“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ~Roy Disney
It has been four months now since I made the hardest decision of my life.
In the fourth grade, I made a pledge to work as much I had to until I became successful and moved the heck out of Ohio!
That commitment led me to graduate as valedictorian in high school and summa cum laude in college. However, it also resulted in missed recess (to do homework), missed parties (to research), and missed relationships (to study). Of course, I am not upset, for my accomplishments make me proud, but I do regret some of the things they’ve cost me.
At the end of this 14-year journey, my dreams came to fruition: I was offered the job I had worked my entire life to get, in the perfect location!
That’s right—the best private school in Florida offered me a job as Physical Education teacher living just minutes away from the gulf, in a city known for its sunshine, St. Petersburg.
I should have chomped at the bit! Jumped up and down! Ran circles around the house! But I didn’t…
Something was wrong. How could arriving at the destination I had worked so diligently to reach not bring me all of the happiness I had lost in the journey to get there? How could reaching my life’s goal not bring me to tears—not make my heart sing?
It took a while but I finally figured it out: It’s because I’m not the same person who chose my path in the beginning. I have changed.
At one point between now and the fourth grade, I evolved. My life understanding grew and adapted, but my tunnel vision on a preset goal kept me from realizing it.
It’s good to have ambition, but can too much be harmful?
Still, what’s to think about right?
I could stay in Ohio and deal with the temperamental weather or move to the sunshine state where Mother Nature is always smiling.
I could go work my “dream job” by the coast, or bag groceries in the cold.
Well, the decision was actually much more complex to me.
When I was young I wanted to escape my family and move on to bigger and better things than what my small city had to offer. But as I aged, my family started to mean more to me, and my little city became my home.
Moving away for a few years and coming back wasn’t an option either, because in this economy, a teacher with a few years of experience costs too much—and schools can pay less for a competitive recent college grad.
So I had to choose: live life soaking up the sun, or stay near my loved ones, taking any old job that would pay the bills.
My girlfriend Jackie was also part of the equation because all of her family lived here, and, unlike me, she has always loved the four seasons.
The process of making this life choice was long and hard. It weighed on my mind from February (initial interview) through May (offer) and consisted of two weeks worth of visitation to Florida and four different interview sessions.
After spending a quarter of the year driving myself mad contemplating this decision, I declined the offer.
If I had just listened to my heart from the beginning, I would have spared myself the anxiety, stress, and worry I had experienced. On the inside I knew what I really wanted. I knew what my values were. It was my ambition that got in the way.
I am almost gave up the great life I live today because of my past priority of succeeding and accomplishing those things that would make me look good in the eyes of others. After making that horrid decision almost everything fell into place.
- Jackie, who is deeply passionate about teaching, got a better offer at the school where she student-taught. She has her favorite grade, works at her top pick for a school, and is right next door to her mentoring teacher. (Talk about good luck!)
- My mom and sister moved back to Ohio, putting all of my family close by.
- I realized how much I love my cool little town!
Although this 14-year journey didn’t end the way I thought it would, I don’t view it as a loss, but instead a gain. I gained courage, appreciation, and wisdom.
I gained the courage to stand up for what I believe in during the present moment, even if it defies everything my life has lead me to believe.
I gained appreciation for what I already had. My eyes have finally opened, and I can see how wonderful the things around me really are.
I live near one of the country’s most beautiful college campuses (it’s where Paul Ryan went), have a national park five minutes from home, and, most importantly, am surrounded by family.
I feel gratitude every time I hang out with my brother or sister, help my mom, or roller blade with my dad. I smile knowing that I could have made a choice that would have left me seeing my family only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Lastly, I gained wisdom—the wisdom to realize that life is about the journey, not the destination. I’ve always heard that, but I don’t think you ever truly understand it until you reach what you were shooting for.
I’ve learned that you just never know—the sunny beach, the crashing waves, and the sounds of seagulls, might not be near as wonderful as what you already have.
When you let yourself choose what feels right in the moment, you learn who you really are, how to recognize when you are changing, and why it’s so important to respect your values, at all costs.
Photo by chrisstreeter