So what’s next?

Over the past two and a half years when I was asked “what do you do” (for work)? I answered, I am working on my Masters, which usually sparked a discussion about education. But it usually ended with “What are you going to do with that degree, or what kind of work are you looking for when you are finished?” This answer changed depending on my mood, how close I was to completion, and whether it was before or after my brain tumour situation.

Before I can answer what’s next, it might be important to understand why I went back to school in the first place.

When we moved to Victoria a city devoid of furniture manufacturing for my husband’s job I quickly realized that my diploma in furniture design wasn’t going to get me very far. I created a job for myself as a business consultant for a furniture dealer, and was later headhunted for a job in Vancouver. The company in Vancouver had a great education program, and I creatively earned a Bachelor of Design degree at night in hotel rooms.

Wow, I just realized how bad that sounds.

The creative part is that I could take all the certificates, diplomas and work experience I had, compile it all together and devise a plan to complete the academic requirements for a B.Des through Thompson River’s University. The hotel room resulted from a job which required weekly travel, and at night in hotel rooms I fervently worked away on course work.

Four years and one child later I graduated with a Bachelor of Design days before the birth of my second son. 

Knowing that a Bachelor of Design wasn’t going to change my situation much, a year and a half after my second son was born I applied to graduate school with the intention of completing a Masters of Business Administration, on a part-time (at night in a hotel room) basis. The universe had different plans for me and I ended up starting the September semester as a full-time student.

I rationalized the financial investment of an MBA by calculating the cost of childcare for the kids for the next three years and quickly realized that it was CHEAPER to get a MBA than it was to pay for care for my kids while I worked. That was a bit of an eye opener. I realize that there are lost opportunity costs, and other financial factors to consider but the decision to invest 40K in myself was easy to justify when I looked at the alternative of paying someone the same amount to change diapers. Plus, because it was an online program I could stay home with my kids. So, reason number two was to be more present for my kids.

The third reason was simply to see if I could do it. I have never been very good at math. Or at least that was my perception, being married to an Aerospace Engineer doesn’t do much for my math confidence. As it turns out my math skills are fine, or at least good enough to complete a MBA.

As I mentioned my husband is an Aerospace Engineer, and I am a furniture designer. It’s quite the combination, but not exactly a good combination if we are both wanting to be employed in the same city. Our careers, education and experiences are industry specific, and to broaden my career options I thought an MBA would open more doors. We have always had competing careers and something had to give, and that something was me.

For many reasons, I made the decision to pursue a MBA. But the question of what are you going to do after you graduate kept coming up repeatedly. So, what am I going to do next…

When I started the program 2.5 years ago, I was going to take over the world. Maybe not the world but certainly I intended to fully utilize the investment I was making in myself. But then I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and that changed everything. What was once important quickly became trivial. The quest for money and a career with power died and was replaced with a need for wealth.

Wealth in the form of time. Time to do what I enjoy. Time with my family. Time to travel. Time to live. You might think that you need to have lots of money to be wealthy, I disagree. Quoting from Wikipedia is a major faux pas in academic studies which is why it gives me great pleasure to do it here.

“Wealth has been defined as a collection of things limited in supply, transferable, and useful in satisfying human desires. Scarcity is a fundamental factor for wealth. When a desirable or valuable commodity (transferable good or skill) is abundantly available to everyone, the owner of the commodity will possess no potential for wealth. When a valuable or desirable commodity is in scarce supply, the owner of the commodity will possess great potential for wealth.”

Time is a scarce resource, and even though my brain tumour situation worked out in my favour it is a constant reminder that time is limited. When deciding what to do after I completed the MBA program, I thought a lot about what is important to me. 

My life works better when I am home, at least part of the time. I have worked full-time with kids in daycare, worked from home, traveled for work weekly, taken full year long maternity leaves, been a part-time student, and been a full-time student. I have tried it all. Some options were more successful than others, and keeping this in mind I knew that I wanted a job that gave me some flexibility with my time.

As it happened, I was contacted out of the blue in February through my LinkedIn profile. I got a message saying that there was an opportunity would I like to come in and discuss it. Never one to turn down an opportunity I took the meeting. When I was asked, what am I looking for in a position once I am finished my MBA I explained that the most important thing to me was time. Ideally, I was looking for a part-time position where I would work school hours allowing me to drop my kids at school, go to work and pick them up at the end of their day. Surprisingly they said yes. Mid March I signed a contract and I start Tuesday.

