community service, Darden, dreams, education, writing, yoga

My year of Hopefulness – It’s More than Just Business

I got my MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. When I began there, I thought I was going to learn about Finance and Accounting and Strategy. I thought I was going there to increase my business acumen and break out of the hum drum of middle management. I did all those things, though that wasn’t the important stuff of an MBA, not by a long shot.

This morning on the subway, I worked my way through the rest of this month’s issue of Yoga Journal. There is a beautiful article about the use of yoga in prisons that helps to rehabilitate and treat young offenders. Yoga asks us to scan our bodies, to delve deep into who we are and how we want the world to be. It empowers us. It calms us down by giving us a sense of “otherness” – the ability to view our lives from an objective third party perspective.

In yoga, we find the gratitude to appreciate the good around us, the fortitude to survive challenging times with grace, and the confidence to recognize that “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” This is exactly the message we all need to hear, and a particularly profound way of thinking for young offenders. No one is beyond forgiveness or change. It is never too late. Young offenders need to know this.

The article goes on to talk about nonprofits who are providing yoga classes in prisons, one of them being Mind Body Awareness (MBA) Project. The name gave me pause. I always associate the combination of the letters MBA with “Masters of Business Administration”. Reading this article and recognizing MBA Project’s mission and value gave me a whole new way of thinking about these letters, and my Darden degree.

Much more than analytical skills, contacts, and opportunity, my MBA and Darden offered me a mind body awareness connection as well. It’s where I first taught full yoga classes on a regular basis. It’s where I realized that I could be anything and do anything I wanted. It’s where I realized how connected all of life’s moments are. It’s where I gained a true appreciation for my own personal history, the histories of others, and how they intertwine so beautifully. At Darden, I first became a published writer. I started my blogging there, as well as my interest in social media. I learned that every day we have an opportunity for a fresh start, to learn something new, to be happy, healthy, and grateful. At Darden, I found the seed of what I wanted my life to be in every facet, and I’ve been nurturing it daily ever since.

creativity, Darden, experience, New York

Disconnect / Reconnect

Disconnect / Reconnect

My Darden email address is being deactivated tomorrow. I didn’t anticipate the emotion that would come along with this. I took my laptop to the helpdesk and Randy helped me to back up all my old files and emails and then I went off of the domain. The background picture on my laptop changed to a generic windows photo of that grassy knoll. I got the chance, again, to start over. A new electronic slate.

There have been other last minute errands to do as I disconnect and prepare to leave Charlottesville. I went to Comcast Cable and turned in the form to take my name off of the account. I’ve taken down all of the pictures from my walls. I’ve rented a mini-van to drive my things to a storage unit that I’ll rent as I search for my own apartment. Couch is gone, bed is gone, and dining table and chairs are gone. Even the rugs and bookshelves have been sold. A new slate at home.

Soon the pictures of our class that have been in the hallway for two years will be taken down and replaced with those from the class of 2009. Our mailbox name tags will be tossed away. Someone else will be renting our home and living in my sunny bedroom. I went to JavaJava today, my favorite coffee shop in town, and saw the owner. He asked me to please find my replacement so that he could keep the steady stream of income I’ve provided to him for the past two years. I said I’d do my best. I’ve had to say “good-bye” and “see you later” to friends every day as their leases run out and they begin their journeys to new homes in new places across the world.

The Ying and Yang movement of the world even applies to moving. So as I say good-bye, give away belongings, change over accounts, I am setting up new connections. A new roommate for the summer as I rent my friend Anne’s sublet. The opportunity to see friends of mine back in New York that have not been a part of my daily life for years now. I’ll see my family more – my main motivation for moving to New York. One of my professors has made a connection for me with a theatre producer in New York that I have never worked with. I have coffee meetings with friends of friends who are also relocating to New York. And I’ll be back in my city, the only place I have ever felt at home. While it may be different in many respects – new restaurants, stores, high rises – so much of it stays the same. My friend, Nathan, upon seeing New York for the first time last fall was fascinated by it because of its many icons that he had only previously seen on TV or in movies. These icons are old friends to me – comforting familiarities as everything else around me changes.

