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The Toughest Decision of My Life
Coming face-to-face with difficult decisions is an inevitable part of growing up. Being only 20 years old at the time of writing this, I can still count on two hands the number of, what I would call, “tough” decisions—the ones that would completely impact and change my way of life. Still, about seven months later, the decision that I faced on May 21st 2016 consumes my thoughts daily. This was the toughest decision of my life.
I was at Devil’s Lake State Park with the team members of Madrinas coffee, a startup company that I was helping grow with my cousins and a small team of other young, driven individuals. We were gathering cool images that fit the company’s brand while doing a little sightseeing. We were at a point in our hike where we all needed a breather, so we stopped for lunch. It was during the lunch break when my cousin—the president of Madrinas—Justin Davis, pulled me aside from the group. He knew very well that he had already requested a couple different big things of me over the past two years, the most recent of which had been his request for me to come live in Chicago for the summer and help open up that market for the company. Justin, having already seen the wonderlust and innate hunger for adventure in me, had given me yet another massive decision to make.
The problem with key life decisions is that you do not know which is the better option. Not at the time you have to make the decision. Apparently not even seven months after you made it. Time gives us a unique perspective and I know that eventually I will know whether or not I made the correct decision.
At 1,329 feet above sea level at the state park in Wisconsin, my cousin gave me an offer that still keeps me up at night. He told me that I could stay in Chicago, continuing to work for him, and remain an employee of the company that had grown to define who I was as a person. As Madrinas grew, so did I. I became more mature, more responsible, a better communicator, a better businessman, and overall, more confident. If I chose not to stay in Chicago, I would inevitably go back to my home in Omaha, NE where I would finish out my college career. However, there were many other factors that came into play than just the black and white choice I have explained.
The first catch was that I was in the first serious relationship of my life. The thought of leaving this girl was incredibly difficult. I had already asked her to go the majority of the summer without seeing me by moving to Chicago and now I might completely give up what we had for a new life in a different city. I would go on to include her in the decision by seeking advice from her…after all she was my best friend at the time.
The next catch was that the majority of my family was back in Omaha. After my parents got divorced back when I was in high school, I went through a few different phases/mindsets, but the one I was in at the time was one of a longing to be there for my little sister. I knew that she needed a male role model in her life. She was always daddy’s little girl…except when she wasn’t. With him gone and her rapidly approaching adolescence, I knew that I should be the one looking out for her with my mom; I felt compelled to. Also, I wanted to be there for my mother during this difficult time as well. Staying close to and helping family is much harder to do when you’re 472 miles away.
On top of these two stipulations, my cousin had also informed me that I would not have a job if I chose to go back to Omaha. This, however, was the least of my worries at the time. I am a college student after all. Internships are abundant; career fairs are towards the beginning of the year; and I had already made tons of great connections in my hometown and had become involved in the local startup community as well. Even though I was not worried about being able to find a new job, I was worried about giving up a job that both paid more than most other jobs my peers had, and more importantly, I was truly passionate about.
But wait, there’s more! I wouldn’t just be unemployed, but also homeless. I moved out of my mother’s house when I was 17 and, due to something that can only be described as pride, I made a promise to myself that I was never going to move back in with her. I had aspired to rent a house with a couple of other guys the next school year, but sensed that the plan was probably going to fall through, which it did. Because I had originally planned on this, I had decided not to renew my dorm lease. If I were to move back to Omaha, the only immediate solution would be to live with my girlfriend for a short time until I found another place to live.
Finally, the kicker. Justin had told me that if I were to stay in Chicago the next semester, he was willing to pay me. Not just as an employee. He was going to pay for my housing up in Chicago as well. As if that wasn’t enough, he also offered to pay for me to transfer to a college in Chicago. My cousin knew that leaving my current school meant giving up a five year full-ride scholarship.
He was giving me a hard sell.
As you can see, I was stumped. At this point, you may be thinking one decision is obviously better than the other. After reading the previous five paragraphs, you may know without a doubt, which one you would have been the best choice for you. If you are thinking that right now, I applaud you. Like I stated at the beginning of this post, even seven months after I made my decision, I still am not sure that it was the correct one…
When I came back to Omaha, my relationship with the girl didn’t last much longer, I ended up not spending much time with my family right after I moved back, I started my new job on November 7th (although it had taken me awhile, I had managed to avoid dipping into my savings), and I found an incredible house super close to campus after only about two weeks back with cool roommates who I have grown close to.
The world has a funny way of figuring everything out for us. I still yearn for Chicago. The adventure of doing business in the third largest city in the U.S. The energy of 10 million people all going about their everyday lives, doing things that they are passionate about, shaping the world around them. But on the other side, I get to expand my connections in my hometown, get to experience certain things in Omaha that I know I would not have been able to in Chicago, and build upon my relationships with my current friends and family. I am constantly torn apart by the great experiences I have right in front of me and the potential brand new life that could have been mine if I had only stayed in the windy city. At the end of the day, I came back for what I believe to be the better college experience of the two situations. I have always tried to approach my life by reflecting upon my favorite quote before making any tough decision. I urge you to do the same.
© 2017 Colin Wattonville