thanks for asking

In the interests of being unusually efficient and informative, I will forego writing a flowery and self-congratulating version of myself, and instead attach the essay I wrote for my application to the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Graduate School program.

Question:  

Please tell us about yourself and your background. Include information about your family, where you grew up, your interests, and any other people or things that have influenced you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (750-1000 words)

Answer:

It’s unclear why as I child I was afraid of the ocean, growing up in Malibu.  Nor has any light been shed on my childhood phobia of fruit salad, despite probing into my mom’s prenatal lifestyle and visits to a past-life specialist.  The jury is still out on how I became the only right-hander in a family of southpaws, and yet it presents a perfect analogy for my hereditary “independent streak.”  To rebel against rebels is certifiably poor strategy, given their intimate knowledge of the territory, but such an act is pure, original, whole-hearted, and at least a little funny for those not involved.

As a fourth grader, I had something extra-curricular to do every day after school.  When my horseback riding teacher lost her ranch after a lawsuit, my schedule opened up and I added art class and tennis lessons.  My mom vetoed my dropping piano to join the junior bowling league and we had a few heated discussions about what defines a “lifetime sport.” Badminton was proposed.

In high school, I was accepted into the contemporary “Dance Dimensions” troop though my lack of balletic technique was noticeable.  I was known as “the one in the back with short hair who’s got heart.”  In my last year I found my place and became the troop’s choreographer, bumping our resident teacher off duty.  She didn’t mind since she had just married our 6’7” trigonometry teacher after a six-week courting session.

By the time I graduated I had served as Class Treasurer, shared the number 1 doubles player title on the Varsity Tennis team with my partner Amanda (I presume we were paired for this reason), managed to tell a joke in Latin (March 1996) and successfully ran Sewciables, sewing boxer shorts for my schoolmates who knew that in order to be cool at an all girls school, you had to dress like a boy.

Upon arriving at Middlebury, chosen for its strength in teaching languages, I also discovered masochism: after rigorous exams, I made the Ski Patrol freshman year and spent the subsequent winters waiting in the chairlift huts for people to crash headfirst into trees. After studying German for a year, I switched languages to avoid spending my junior year in Mainz.  Undertaking Italian, I spent my junior year in Florence, the only student not majoring in Art History. There, I decided that my thesis, to be written during senior year, would be on the Italian “Mama’s Boy” Syndrome – a full, unbiased examination of the causes and effects of that cultural affliction.

It was also in Florence where I dipped my toe into tourism as a profession. I got a job as a walking tour-guide in the city center after having been on the tour myself once and written down everything that the guide had said. On my very first day guiding, I discovered that my first-grade teacher was in the group.  To this day, it’s unclear to me whether I left her on the Ponte Vecchio halfway through the tour or if she decided not to continue on in the group, but either way, I took it as a good lesson and always carried a whistle after that.

After graduating from Middlebury, I spent the summer in Burlington, setting up “Epicrepe” with my new business partner Amanda – a different one, though we can say there is an established trend in my association with people that share my name.  We were going to be a mobile crepe vending unit, servicing the main pedestrian thoroughfare of town after the bars let out each night.  Extensive research was done, zoning permits were granted, and menus were printed.  But the crepe-machine we ordered from Peachtree Traders off e-bay never arrived and so I left town, unfulfilled, in search of something better.  The guys who printed our menus started the business the following year, and have enjoyed notable success ever since.

Back in Los Angeles for a time, working as an intern for a film management company, my sole (unpaid) duty was to say NO to writers who sent queries looking for representation.  Given that I myself was a writer who would’ve appreciated management, I felt poorly matched for the position and instead got a job working as a writer for an unorthodox immigration attorney, who admittedly hired me so he could practice his Italian.  After learning the ropes and running his law practice while simultaneously training his puppy, I left to travel to Cuba for a month because I managed to get a research visa for a book I planned to write.  Said travel epic didn’t come to fruition, but upon my return I did complete a novel, which I gave to my parents for Christmas to assuage their concerns about my nomadic tendencies.

During my subsequent years as a bicycle-guide, swashbuckling through Europe with strawberries and champagne in one hand and a bike wrench in the other, I did yoga in the backseat of the company van on day-long drives, and went swimming in offensively cold waters whenever possible.

My obsession with tango began during one of my off-seasons when I came to Buenos Aires for six weeks, determined to master Spanish.  A friend from my “Level Zero” Spanish class took me to my first milonga to watch people dance and I was at first mortified but then hooked when I got dragged onto the floor by a rather convincing gentleman wearing a shirt with one too many buttons undone.  The following day, I bowed out of Level Zero, found a private Spanish teacher and went to as many tango classes as my feet would endure.

Years of dedication to languages, dance, and more recently the martial art of aikido have made me a patient learner with a thick skin and an insatiable thirst for experience. My determination and receptivity together help me to uncover the essence of whatever I find in front of me. At my core sits a fearless adventurer who is ignited by challenge and complexity.