Sarah has an article in the NY Times!!!
March 15, 2009Op-Ed Contributor
A Birthday Surprise
By SARAH LESHNER
I AWOKE with anxiety on March 14, 2008. Not because I had any idea that the Federal Reserve and J. P. Morgan would eventually take over Bear Stearns, but because it was my birthday, which I look forward to all year. What’s more, I had recently learned that I had been cast as a contestant on the coming season of “The Amazing Race.” My happiness over that, though, had been darkened by my boss’s earlier comment: “Well, I certainly hope you don’t get it.”
My complete ignorance of what the day would bring will stick with me forever. We had heard rumors of trouble at the bank all week, but management had assured us there was no substance behind them, and we all took them at their word. We “Bear guys” were hard-working and loyal. Many of my colleagues had dedicated their entire careers to the bank and boasted about never having sold any of the stock they were awarded as part of their annual compensation packages.
So on that Friday, my birthday, I was thrilled to go to work. I even decided to celebrate a bit by forgoing my usual black pantsuit for a black silk blouse covered in red flowers. But when I arrived at the office, I quickly realized that something was wrong. My boss was watching the news, stone-faced, rather than walking the trading floor or chatting on the phone with clients as he normally did. My colleagues and I spent most of the morning crowded in my boss’s office struggling to digest the news as it came in, comparing rumors we were hearing from friends at other banks.
The traumatic collapse did have one silver lining: I was now free to participate in “The Amazing Race.” I had been wrestling with how to convince my boss to allow me to spend a few weeks circling the globe on international television. That Friday at about 3 p.m., the decision was made for me. My boss turned to me and said, “At least now you have a TV career to look forward to.”
A few months later, I took off on my race around the world — an adventure that took me to seven countries and ended several weeks later when I was eliminated in Kazakhstan.
Each episode of “The Amazing Race” ends with teams rushing to an interim finish line, and sharing their impressions of the country where they’ve just competed. In Cambodia, where we raced through the temples of Angkor Wat, I talked about meeting peaceful monks and poor villagers whose routines were so different from my life back in New York. It then struck me that I actually had little idea of what “my life back in New York” was like anymore.
I still look forward to my birthday, but it has been tainted. The red-flowered shirt hangs in my closet, reminding me of my naïveté.
Sarah Leshner is a senior analyst at Blue Orchid Finance and a former vice president of emerging markets at Bear Stearns. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/opinion/15leshner.html