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An Open Letter to Nobody (And Everyone)

Posted on November 12th, 2007

Dear you,

I am terribly sorry for taking so long to get back to you; I have been very bad with e-mails for the past couple of months as schoolwork has been rather cumbersome. Yes, I realize that I could have taken a few minutes here or there to send a message or make a phone call but, to be honest, that doesn’t often occur to me when I have those moments to spare. Instead, I often think about all of the work that still needs to get done and that usually depresses me enough to get me working again.

So, I think that it is fairly clear that school has been very busy. Despite only having two days of classes, I still (of course) receive five days’ worth of work in those two days and my course load is such that the work is quite time-intensive. I was going into this term thinking that it would be a cake walk and that it would be the best term of my academic career. So there was no hesitation over taking the first two weekends off and going out of town. Hindsight, however, can be pretty vicious at times. It turns out that not doing work for those weekends really set me back, and I did not fully recover from that until the last half of October. (Funny how midterms force people to do that, huh?) I am afraid that my regular attendance at Elevation has suffered as a result of this catch-up phase; I think I have only been twice this term! (Granted, I have been away for some of the weekends, too. Living really far away and crummy weather have been formidable barriers, though.) Fortunately, living with two full-time workers (Keith, Jordan) lets me have a quiet house to myself during the day so I can be fairly productive.

This is not to say that I was working all the time, though. I have been setting aside some time (whenever I could, at least) to go climbing with the usual crowd (which includes, but is not limited to, John, Keith, Erin, Jeremy, Cristina, and Jordan), which is something that I started in the winter term and picked up again when I came back into town. And, every so often, I find my way into a bar with some of those same people and irresponsibly procrastinate on doing homework for a night. Sadly, I have not been playing my guitars very much in my spare time, but that hasn’t stopped me from air-guitaring like nobody’s business. ๐Ÿ™‚

Things for the next couple of weeks are looking rosier: I wrote my last midterm (ever!) this past Saturday, and I got through a big wave of assignments, projects, case studies, and more midterms that all culminated last week. So my work load is a bit more reasonable for a little while, although I have to start preparing for my finals soon (as I have a miserable final exam schedule). I am definitely looking forward to being a bit lazier! And I should be making it to church again.

There is, however, one very big task that needs to be addressed this week: where I want to work. The choice (as of now) is between staying in Canada (Toronto, to be specific) and going to the US (back to New York). This is a huge decision for me and the gravity of it is not doing me any favours; I have been flip-flopping for weeks. The exact nature of this indecision lies in the fact that it is very difficult for me to compare the two choices. The jobs are entirely different, the cities are entirely different, the associated lifestyles are entirely different, the growth time horizons are entirely different, the effects on my friendships are entirely different, the work cultures are entirely different, and the compensations are entirely different.

On one hand is a consulting position in Toronto. I would be able to travel the world and work on a number of different projects with different clients. Through this experience, I would be able to develop my soft skills and grow my social and personal networks. The work environment is young, vibrant, and really fun. Being able to stay in Toronto means that I can enjoy a lower cost of living, be closer to more of my friends, and make my goal of staying in Canada (in the long term) that much easier to achieve. Some of the drawbacks, however, include the fact that my skill development would plateau after around 4 or 5 years, a rather low (and nearly insulting, actually) offer, and potentially long, erratic working hours.

On the other hand is the software development position in New York that I have had for two co-op terms. For the next five years or so, I will be firmly rooted in New York, and I will generally be working with the same group on the same kinds of projects. Through this experience, I will further develop my technical skills, but there is hope of moving to the Business side, where I would be in a client-facing role. The work environment is cool, but much more academic; the office draws a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” but chances of going out for a pint after work are slim. Their offer is very attractive (full benefits, what?) and the long-term potential at the company is great. And I should add that the work hours are fairly predictable and reasonable. There are, however, a great deal of social costs involved with moving to New York (being away from the bulk of my friends, not being able to barbeque, and so on), and then there are the financial costs that are eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

In very broad terms, I suppose it comes down to choosing between a nice lifestyle now or a better lifestyle in five to ten years. To some, this may seem like a no-brainer. I am concerned, though, over what kind of precedent I could be setting for myself through this decision; what sort of compromises would I be willing to make in the future for either one of those? Would I put off potentially better careers to enjoy life now? Would I prolong short-term cognitive dissonance in favour of more rewards in the future? Sigh. These, and similar questions, have mercilessly kept me up for many nights. If all goes to plan, I will make a decision and will make it public sometime in the next week or two. It will be a big turning point in my life and part of me is really anxious to make that choice. Then I might be able to sleep again.

Anyhow, this post is getting on the long-ish side (well, it might have been getting long a little while ago), and I think that it effectively catches you up on the academic, professional, and recreational sides of my life. Besides, I think that I owe you a big post after near radio silence over the past two months. I trust that you have been keeping well; please drop me a line with exciting details, though! I’m looking forward to hearing from you again ๐Ÿ™‚ Until then, do take care of yourself.



Edit: With respect to the job decision, I firmly believe that wherever I choose is where I would want to stay for a number of years. I am definitely not a fan of going to a company and then leaving after a year or two or three or something like that. The lack of commitment by employees in my generation is alarming, and I have no intention of being like that.

2 Responses to “An Open Letter to Nobody (And Everyone)”

  1. Tony Says:

    You are fortunate to be choosing between two pretty good options. No matter which one you pick, your odds of being happy with it are quite high. The only real danger is that you may lapse into “what might have been” thoughts but you can avoid those by focussing on making the most of whichever place you end up picking.

  2. Emily Says:

    This may not be the answer, but it just might help reveal a tiny something –

    Take two index cards, and label one “New York/Bloomberg” and the other one “Toronto/[Company].” Turn them face-down, and mix them up so you don’t know which is which–and then pick one up. Imagine that the card you hold in your hand is the option you MUST choose. How does it make you feel?

    If it puts a pang of anxiety in your gut and makes you worry about future regrets, then you should probably reconsider going for that option. If, however, there’s an inexplicable (even if slight) sense of relief in your heart, then you’re probably better off with the one in your hand.

    Remember that no matter which one you choose (because Tony is right, you are lucky to have two great options), the wonderful (?) thing about this life is that we are never given opportunities for do-overs, and therefore, we never can really know “what might have been.” This ignorance, while scary, can be a blessing in disguise if we choose to rest in it after making the best decisions possible (given limited information) along the way.

    I’ll be praying for your wisdom on this one.

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