By Guest Blogger: Joey Panella
This July, Meghan and I are getting married.
Next June, I’ll graduate from Booth (assuming, of course, my startup doesn’t take off and I drop out to become a tech mogul).
There’s a perception that these are conflicting events. Two separate efforts with a degree of pressure between them, necessitating a focus on only one or the other at any given moment. But I don’t see it this way. When I came to Booth to get my MBA, I knew that I’d be quite busy. While Meghan and I debated if we should wait to get married until after graduation, we decided against it—as we didn’t want to put our personal lives aside in the pursuit of my professional goals.
Surprisingly, when I speak to prospective or admitted students, one of the most common questions I get relates to having a partner while pursuing an MBA. My recommendation is perhaps simplistic, but, essentially, I advise getting an MBA while… also just continuing to live your life.
During the MBA, there’s always something—be it recruiting, classes, social events, etc.—that a person can be doing. This puts pressure on people to, well, always be doing something. I’ve personally struggled the most in this blind pursuit of “the MBA experience” when I give in to the part of me saying “just accomplish one more thing, attend one more event.”
The reality is that while the two years at Booth are transformative, they’re only two years of my life. My MBA experience involves all the incredible resources and opportunities that an MBA offers, sure—but it also involves a healthy balance with the passions and people that I love.
I’m fortunate to have Meghan supporting me on this journey. Similarly, I feel pride supporting Meghan in her own career as a pediatric ICU nurse at Lurie Children’s Hospital, where she realistically faces stressors well beyond that of an MBA schedule. And that’s not to say that my life as a Booth student and Meghan’s are completely separate. Meghan is involved in essentially every part of my experience—joining me on the Ecuador partners Random Walk, at Booth partner’s events, and as an active member of the Booth yoga club (Meghan is, admittedly, a slightly more adept yogi than I). Meghan is a huge part of my life, so she’s a huge part of my MBA experience.
While I’ve mostly related my perspective through the context of my relationship, the same logic applies to anything a person values while at Booth. Pursuing an MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it doesn’t mean that the rest of life needs to go on hold. If my Plan A full-time career choice works out, awesome; if not, I’ll still graduate with a Booth degree, a vast array of exciting opportunities, and the rest of my career to create the impact I intend to have. Graduating from Booth is a starting point, not an ending point—and people are defined by a whole lot more than their post-MBA job title.
I’ve enjoyed my time at Booth to date, but it hasn’t been without struggles, self-created or otherwise. I’m quite fortunate to be able to lean on Meghan (plus really my entire personal circle) and couldn’t imagine seeing her as simply a competing interest. After all, this Booth experience isn’t just for me; it’s for the Booth—ahem—the both of us.