The inner conscience has a peculiarÂ schedule for digestingÂ drastic life changes. From conceptualization, at one end, to finalÂ result/change in the middle, followed by residual adjustment after the fact. It doesn’t all happen quickly, or in equally-spaced periods of transition.
Part of exploring who and what I am over the last few years included learning about my life path, and which themes would be most relevant to me. The concept of process, where I follow defined steps to reach a goal, is something I have both struggled with and mastered. In choosing to attend grad school in Italy, the kernel idea came years before I took action.
I took the GMAT (GRE for business school) in 2011, thinking I would be applying and attending school that fall. I only applied to one school using those scores, and I did not get in. It was Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of business, which is known worldwide for its excellence in marketing.
My motivation to get out of Tampa ebbed and flowed monthly, but the more I thought about leaving, the more I enjoyed my friends, and felt my quality of life was actually not bad. Friends and classmates who’d moved to Brooklyn and Berkeley, ostensibly to enjoy a higher caliber of culture, people, etc., found themselves as very small fish in very large ponds, facing high rents and lack of rapid career growth.
Why move simply to move? It seemed rash. Furthermore, what exactly did I want to do? Marketing, public relations, product development, editorial?
My simple life let me live comfortably, travel enough (3-4x/year), and I enjoyed a routine of applying for jobs, writing and shopping, exercising, and thinking. I spent afternoons by the pool, reading and dreaming.
To be fair, I gave Tampa an honest effort. I hosted pop-up retail events. I got involved with a volunteer position (Gasparilla Art Festival), and interviewed at Hyde Park Village to be director of marketing and at the airport for a PR position. Met with Spark PR and ChappellRoberts too. But, nothing took; it was the universe nudging me.
This year, many things changed.Â My mother got sicker, and is now close to her death.Â Such is organic life. It’s sad, of course, but it’s also a lesson for me. She has had no regrets, so she says anyway, about her 61 years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel the same, when it is my time?
Through reading, talking, and paying closer attention to my self, free from judgement, I realized many truths. I do not love the ‘American way’ of living. Some politics and attitudes seen nationwide, and in Florida, are so illogical and backward, it is difficult to remain gracious and humble.
My distaste for being a cog in someone else’s larger system, prey to uncivilized demands, marketing ploys, and institutionalized discrimination pushes me away from any form of ‘corporate’ lifestyle. I understand that the world is 99% based on corporations, and it is far from an exclusively American format. But, I’ll take living among the 1% who eschew such a life, if it means being able to write my own rules, be respected, and receive as output something comparable to my input effort.
THUS, dear readers, I made the decision to apply to grad school in Milan, at Bocconi University’s School of Business, and was accepted in February. With some help, I paid my first tuition installment shortly after.
It’s a done deal!!!
It is not a faultless solution, I know. The value of high-cost MBAs will always be questionable. But schoolÂ is a single step in a direction that will hopefully get me closer to whatever it is I will like better than where I am now. Someplace I will be rewarded for obsessing over luxury brands.
If you’ve followed me for very long, you know that I fall asleep, dream, and wake up with a current of shopping, luxury goods, and style running in the background. I love it, and enjoy learning about every aspect of it.
Working in and around it, however, is challenging away fromÂ a handful of global cities. Paris, New York, and Milan are the three most fashion-centric places on the planet, and out of those three, Milan seemed like the most natural and underrated choice. Leave it to me to go against the grain…
Paralysis due to decision anxiety afflicts many highly intelligent, somewhat insecure people, afraid of the pain and embarrassment of failure. Like any fear, though, once you faceÂ it a couple times instead of sidestepping it, doing so gets easier.
Sure, living in Milan could be miserable. I could grow to resent the cultural differences to what I am used to, and the cost of living could be crippling. I could miss my car.
The worst conclusion is I waste a bunch of money, and I move back to Tampa. We’ve already established it’s not a half bad place to live, and I have cultivated a network that I do not intend to trash.
The alternative is…I love it, and living there expands my ability to survive and prosper on my own knowledge, passion, and potential. I will know no one, and will start from scratch a new web of friends and acquaintances. The thought of it is both exhilarating and terrifying.
Otherwise, very little of what I know about Milan is discouraging. It is an understated, not particularly flashy center of business and trade, fashion especially, situated at the intersection of European wealth, Italian expertiseÂ and attitude, and the disciplined nature of Central/Eastern Europe. It is just a few hours by train to Switzerland and Germany, two places I have yet to visit but have high on my list.
It is a moderately large city with a robust public transit network, made up of buses, streetcars, and underground metro rail. It is also a mix of old and new, with a compact inner city and theÂ growing Porta Nuova neighborhood, made up of sleek high-rises and new residential.
Of course, the shopping is fantastic, albeit less glitzy than Paris or London. Several main streets make up the golden triangle of retail, including an open-air building known as the oldest mall in the world, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci each have at least two stores in this vicinity, which means niche brands should have at least one.
Some of my favorite younger labels, like Golden Goose and DSquared2 have boutiques in Milan. And, the flagship La Rinascente department store is across the way from the Duomo, classically the center landmark of every major Italian city.
While trying to minimize expectations and maintain an open mind, I am allowing myself to at least be excited. For once, among lots of ups and downs, I am genuinely happy to be moving to Milan. To evolve, to choose a path, and to explore boundaries.
I plan to write while in Italyâ€”that much will not change. I hope you will follow my stories and adventures; live vicariously. I know many people do not have the freedom to make drastic changes like moving across the Atlantic, and it is an opportunity I may never have again.
Looking toward the fall (when classes start), I have already begun to virtually explore. I made a map of Milan, and am pinning pieces that inspire my move there. I rewatched I Am Love, a favorite filmed in Milan, about an industrialist and aristocratic family. Tilda Swinton in scene after scene of Jil Sander and Fendi. If you haven’t seen it…
Until the next update…Ciao!
Congratulations, I am very excited for you. Good Luck!!!
Fantastic, Alex! So happy for you. An incredible adventure no matter where it leads!
Congrats! Sounds like a fabulous opportunity and a glorious lifestyle! Buona fortuna!