Friday, April 18, 2008

Should I stay or should I go?

Six years ago, when I graduated from high school, I had to make a difficult decision: Should I leave my friends behind and move to Edmonton and get on with my life? Or should I stay securely in Cold Lake and save money by living with my parents?

It was a decision that was one month in the making. I weighed the pros and cons daily, giving myself a deadline to make up my mind. Every day I changed my mind, leaning one way or the other. On the day of the deadline, July 31st, I realized that the only reason I didn't want to leave Cold Lake was because I was scared.

And that's no way to live life.

So I decided then and there, that fear would never prevent me from doing something. In fact, I decided that if I was ever scared to do something, I should do it. I moved to Edmonton, and that decision-making model has held fast. It allowed me to move across the country, and it allowed me to travel across the world. It allowed me to get out of the only place I'd ever known. And most importantly, it allowed me to learn how to be happy alone.

Last Thursday was my last day of school. It was presentation day, but I snuck out of class early to head to a job interview. It went well and within four hours, I received an email inviting me to attend another job interview.

The executive director attended my second interview on Tuesday. He told me that unfortunately, although I was definitely qualified, they were looking for a bilingual applicant. (And sadly, bislama is kind of a useless language.) But, there was another opportunity available.

"How are your presentation skills?" Excellent, I told them. I just gave a presentation an hour earlier and last summer I would make up to four presentations in a day. "Can you give us a presentation now?" Uh, sure. So I gave them one. "Okay, now give that same presentation as though you're now talking to a group of 4-year-olds." I was sweating profusely, but I did it. And I did it reasonably well.

So they offered me the other job. The benefits were unlimited. I'd be travelling throughout North America, giving leadership training and presentations to youth. I'd be working for an organization that has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and whose founder was just inducted into the Order of Canada. I'd be working with a group of young, socially-minded individuals who seemed energetic and friendly. In short, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. And here's the thing about once in a lifetime opportunities: they only happen once. "People are lined up out the door for this job," the executive director told me.

But, he admitted, there were a lot of drawbacks. The pay was dismal (well under the poverty line, since it is a non-profit organization). The hours were long. Lots of driving, red-eye flights and long days. I'd be living out of hotel rooms for 10 months a year. How often would I return to Toronto? "Once. Maybe twice in 10 months," they told me. I'd have to give up my apartment. I wouldn't be able to pay off any debt. My stomach twisted in a knot. What am I doing with my life?

They asked me to give them an answer soon. "We have a lot of applicants," they told me. I'll get back to you in a couple of days, I promised.

It was nearly a dream job. Working with youth, travelling constantly, working for a cause I believe in. So why did I feel so much weight on my shoulders? So much apprehension in my chest? Was it fear? Was I scared? And if so, I knew what I needed to do. All the things I've been scared of are the best things I've done in my lifetime.

But I kept crying. I chewed off all my fingernails. I drank way too much at the RRJ launch party. I couldn't shake this feeling that it wasn't quite right.

I've been working 12-hour days for eight months. I worked a part-time job, put out two magazines and sacrificed a lot of things I enjoy in life. I've given my everything, and now I feel like I've been left with nothing. The truth is, I'm not enjoying my life. I haven't had the time.

But how could I possibly walk away from the kind of offer that I'll likely never receive again?

I was torn last night, but this morning it was a little more clear. It had to be--I had to give them a final decision today. And then I realized what the problem was: I'm not scared. I realized today that I'm just tired. I want to take time to enjoy my friends, my adopted family.

So I told them no. And you know something? Being able to say no to my dream job took guts. It turns out that I'm not scared after all. Sometimes, I really am fearless.


  1. Anonymous9:56 PM

    You deserve a break, Jess and I'm glad you made a decision that was right for you. I've been trying to be "fearless" in my decision-making too...and sometimes i feel like every other minute here in Deadmonton is completely out of my comfort zone. But it's good.
    ANYWAY - I've been told by many that both the RRJ and McClung's looks fabulous. So proud of you guys. I'm so happy you and Canice really took McClung's to the next level, pardon the horrible cliche.
    Come back to AB to visit sometime!

