I moved away from the San Francisco Bay Area for the first and only time when I was 27. It was a year after 9/11. I got my first cell phone and to this day, I have retained my Chicago number, which seems odd since I only lived there for two years. “Why do you have a Chicago area code?” I get asked regularly. Business school!
I knew no one—thrust into a class of 550 students, further segmented by cohort (Phoenix), then squad (4). Besides academics, business school excels in forcing strangers to bond whether it’s through group projects or alcohol. Massive amounts of alcohol. AMIRIGHT?
This past weekend, I celebrated my 15 year reunion from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which feels awkward saying (like a poser) since I’m still used to the generic Chicago GSB (Graduate School of Business) branding from my time there. I mean, let’s be real, my classes were in Stuart Hall which was built in 1904. Totally old school! Unlike the Harper Center—an architectural beauty of glass arches—completed the year we graduated. You’re welcome, people!
I had been to our 5 year reunion, which I helped plan; but missed the 10 year reunion because a tiny human emerged from my vagina. So it had been a decade since I was last in Chicago. Most of my work travel is to NYC, and seems like anywhere (LA, Vegas, Seattle) but the Windy City.
To say I was excited to return was an understatement, seeing friends who had traveled from Europe, Asia and Africa. FREAKOUT!
I’m lucky to have stayed with a friend/classmate who lives on Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue. Despite her prime location, I actually didn’t want to leave the comfort of her home. Would you? That view and the turn-down service! Thank you, Carey!
Coming from San Francisco where people monetize every square foot, I found the new luxury food court and free (gasp!) coworking space at 900 N. Michigan quite shocking. Wait, I can power on my laptop and take work calls from here? For free? Is this place for real? I stumbled upon it—famished from traveling—and ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a trio of macaroons.
The agenda kicked off with an all-reunion happy hour at the Gleacher campus downtown, then dinner at Tapas Valencia where our Class of 2004 took over half the restaurant. Note: don’t sit next to the guy who orders shots for the whole class. Your table will end up absorbing the cost. Ha! Love you, Gaurav!
The festivities continued with TNDC (Thursday Night Drinking Club) at Ace Bounce, which we closed down at midnight. Then another bar (I don’t even remember where we ended up after cabbing around aimlessly), which we closed down at 2am.
I was so relieved to sleep in every morning and not have a 4-year-old charge into my bed. Glorious!
Late lunch with the Indians at Star of Siam. Happy tummies = happy asians.
The main class event was dinner and drinks at the Ivy Room. Shockingly impressed by the class gift totaling $379,878 across 158 donors. So proud to be in the company of such generous, successful professionals.
A lot of us headed to Tao night club and partied like it was 1999. Although with inflation, the tab at the end of the night (or should I say, morning) totaled $9k. Yikes! I contributed, even though I only drank seltzer water. And for those who forgot to contribute, please Venmo Gaurav who will get the funds into the right hands. At least 10 of us were there to close it down at 4am, but I did have the west coast time zone advantage…so really only 2am my time. Truthfully, if the DJ had kept going, I would’ve still been at da club. Just like at Burning Man when the music is too good to go to sleep.
Saturday, there was an all-class reunion BBQ at the new campus in Hyde Park. That was my first time seeing it. Eeek! I might have drooled at its gorgeousness. We then walked a few blocks away (if that) to a post-party at a building the school once used for leadership classes, that a couple in our class purchased and remodeled.
After a very lovely dinner at Somerset, I met up with a few friends at the Lodge Tavern. The Lodge is one of those bars that reminds me of Cheers where everyone knows your name and peanuts are strewn on the floor. While I take pride in only drinking highly-rated California wine, I surprised myself and drank four vodka-tonics in two hours. Besides the cheap alcohol, the great thing about that night was the casual environment with a few select people, and not having to worry about saying hello or catching up with more classmates. I plopped myself onto a bar stool and doled out my life story—the good, the bad and the worst. And they consoled me as I shed a few tears. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, our song Sweet Caroline blasted and the whole bar screamed the lyrics on queue.
When I was a student, I was diligent—obviously. I went to all my classes. I took notes. I studied really hard. I volunteered. I wrote thank you notes to recruiters and hiring managers. Luckily I realized early on, or maybe I learned from the 2nd year students, that the most important takeaway from business school was connection. Not knowledge or a diploma, but relationships and friendships that truly last a lifetime. You don’t really understand the significance at the time, as with most concepts, they’re learned in retrospect. But as life takes you away, and a reunion brings you back, you feel that power.
I have blissful memories from my time in business school: rooming with an Australian guy I met and got along with during Admit Weekend; going on a roadtrip, a cruise, and to a Cubs game; traveling to South America. And some not so good memories, like interning at Cisco. Yawn.
The reunion rekindled those memories: What were the names of the cohorts? Who was your LEAD facilitator? What was the name of the bar we went to on Tuesdays?
What’s unique about our class is that a good number—maybe almost 10%—married someone either in the class or the class above or below. There was a lot of love going around! And that love came back in full force this past weekend. So good to see people in the flesh, not just on Facebook or LinkedIn.
That’s not to say the road we all take, as motivated, driven professionals, is smooth. It’s filled with pressure to succeed and out-earn, and despite many avenues of connection, can be a lonely one too.
I started blogging because of my business school experience. It started with an advice column called Dear Vixen. My classmates wrote to me for advice, mainly about dating (ironic since I was one of the last ones who got married). And I’ve been sharing a little glimpse of working and living in the Bay Area ever since.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and quite appropriate as I’d like to honor all my graduate school classmates who have taught me about inherent connection, that even after 15 years, we can still pickup where we left off and laugh and stay up late just like when we were in our twenties. So blessed to hold you in my memories: then, now and hopefully many many tomorrows.