It’s funny how in Detroit the worst problem I had was having no choices, and here in New York the hardest thing is having too many. That statement may sweep a number of ideas and situations, but what I refer particularly to today is with jobs. In Detroit, I was interviewing with a couple companies over the course of 3 months, and here I interviewed with five companies in a week. This morning I got a phone call from a company I had walked out of saying – YES I WANT THIS JOB! – and they did, in fact, offer me that job! FANTASTIC! Marketing position, established company with a great culture, good benefits and oodles of vacation time – with a moderate salary. But that was alright, I said, because this job is incredible! I was thrilled. I called the immediate family, sent the mass text, thanked the people who had referred and recommended me, and called to cancel the other interviews I had coming up. One company in particular – a smaller start-up with a short life and big potential – was a difficult phone call, but I expressed my gratitude and told them I’d had an offer from a company that was my perfect fit. The call was quick and easy to my pleasant surprise, and I was on my way. I was calling my Grandma and answering texts in no time. While on the phone with a close friend discussing her progression the seasons of Mad Men, I excused myself to take a phone call from a 212 number. It’s a habit of job searching – answer anything with a New York area code immediately and professionally. Hello this is Rachel!
Hi Rachel, it’s … I heard you received an offer you couldn’t refuse. That was something he, the CEO of this start-up, said to me the other day at the conclusion of my first interview; he encouraged me to go on my other interviews, but assured me that he intended to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse. And indeed, he proceed to do so. He offered me more money – a lot more: I mean an apartment in Park Slope (not Crown Heights) and a trip to see my sister in Paris next semester more – just to come in for my interview tomorrow and hear what they have to say. He just asked to be considered, he said, and I admitted it was tempting. He went on about my potential – both complimenting my intellect and assuring me that intellect would be awarded in influence and financially (more trips to Europe, maybe an apartment in Manhattan), and quickly. His words were both warm and exciting, and my head began filling with images – my face in a magazine, an apartment filled with fresh flowers in art-glass vases, myself in a beautiful gown at a gala, the Eiffel tower and Nile River cruises and Santorini – images of me behind a beautiful mahogany desk looking out over the Manhattan skyline.
When it rains, it pours.
He went on about the potential. This company is on the edge of breaking big here and everywhere, and I had the chance to come in on the ground floor – to ride this wave from the beginning – and to rise all the way to the top. At his side, as a serious player. It would be very hard work, but the greatest rewards don’t come without risk, and I – my newly fearless self – was asking for an opportunity like this one!
These words sounded strangely familiar, like a siren’s call I’d heard before. And I had to stop him. I thanked him; I expressed my excitement about his company’s future, and told him that the position I had already accepted was going to be the best fit for me. He congratulated me, encouraged me to keep in touch as much of my career is ahead of me, and told me if anything went wrong he wanted to be the first phone call I made. I doubt either of us were using land-lines, but still I could hear the click of the phone resonate as he hung up.
My stomach flipped, and I wasn’t walking pigeon-toed anymore. As a person who usually prides myself on having no regrets, I noticed this situation had the potential for a big one. Maybe it’s just that I’m 23 and everything seems like it means everything, but more than ever I think this is a decision that will define my life. Two roads diverged in a small, colorfully lofted apartment in Brooklyn, and I took one of them. I didn’t take the other.
The truth is, I had accepted the offer that couldn’t be refused. At the end of the day, even my new fearless self needs passion to live. I want to work to live; I can’t live to work. And that means that what will really make me happy is feeling like I belong in the culture of where I am, doing work that I find fascinating with people who interest and inspire me, and that I have time outside of work to build a life I can invest myself in completely. It would be nice if that life had a brownstone in Park Slope or a view of the city, but what that life requires is to be filled with energy, with excitement, and most importantly with love.
And at the end of the day, my vision of me sitting behind a beautiful mahogany desk looking out over the Manhattan skyline is still me looking out a life I love with a huge, heavy piece of wood and a wall of glass between us.
So I’m off to celebrate by returning some things to the store and painting my nails myself, smiling as I look out the window of the Q train and see Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty to my side. I might grab a beer from the bar on the corner of Shady and Gentrification, and on the way home I may grab some sunflowers for the plain glass vase we keep under the sink.