It was March when I began this post. (Fine, it was February.) In my defense, I may actually be a different person than I was then.
Things I Apparently Do Now
‘Things’ includes the MBA Venture Capital Investment Competition in Oxford, the MBA Venture Capital Investment Competition in Barcelona, the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Case Competition, the Venture Idea Exploration Workshop, the Oxford Saïd Entrepreneurship Forum.
‘Things’ includes friendships.
All this experimenting with who I’d like to be did not come passively. Not a chance: Avril 3.0 is the product of rounds of Entrepreneurship Project pitches, a Humans of Saïd outing, careers sessions, coaching sessions, vocal coaching, workshops on presentations, negotiations, self-branding, telling your personal story. I am a machine now. I do the things my calendar (a.k.a. Yesterday’s Avril) tells me to do. Sometimes, I eat salads. I was defeated in the battle for a D.C. internship and triumphed last week with a cooler one in London this summer. I have yet to be disproven in thinking that everything brutal leads to something better.
For example, years ago, I was casually waitlisted (and casually rejected) by Wharton and London Business School. I immediately moved to Africa, as you do. The Summer of Dings has weighed on me for some time. I thought getting accepted by Oxford was my moment of vindication.
Then something else happened.
I was invited to a seminar called ‘The Future of Work’ which had been promoted as an opportunity to meet dozens of “young CEOs”. I speed-walked to Blavatnik, underdressed, ready to shake hands with a room of cocky, pink-cheeked tech demigods. And who was staring back at me? A sea of sweet, white-haired grandparents. Am I in the wrong room? Do I have the right day? Ohh. ‘Young CEOs’ is ironic. OK.
And finally: “Wait. Is it…are we the young CEOs?”
I’d never thought of myself as a CEO beyond that glam Forbes cover photo shoot that occupies the half-hour you have between setting and putting out fires. Me, a CEO? Well, why not? Last month, I sat in the TEDx audience and cursed myself for not having tried out: for the first time, public embarrassment wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me. After all, we mortify ourselves daily in the fortress that is Oxford Saïd and a week later it’s washed away with all that Oxford rain. No, the worst thing that could happen to me now is seeing the space where I might be but am not.
Allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Avril. I am an Oxford MBA and this has been the best year of my life. When we meet, pardon the matches in my left hand and extinguisher in my right: I will have been very busy that day.
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