It’s a Drama, not Dramatic.

Sometimes, while walking to and fro my respective transit stops, iPod blaring, I envision a video camera following my every move, wondering what plot the director of a feature film would be preparing as he shoots this introductory scene:

Anonymous young professional, neatly dressed, headphones wedged in place, passing by the corner Starbucks, stares into the distance and cracks a wry smile…

Despite whatever’s on the playlist at the moment, I always have the lyrics to another song rattling through my cranium:

This is the soundtrack for our movie.
Would you tell me when we get to the best part?
I’ll play it for you.
Oh no, I think I’ve lost this one.
Can we try again? — “Sountrack for Our Movie”, Mae

Do you ever get the feeling of surrealism, almost as if you’re attempting to self-transcend into some fantasy world, where we examine our circumstances and decisions from a seven-foot level? We try to oh-so-slightly step out of ourselves for a moment and wonder, awestruck, at how life unfolded to bring us to the point we currently encounter. How would the director prepare this scene?, you wonder.

I once thought that going back to school would allow me to live a real-life fantasy, more MTV Cribs or Man vs. Wild, less Forrest Gump. But here I am, nearly a year after quitting my job, turning away from an opportunity to join the Peace Corps, and exploring the ironically named Real World once again, and the most profound discovery I’ve made about myself is this: I still have the unfortunate capability to hurt others. On this truth, I realize that the soundtrack for my movie would probably be rife with emotion, both joyful and depressing. It would be a drama.

It’s morbid, sort of. We like to set enlightenment on a platform and assume that any rational, intelligent, and accomplished person will be successful. And many people meeting those characteristics do end up that way. But your laurels are not redeemable for the failures, nor are indulgences available to compensate for the pain we cause others in our worst moments.

Perhaps it’s a lesson that I’ve learned more than ever recently: as a future business leader, I may literally be the keeper of a man or woman’s quality of life, whether it’s through a paycheck or a social program. And I know, for certain, that I won’t always make the right decision. People will be hurt, and I will be to blame.

But maybe all these chapters in life, separated by dog-eared pages representing a new job, a new city, or a breakup (the timeless Minneapolis rock group Semisonic said it best: “Every new beginning//Comes from some other beginning’s end“) , serve an individual purpose in preparing us how to endure when others may be hurt by our actions.

Business school will not turn you into a saint. It will, though, open up even more opportunities for you to potentially hurt others by your actions. How the director would perceive the next few scenes, well…that’s for each of us to explore.

I hope my movie has a happy ending. Like Forrest Gump.


7 Responses to It’s a Drama, not Dramatic.

  1. Betsy says:

    Firstly, I think I imagine a bit too much that my life is a movie. Especially at awkward, bad movies. Especially on a bad date.

    Secondly, I’ve actually been thinking the past few days, as people are laid off at the company I’ll be leaving in 3 weeks, about the fact that in a few years I’ll be on the “other side.” I’ll be the person making the decision to lay off rather than the person being angry that a co-worker has lost his job. I also think the business mentality encourages a degree of rationality that isn’t necessarily productive in human interaction where emotion usually and should play a larger role….

  2. JulyDream says:

    Great post! Thought provoking and though I don’t necessarily think of my life as a movie, I do understand exactly what you’re saying. Occasionally, I do step away from life and wonder how I ended up where I am today and which road I will take in the future.

    I think we all hope for happy endings. 🙂

  3. XNM says:

    I am sorry to remind you, that life is not a movie. Just because you wish for a happy ending does not mean you get one, by sweeping away good things from you path. It is in accumulating those good things that you ensure a ‘possible’ happy ending.

    Wake up … and face your life, not the movie you wish it is.

  4. m@ says:


    The reminder, truly, is appreciated. There’s no greater folly than to assume that the decisions we make are simply scripted and are mere plotlines in a greater story. I dare not give such a petty weight to these.

    What, though, does it mean to ‘accumulate’ these good things? And how do we perceive them? I tend to believe that the ‘good’ things with which we are blessed are never meant to be kept for ourselves, but when we do receive them we should ask ‘how can I SHARE this with others?’

    It’s possible, maybe, that the only happy ending is when we give more of ourselves than we expect to receive in return. And that’s a lesson all of us, including I, need to learn.

  5. adam says:

    i don’t think the happiness of your ending has much at all to do with your circumstance.

  6. tinydancer says:

    I had never thought about it that way, but you’re right. Pre-MBA, most of us aren’t in a position to do much damage. Post, we’ll have a lot more power to do good AND bad. That’s a responsibility that we’ll have to keep in mind.

  7. […] time-out to contemplate what the soundtrack to the movie of his life might be like, considering the high and low notes of his future career as a manager and the ever-confounding ability humans – himself included – have to hurt those around […]

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