Gratitude List: What I’m Thankful For This Year
I spent my Thanksgiving holiday in sunny California. Meanwhile, many of my classmates were traveling the world to sexy destinations like Havana, Cuba; Bogota, Colombia; Bangkok, Thailand. As Kevin Hart would say, “the way my bank account is set up…” going on one of these trips just was not financially viable for me and I’m trying my best to limit my MBA debt load. But, even more important than that, I wanted to spend quality time with my daughter, Nyah and my loved ones during my brief break from the madness at Wharton. While in Los Angeles, I went for a hike with my mentor, had brunch with some of my closest girlfriends, and even pulled off dinner with my ex-husband (mature, I know). I also tried to be productive, setting up several recruiting “coffee chats” with California-based financial services professionals in private wealth management, an industry I hope to transition into as I explore career opportunities.
On the last night of my 9 day California trip, I had dinner with a Wharton alumni and fast-rising Googler, Lawrence Cole WG15. Ever since the day I met Lawrence at Wharton’s 2015 Welcome Weekend, I knew he had the “it” factor. During our dinner in San Francisco, Lawrence dropped so many gems of knowledge that I could barely keep up. As I reflected on my Wharton experience and sought Lawrence’s advice, he suggested that — in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday — I should make a gratitude list. I thought it was a brilliant idea and have decided to write a blog acknowledging people I am thankful to have in my universe (my sincere apologies if I’ve left anyone off this list — charge it to my head and not my heart).
I am thankful to you for taking time to share resources with me that have helped guide me on my journey to build MBA Mama. Thank you for introducing me to our August MBA Mama of the Month, Latoya (HBS17), offering advice that will help me better navigate Wharton, connecting me to people in the private wealth management industry, and being a source of inspiration. Your authenticity, brilliance and leadership truly inspire me to step my game up and be a better business leader.
Sis, thank you for being strong after we lost mama a few months ago. Without you by my side, I would certainly have buckled under the pressure to plan a funeral, move cross-country and start business school when I had not yet dealt with my grief. Thank you for being a shoulder for me to cry on in my time of need. Thank you for giving me the space to be annoying and for putting me in check when I’m dead a$$ wrong. Thank you for tagging me in hilarious Instagram videos that brighten my day — or trigger some memory from our childhood #blackmamasbelike is Barb all damn day. Thank you for loving Nyah unconditionally and being a great Auntie and a wonderful role model to her. I love you and appreciate you.
Thanks for being there for me when I need you. I know you don’t like to talk about feelings but you really gave me strength and unconditional love when my mom died and when I gave birth to Nyah. Thank you for all those lectures and long drives around the wealthier zip codes of Racine and Milwaukee to show me where the rich people live — crazy, that I’m now in business school with the children and grand-children of some of those people. Thank you for doing the best you could with the resources you had to help shape and mold me into the woman I am today. I appreciate the sacrifices you made for our family, and I am so happy we have a thriving father-daughter relationship after so many years of turmoil. I love you dearly.
Thanks for taking this wild ride called entrepreneurship with me. Despite the challenges of your business school journey at Duke, you have gone above and beyond to put in the work to help grow the MBA Mama brand. Your perspective pushes me out of my comfort zone and challenges me to be a better entrepreneur.
Thank you for writing multiple MBA letters of recommendation for me, guiding me on my career path, and being a sounding board as I tackle hard questions about womanhood, motherhood, and blackness in this society. Thank you for always answering my calls, responding to my emails and texts — no matter how busy you are. You have been such a critical part of my village and I love you dearly.
John, Akia, Tiffany and Derek
My MLT fam — I love you guys. Like, I literally love you and would do anything for each and every one of you. Even though we all ended up at different business schools, I am so thankful that we have continued to stay in frequent contact. From GMAT hell to recruiting hell, you all have encouraged and supported me in my personal and professional development. The sky is the limit.
I really lucked out when I got you as my MLT coach. Throughout the MBA application process, you challenged me to dig deeper and go beyond the surface. You were the first person I pitched on my idea for MBA Mama, and you were supportive from day one — giving me the confidence I needed to unveil this project to the world. Thank you for that.
Thank you for continuing to keep me engaged with Forte Foundation even as an alumnae of MBALaunch. Thanks for giving me a platform to blog for Business360, for linking me with that PR firm that made the Fortune story happen, and for connecting me with Erin Nilon — talking to her and hearing her MBA Mama story gave me the courage and confidence to know that I could do this. I am so excited to share my MBA Story with the incoming class of prospective women in January. I am forever indebted to my Forte family for being a launching pad for my career.
