TEXT OF STORY
INTRODUCTION: Maliha Mustafa was an analyst at Lehman Brothers. After losing her job, she moved back home to Illinois to write a book and apply for business school.
MALIHA MUSTAFA: The day that I was laid off, I was relieved. I had been expecting it because there were rumors of another layoff. I was prepared. I had already moved everything out the week before. And for me it was just a relief. I received my severance package. I had my large, white envelope, and my colleague and I went out for drinks.
I just, I did not feel ready to go back to a 9 to 5. And so I took, I would say, two weeks or so to really figure out what I wanted my next step to be.
There was this idea that I had, which was to write a book about the universal immigrant experience told through an ex-investment banker, me, and a chef, my father. And it just made sense to maybe do my writing in the Midwest, in Illinois, which is where I’m from.
I moved back into my parents’ home, Mom and Dad’s home, in a small town in central Illinois with a population of 16,000. There is a cornfield in my backyard and it’s definitely different than the Upper Westside Manhattan apartment that I used to live in. But I’m really enjoying it for the time being.
And I’m also studying for the GMAT and I will be applying to business school.
I think that the bankruptcy gave me a chance to pause. I had always wanted to pursue an MBA, and being laid off was almost like honorable discharge. I think it allowed me to think of these other possibilities. To do things that I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do before.
Produced by Amy Scott with help from Rafael Cohen.