Ever since I was an undergraduate at the University of Florida, I knew that one day I would pursue an MBA. I had spoken to countless advisors and done endless research to figure out when the time would be right. My decision always hinged on one thing: Work experience. I was advised that the courses would be similar to those taken as an undergraduate, but the work experience in between would make the difference. As a result, I set a goal to go back to school five years after I graduated. That’s just enough time so that if I took the GMAT when I graduated, the scores would still apply.
For clarity, I didn’t take the GMAT right away after I graduated, but I did purchase the study guide in hopes that it would point me in the right direction. The real world got the best of me, which left me working countless hours early in my career. By the third year, I was relocated to the Tampa Bay area. Not knowing too many people in the area at the time, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to crack down and study. The University of South Florida and the University of Tampa were nearby, and maybe that’s where I would end up. Then Year 4 came, and I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. So, I thought to myself: Well, it’s a good thing I haven’t applied yet because I would not be able to start. I still remember trying to work on some GMAT problems during my recovery to make the most of my time off. I tried to keep up with studying after I went back to work, but it just wasn’t happening. Not to mention, between all the medical bills, how was I even going to afford B-school? One step at a time, I told myself. Then, two years later, it happened again. The cancer was back. This had been my biggest fear, the chance of reoccurrence. My mom is also a two-time cancer survivor. I remember being so optimistic after her first diagnosis, but the second, man, the second made me question everything. Now that feeling was back. There’s definitely no way I would have been able to manage all this, I thought to myself. I had been pushed back two years and I was starting all over again. I felt defeated.
In Chapter 14 I told you about quitting my job and starting a new career. That was Step 1. Now, it was time for Step 2, with my newfound work/life balance I was going to study for the GMAT. I wasn’t only going to study for the GMAT — I was going to take the GMAT and apply to business school by the end of the year. My plan was to take the GMAT in October, and work on the applications afterwards. I signed up for the Manhattan GMAT self-paced program, I was on a mission.
I would pack my bags each day in the car with all my study materials so I would have them either before or after work, considering my random work schedule. Starbucks was my go-to spot because I was horrible at studying at home. I can tell you the atmosphere at all three Starbucks near my house, morning or evening. Corner of Hillsbourgh and Memorial: Always a busy morning with business meetings and evenings with what I refer to as “Cafecito Time” … but with a solid pair of headphones, manageable if you can find a seat. Westchase location: Mornings with moms and babies, and evenings with high schoolers doing homework. Then there was the Oldsmar: A new location, spacious with plugs at every table. Talk about a dream, I’d walk in and order a tall pike or an iced coffee and always some madeleines. A special treat for a job well done. On days off, I’d find a hipster coffee shop to go to for a change of scenery. Whatever it took to get me in the zone.
The big day came, and I showed up at the USF testing location one October morning. I had completed practice tests and had my time management down. I completed the first half of the exam and felt confident, although the heavy typing from the person next to me was extremely annoying. I took my break and returned to the check-in. The lady told me to take a seat while she checked in other people. After about a 10-minute wait, she went: “Oh no, why didn’t you tell me your test was on a timer?” (I was wearing a lanyard, given to me by the testing center so they would know to let me back in.) I replied: “You told me to have a seat.” When she replied, “But your test started again,” my face dropped. Here I was thinking this lady was going to click start when I walked back in the room. I had just lost 10 minutes of my time. I was in a complete panic. I sat back down at my station to start the second half and I had to talk myself down. “Patricia, breathe, you got this. One question at a time. Rushing is just going to mess you up. Breathe. Focus.” I completed the exam in the allotted time, but I was so disappointed. I had studied so hard, and my score didn’t reflect my effort. I walked to my car and the second I closed the door; the tears just came rolling down my face. I would have to wait 30 days to take the GMAT again. Which meant I would have to continue studying while working on my applications. That was not part of the plan! But, then again neither was thyroid cancer.
I needed to move forward. So, I would rotate working on applications and studying for the GMAT. Transcripts? Check. Resume? Check. Letters of recommendation? Check. I was on my way! This time, when I registered for the GMAT, I selected the St. Pete location, which was fantastic. A quiet office building, with a well-organized staff. It was a dream. GMAT? Check! All I had left were essays to finalize. The moment I hit the “submit” button, I just sat there and stared at the screen for a little. My applications were finally done!
In March of 2018, I got a phone call. It was my acceptance into the University of Florida’s two-year professional MBA program!
I started my MBA in August of 2018, seven years after completing my undergraduate degree. But at that point, it didn’t matter that I didn’t meet my five-year post-graduation goal. What mattered was that I started. For the longest I worried that I wouldn’t get in, or if I did, I would get sick again and not finish. I was not going to stop. The two years between my cancers, time didn’t stop, but I did.
I had the choice of marching on, scared and afraid of what “could” happen, or the choice of not letting the cancer I beat twice dictate what I could and couldn’t do in my life.
: Bites into madeleine :
In the words of the great Kobe Bryant, who tragically had his life cut way too short:
“Have a good time … Enjoy life … Life’s too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving … you have to keep going … Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep on rolling.”
- Strength- from GOD
- Confidence- in myself
- Perseverance- to reach my goals and dreams despite everything