I sold my dining table and chairs at a deep discount to an interesting woman who saw my posting on Craig’s List. She just bought her first home. She and her boyfriend of 7 years have just separated. As they were separating households she looked around and realized that none of the big items in the home, furniture, etc. were hers. She had spent almost 7 years living among someone else’s things. We figured out a way to strap the dining table to her car’s roof rack and she drove off with it to her new life.

I gave my bed away to a woman in Charlottesville who was coming home from Iraq and she had no money to set up a bedroom for him. We maneuvered the mattress set down my narrow, windy stairway and with the help of a friend’s pick-up truck, she was able to have the beginnings of a room for her son as he readjusted to his new life.

As we clean out remnants of our old life, other people can use those pieces to create something new for themselves. I’m excited to see what remnants I will find in New York, what people I will meet, that will help me to build something new as I disconnect, somewhat, from one place, and reconnect to my old home.

change, Darden, experience, family, graduation, grandmother, happiness

A Sense of Place

A Sense of Place

May 20th would have been my grandmother’s 88th birthday so my Darden graduation on that date has a dual-significance for me: it is the celebration of my greatest academic accomplishment and of a woman whom I consider to be my greatest teacher. She was born Sarah Louise Gagliardi, though I knew her as Sadie Lupinacci. She was born to blue collar immigrant parents on Barber Street in Hartford, Connecticut. She was a life-long employee of Traveler’s Insurance Company. She had two children: my mother, Sandy, and my uncle, Tom. She was married to my grandfather, Alfonso Lupinacci, for over 40 years until his untimely death in 1982. They were childhood sweethearts and grew up around the corner from one another. She led an ordinary life. Nothing extravagant. Nothing extraordinary.

Yet she was an extraordinary person – the kindest, most loving person I have ever known. She had a remarkable sense of forgiveness and an endless supply of support for those she loved. When anyone asks me what kind of person I aspire to be, I consider that I wish to love and be loved the way my grandmother was, and still is. She came from so little, and I have so much which is why I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this community and this graduating class.

I came to Darden to attain traditional financial skills because that was a clear hole in my resume. This was the explicit learning. While I was able to reach this goal, there were implicit learnings that I did not expect to find which are just as valuable, if not more. I learned about the idea of lifting as we rise, that there is so much more satisfaction in climbing the ladder with people we admire and care about along aside us rather than climbing over others and being alone.

I spent a lot of time here considering the idea of happiness, of accomplishment. Defining it, setting benchmarks, reflecting on what’s working in my life and what’s not, and then taking on the responsibility to change, even when that change is painful or frightening. And I am continually reminded of the idea that what we wish to have in our own lives we set about attaining by providing that very thing for someone else. So if it is happiness we seek, we can begin to have it by providing happiness for another. The same goes for success, personal and professional, for peace of mind, for friendship, and, as my grandmother showed me, for love.

I learned how devastating it can be to think I’m on a road that I built going one way, and all of a sudden the bottom falls out and I end up on a path I never knew existed and probably would not have chosen by my own volition. Surprisingly, I learned to love the new road, and even became grateful that the Universe presented it to me. Resiliency and the ability to see possibility in all opportunities are great blessings that I found here.

And most importantly, I learned about the power of place. I have a friend who talks about the metaphor of a great vein of life running just beneath the Earth’s surface. Sometimes we come upon physical places that have special significance though we cannot pinpoint the underlying reason for that feeling. She says that at those points, the vein of life emerges for us to grab a hold of and experience an intensity of emotion that we do not find in the course of our everyday lives. The places where the vein emerges makes us feel alive; make us feel connected to one another and at cause with the world around us. Darden has been one of those places for me, and I hope it has been for everyone who has the privilege to call this beautiful place home, even just for a little while. I look forward to returning again and again in the years to come, and I am so excited to see how our lives unfold, intertwine, and connect.