Venessa G., Amaka O., Sarah S., Ashly-Nikkole D.
Thanks for being true friends to me for the past 10 years. When I met all of you at USC, I never knew you would be such a huge part of my life. I know I’ve been all over the place since starting business school, and I’m not always at my best. I appreciate you all for tolerating my sporadic texts and being willing to meet up with me when I randomly pop up in LA and New York. I consider you all to be among my closest sisterfriends and I am happy to have each of you on my personal board of directors.
Angelica and Larissa
I could not have dedicated the amount of time and energy I spent on my MBA applications without both of you helping me with Nyah in Los Angeles. From picking her up from school when I had to work late for a client, to keeping her for the weekend when I had to travel for business — you both have always had my back. I am thankful for everything you’ve done for me.
I know we do not always see eye to eye but I think it’s because we have a lot of the same qualities. I want to thank you because I know for a fact I would not be at Wharton without you. The day I met you in 2006 changed the trajectory of my life. As a first-generation college student from a small town in Wisconsin, there was so much I didn’t know and so much my parents could not teach me about navigating the university system, being professional, “making it” in LA and running a business. You gave me a job in your Beverly Hills law firm when I was 19, paid me more money than I’d ever seen at that time in my life, and introduced me to a new realm of possibilities. 10 years later, you’ve been a mentor and at times, a father figure. Thank you for challenging me, guiding me and being there for me at some of the toughest points of my life.
Thank you for helping me with MGEC and OPIM problem sets and for explaining duopolies and demand functions. Thanks for holding me accountable to the goals I’ve set for growing as a leader at Wharton. Thanks for being intuitive enough to call me that day after the MGMT610 simulation to check on me when I was feeling frustrated and not heard by our team. Thanks for writing me a recommendation letter for Wharton’s Leadership Fellows program (I interviewed today and feel good about my performance). I have had a hard time connecting with a lot of our classmates, but I truly feel that you and I are developing a friendship. I never thought one of my closest friends at Wharton would be a PE/VC guy from India.
Thank you for loaning me your Macbook after mine broke during midterms — that was one of the most clutch things anyone has ever done for me. I’ll be getting my computer fixed soon and promise to return yours at the beginning of Spring semester.
Thanks for letting me crash at your place in San Francisco last weekend. Thank you for always standing up for what you believe in, and for using your platform with Long Distance Voter to make a positive impact on our nation. I am happy you sat at my table at StartingBloc LA. I admire you and am so grateful to even know you and be your friend.
Thank you for being a loving, loyal friend. Thank you for taking the train from NYC to Philly to take care of Nyah that weekend I had the Wharton Africa Business Forum. You have been one of my biggest cheerleaders — from start-up life in Uganda to Wharton, you’ve been there for me with no questions asked.
I am so glad I took MGMT801 with you during my 1st quarter at Wharton. Thank you for being kind when you tore my MBA Mama pitch deck to shreds — I needed that. Thanks for being a kick-ass entrepreneurship professor and agreeing to supervise my Independent Study next semester. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to work with you.
You are the best nanny a MBA Mama could ask for. I haven’t known you long but I am so thankful that we found each other. I look forward to the new year and making more memories with you and Nyah.
Thank you for being a willing co-parent and engaged father. Although our relationship as husband and wife has ended, we are still life partners tasked with raising our daughter to be loving, caring, smart, confident and to have integrity, morals, and a strong sense of who she is and where comes from. We must do the same for Shafiq. These last 2 years, it has been hard to love you, but I do. I’m thankful for the years we spent together. They were formidable years full of a lot of joy and love. Forgiveness and time truly do heal all wounds. I want you to be happy and I want you to thrive. We still have a long way to go but I am committed to successfully co-parenting with you so that our daughter can live a full life knowing she is loved and supported, always.
Writing this felt really, really good. In business school — and life, in general, we can get so caught up in doing “stuff” that we forget to actually just be — be thankful, be present, be still. As my first semester at Wharton comes to a close, I have much to be thankful for and there are many more people I could add to this list. I am incredibly blessed and privileged. I just want to be the best version of myself, and pay it forward as I advance in my career. Onward. Upward.