    P.S. Nice prototype, I'm assuming? ;)

  2. Yes, a prototype layout from the winning group. It wasn't my group, but the image of D. Dodd as the young investor was too funny not to use.

  3. Anonymous11:48 AM

    Good for you on your decision. Sounds like you made the right one.

    And you know, there will be other opportunities. There always are.

  4. this made my heart flutter a bit, inspiring, i wanted to be a motivational speaker once. when the time is right for you you'll know what to do.

  5. Anonymous5:12 AM

    I do not know that you necessarily take the opinion of anoyone, so: here is the opinion of no one in particular. I suppose, in that case, it will be quite easy for you to disregard, but quite frankly impossible for you to argue with it.

    Walking away from your dream job takes more than raw guts, it takes a tremendous amount of naiivity. I thought you had grown up. It is not your hard work that has left you with nothing, it is your indeciseveness (and then the belief you have made some sort of ground breaking, awe inspiring decision).

    By the grace of God you fucking fell into Ryerson, which happened to give you a reference point for your talents, which I'm horrified to see that you will readily throw away. Did I have you all wrong? Did we all?

    You can be a person that changes the world, or you can be one of those happy, mediocre people with 'family' and 'things' and shit. You cannot be both. And you, you Jessica, you were slated to be the hammer.

    I'm not trying to detract from all the work you have put in, or the fact that you really have neglected friends and relationships and some of your own basic needs perhaps...sure, why not? What good are accomplishments if you don't have people to share them with.

    Only how, as you seem to see it, as well as those agreeing with your decision, is this some kind of accomplishment? You just turned your back on something that could have been fantastic for you in the long term.

    Look at your blog for fucks sakes, it's famous in itself. All the boys think you're something special. You're respected by your peers, and they recognize your talent.

    Do you know what happens to talented people who piss away opportunities to pursue making their mark on the world by using those talents? Those things that you're talented at just become hobbies. And you become mediocre.

    But hey, at least you're happy right? You know, for now, until you're unsure about the next thing, and you pass up something that could have been great for you again.

    Was there a point in your life you really ever knew you actually wanted something and went after it (Ryerson doesn't count here - you were unsure of doing that too, as you previously mentioned)? Or were you always confused about what you wanted until it came down to the wire?

    Seriously, be the hammer Jessica, change the world. Or be average. Be a popular blog. The tag says 'I'll make you want to forget.' No one will have to want to forget you, they just will after you fade into mediocrity.

    Your really hard work didn't leave you with nothing, it left you with an opportunity that you fucked up. NOW you've got nothing. I thought you already realized that life - and all that's in it (including friends and family) was transient. You sure made it look believable, you made it look easy, you made it look like you knew what you want. But you haven't learned a damn thing. I mean it seems fairly obvious to me that you take the job, but it's no permanent, it's a stepping stone to something more. But that step is gone now.

    Finally, how do you tell someone that from the moment of your knowledge of their existence that they have consistantly disappointed you? I guess you don't, otherwise I would have simply taken this up with you in person.

    I just can't believe are the definition of a physical impossibility.

  6. Yo Jess,

    I had a similar decision to make about a year ago when I got a job offer from a startup company in Beverly Hills. They offered me twice my current salary for a job that would have been right up my alley and promised lots of run-ins with some folks in the music industry. (I actually used this line from Office Space in my interview -- "Michael Bolton? I celebrate his entire catalog of music!")

    In the end, all that money wasn't worth being apart from my wife for weeks at a time. It was a really tough decision to make because it would have enabled me to put our financial situation into over-drive, but I made my decision and haven't looked back.

    You're the one that knows what's best for you so take all that "you blew it" nonsense with a grain of salt. I hardly think turning down your first job offer out of college counts as having "nothing", but what do I know. Keep looking forward and when the right opportunity finds you, you'll know it. Always trust your intuition.

  7. Anonymous4:48 PM

    First of all, I wouldn't say that what you have is nothing Jess, so maybe you feel like it...but I sure wouldn't say that you've been left with nothing.

