforcing. A search for an internship isn’t a search for myself. Why did I ever think otherwise?
I still read, sometimes in the dark. Shadows make a great canvas for stories to take shape. Deep down, I treat them as some do God, with equal parts fear and love. After all, anything could be out there.
Will I find an internship? What is “accretion,” anyways? The answers to my questions are out there, in the dark. Uncertainly looms, thrillingly.
That’s what I call internal innovation.
By: Bradley Darling ’18