As far as personality stereotypes go, I’m a terrible American and an even worse New Yorker; I’m pretty sure Liberians would like me to stop telling people I’m one of them. I thought about personality a lot on the first day of the MBA Launch, the three-week marathon of an orientation that kicked off on September 21. How do people see me? What does it say about me? Is it a lie? Did I lie to the 60 people I just met? Are we all lying?
What I mean is this: Are we being our authentic selves or are we being the people we hope everyone else will think we are? And what happens when these now-strangers become friends? Do we ever reveal who we actually are? I considered this as I sat on the floor of my bedroom the night before the Launch and tried to remember why I’d agreed to be scrutinized by 340 people…for a year…for £48,000. I eventually decided I was being ridiculous and stopped thinking about it.
Imagine my surprise when, on the second day of the launch, Oxford Fellow Jon Cowell asked a packed auditorium, “What is personality?” Someone replied, “The part of your inner monologue that you express to other people.” “And what parts do you share with other people?” “It depends on how much I’ve had to drink.” I don’t think I’ve met the student who responded yet but I hope to: not even the self-deprecation of his second reply could detract from the gorgeousness of his first. I’d fumbled through this calculated sharing of my inner monologue the previous night, at Turf Tavern (and, let’s be honest, every day since the beginning of time). I started to see the year to come as an endless personal exercise in live-action rebranding and crisis PR.
There’s a reason we were chosen and thrown together at Saïd: we each add a not-yet-evident dash of something strange to the Class of 2016 crockpot. I’ve come a long way since the day I read my acceptance Email on a hill in Ethiopia, squawked incredulously, and threw my smartphone across a field. I realize now that I belong here. But this confidence brings with it the temptation to go too far, to be the house cat in Jon Cowell’s slide, looking at itself in the mirror, seeing a lion, and thinking, “I really am very impressive.” (If this is you, stop it right now.)
So how do you sell the ‘you’ that you want to be without selling out all the ‘yous’ that brought you to this point in your life? I don’t know yet but I do see us, just two weeks into the Launch, already navigating this unfamiliar place with more genuineness; I find myself less afraid to be weird and unedited. I owe this to my current class, my future family, who I hope (like me) is realizing that the best things about us aren’t anywhere on LinkedIn.
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