    Similarily I think you know how I feel about 'dream opportunities' (so called). Obviously what we want and our dreams change over time, even though you said it's something you believe in...well I'm sure there's other things you believe in too. I'm sure what your 'dream job' is will change too. But like we talked about, I could work for flint at $150,000 a year, but do I want to have to travel to ft.mac three weeks out of a month to get that money? Fuck no! Then again, I do agree with the 'stepping stone' philosophy, which is that maybe you have to make sacrifices to get somewhere that you want to be. Flint is a big company with a lot of US offices, so that job, working it might be a necessary sacrifice I have to make to get into the US through NAFTA or go global.

    I have more thoughts on this, but you have to actually talk to me on MSN heh heh. AND you have to pretend what I'm saying is halfway interesting too. I know I drive a hard bargain.

  8. good for you. Also I am glad you will be around Toronto hopefully.

  9. We all have to make choices. Whether good or bad only time will tell. But I will say, with the quality of writing I see on this and your old blog and the person you seem to be, I don't think you are going to have a problem finding that dream job and having a life. There is something to be said about quality of life, friends, family and trying to have one, so good for you!

  10. Anonymous8:51 PM

    Oh by the way, I know you had to remove my blog from your links since I moved it to SG, but I've since moved it back to livejournal, so if you want to link to me...and I KNOW you want to so bad...I'm back at:

    And I'll be posting back issues of articles (they are actual ARTICLES on shit) in addition to new shiat and the such and the like such as (ms america reference).

    Those of you that like snooping blogs will also enjoy my dark sense of humor.

  11. Anonymous9:40 AM

    You know what's right in your heart. Following your intuition is always the right way to go :)

  12. Anonymous9:56 AM

    i say celebrate the happy and mediocre. changing the world comes one step at a time, not in one two-year shot by separating yourself from every thing and every person you love for months at a time.

    you should also really consider turning off anonymous commenters.

  13. Anonymous7:01 PM

    To the above anonymous commenter above I must ask: why the rant?

    It's impossible to judge an issue like this with the scant information provided. So I'd just take J's word for it that she has done the right thing.

    Or are you intimately familiar with J and this is a personal thing? If so, why put all that negative stuff here?

    I would also suggest that there are many, many ways to leave a mark on the world. To say that by passing up this job J "has nothing" is just silly.

  14. Sorry, Jess, that you're subjected to ridiculous game of ring and run by an anonymous commenter.

    If dream jobs were truly dream jobs, they'll come back around again. But it doesn't sound like something that keeps you away from Dodd, us, and everyone is really, in fact, your dream job.

    So, wait 'er out.

  15. Jess, this probably already occured to you, but if it's a job that pays near the poverty line and you can't support yourself (both financially and mentally) then it's probably not your dream job after all.

    I'm also wondering if Anonymous pos(t)er #1 is the same anon. the sometimes posts on my blog?

    If so, I want to know why 2 things:
    a)Why they are consistently disappointed with my sister and why they must question everything I post over on my blog?
    b) If they hate us both so much, why do they keep coming back to our blogs?

    My advice to you, anon.: get over yourself, delete us from your bookmarks, and get on with your life.

    And even if you're NOT the same anonymous, I'd still take that same advice above. Make your own decisions, choose your own path, and don't judge the choices of others. You don't have the right.

    (And should you feel the need to flame me back, do it on my blog instead of here.)

    /end of unneccessary retaliatory rant

  16. Anonymous5:55 PM

    Sigh, this is a very good blog post. I think the way you handle your decisions is very admirable. Listening to your guts, but still not making excuses out of fear is probably the best way to make a difficult decision. Especially when weighing the pros and cons has exhausted itself. Hooray for you!
    This is Melissa M's friend Amanda, by the way.

  17. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Well done. It's good to see someone who doesn't turns down a so-called dream job. Especially when they need a break. Admitting that, and not killing yourself just to 'get ahead' is a step in the right direction.
    I'm in a similar situation right now...thanks for the inspiration :)

  18. Anonymous8:36 AM

    ...that first 'doesn't' doesn't belong there. Ehm.

  19. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Congrats jess! I miss you. I can't believe that school is over! And clearly for someone like you, dream jobs will actually be dream jobs when you are ready for them, not before. Miss You!!!!!!!!