What am I doing? If you have read my about page, then you might know that it has always been a dream of mine to be an Interior Designer. I have in various capacities worked in Interior Design but never in a 100% dedicated role. I am super excited that everything aligned and I can do something I love and still do what works best for my family.

Do I need a MBA for this role? No, probably not. Will I use what I learned? Everyday. Reflecting on the last 2.5 years the academic education wasn’t the important part, what I learned in the process of learning is the gold.

MBA=40K, what I learned in the process=priceless.

Celebrating my brain

Vancouver Aquarium

My “Making A Life” philosophy to living includes creating a homemade life but it also embraces making memories. When my husband announced that he had a conference in Vancouver I took the opportunity to invite myself and the kids along for the week. I firmly believe that learning happens everywhere, so I have no qualms about pulling the kids out of school for a few days for educational field trips of my own design.

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One month later

IMG_20150902_182425_editI can’t believe that it has been a month since I had brain surgery to remove a tumour. I have made an incredible recovery at least in my opinion. Life is pretty much back to normal now. I had a check up at the doctors at the end of last week and I can resume most activities. I am allowed to drive which is great and just in time to bring the kids to school on Tuesday. I can resume moderate exercise as long as it’s not jarring to my head. I am still cautious of activities like picking up Lego, cleaning the tub and yoga where I could get dizzy because of the position of my head. My hearing is back which is a relief. The smell of iodine in my hair is finally gone. My incision is healing nicely and my hair is growing back. I am not on any medication and haven’t been for weeks, so I have reestablished my relationship with wine.

The only issue that I have which is quite minor is that I don’t have feeling in the top of my left ear or in the area around the incision. The doctor said that it might come back but it could take a year. In my opinion it’s not really a big deal either way, if that is my only issue after brain surgery I am pretty happy. If the nerves don’t grow back I am sure that I will get used to the lack of feeling.

brain cupcakesI am happy to be alive and with each day I feel better and stronger. I have been in a celebratory mood and have gone out on a date with my husband to ring in the new year. We also hosted a joint 3rd birthday party for our youngest and a Timmy the tumour eviction party complete with brain cupcakes.

Tomorrow I go back to school in pursuit of an MBA. I know that it’s a big undertaking even if I wasn’t recovering from brain surgery but I am crazy enough to do it anyway. You would think that I might slow down and take it easier for a while but it’s not who I am. I thrive when I am busy, learning and doing. I have rested and now it’s time to move on and see what else life has in store.

Back to School – Week One

pom poms

Around the country kids went back to school but not here in British Columbia, we are in a holding pattern with the young ones because of a teacher’s strike.  But I went back to school this week.  I am officially a graduate student attempting to complete an MBA, online from home with a child hanging off each arm. Sounds appealing doesn’t it, what was I thinking.  Perhaps I will learn over the course of getting an MBA how to study from home with a five year old and two year old.  I am doubtful that they will teach that in an MBA program which is unfortunate, but it would be worth the price of tuition.


I did learn a couple of things this week though:

  • My five year old can make his own lunch, hooray.  I went to check on him the other day while his brother was at daycare and to see if he wanted lunch and he announced that he had already eaten.  He had made himself a sandwich with ingredients from the fridge, and cleaned up after he had finished.  He did eat right off the table because the plates are out of reach, so what I learned from this little exercise is…move the plastic plates to the bottom cupboard
  • My five year old can dress my two year old, and sometimes my two year old will let him, another huge win on the mothering front
  • My two year old can be occupied with putting pom-poms into a jar, and dumping them out again, for at least an hour.  Note to self, glass mason jars and two year olds don’t play well together.  Seems like something I should know, but I was a little preoccupied when I gave him a glass jar of pom-poms.  Obviously after cleaning up a broken jar I have learned my lesson.  In case you were wondering what kind of idiot keeps pom-poms in a glass jar the answer is ME.
  • Post secondary education like having babies is hard and should be done when you are young.  There is a reason why people used to have kids in their twenties and not their thirties or forties, again a lesson that I learned after the fact.  University falls into the same category, I am exhausted after the first week.
  • and the most important lesson is now that I am a student I can drink like one, bring on the beer bong, but we have to do it at 7pm, so I can get up at 6:00am or I risk a tiny person trying to pry open my eye lids.
nap time
Taking a study break

Until next time…