As my description of my self-designed MBA internship faded into the walls, a pregnant pause filled the room. And as I looked at Professor Pitts-Wiley’s giant and gentle face, I saw a thoughtful grimace appear, and spread across the surface of his vast dome to include his prodigious ears, his salt-and-pepper mustache, and the whites of his heavy, purposeful eyes. And as that moment gave way the Professor leaned his massive torso onto a black-lacquered desk, set his large brown eyes on mine and posed, gravely: Are you on a journey? Or are you wandering?
A journey, he would go on to explain, has purpose, whereas wandering does not.
It’s been four months since my meeting in Professor Pitts-Wiley’s office in April, the same month that I decided that I was going to create my own summer internship as a storyteller. And in that time I feel that I’ve learned a lot about my purpose. From coffee chats with designers to interviews with retirees in New Mexico, I’ve found that my passion lies in what I call “performance ethnography.” I define performance ethnography as the act of extracting stories from my environment, through interviews and observation, and sharing them with others in a compelling way, through film and public speaking.
And yet I have my moments of self-doubt. As I face the coming year I’m struggling with basic questions: do I practice performance by continuing my stand-up comedy or by being the spokesmen for a social movement? Do I practice ethnography through self-funded interviews or within the context of a private company? And even more pressing, as I read an invite for a welcome-back party on campus, how does my MBA education serve my passion?
As I struggle with these questions at the tail end of my summer internship, I think to advice that my sister once gave me: make your decisions from a place of confidence, not fear. And as I visualize my career in performance ethnography in front of me, one thing that is clear is that the most purposeful path leads through a period of practice, of creating content, and of immersing myself in its form.
And so in the following year I will take a leave of absence from MIT Sloan and delve into my craft. And as I find a part time job to finance my creative ambitions and create a community of similarly inspired folks, I feel nervous, but also confident. Confident that I’m one step closer to the moment when I can lean in over that black-lacquer desk, look Professor Pitts-Wiley squarely in the eyes, and reply with all of the conviction in the world: I’m on a journey.
Congrats on making a big decision. We’ll miss you on campus.
Nabil Laoudji says
Thank you, Miro, and I’m going to miss being on campus too. I hope to be able to visit and I’d look forward to trading stories from the summer ;)
You will definitely be missed! Good luck with your journey, you are an inspiration.
Katherine Molina says
Man, how did I miss this post? That’s big news, and a brave step. Remember to have fun while you’re figuring out your journey, and send word if you’ll be back in Boston (or back at SXSW) in the meantime!
Few of us have the courage to take the time needed contemplate question of what a meaningful life truly means and fewer still are willing to make decisions that fly in the face of what society tells us we should be doing.
I have no doubt that this time off will be fruitful for you and don’t hesitate to let me know if there is anything at all that I can help with.