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.