About a year ago, I wanted to see if I was smart enough to be a developer. It was a chance for me to see if could you teach yourself something (music, basketball, coding), and excel to be on par with everyone who received formal training.
On the first day, I stood next to the other developers and engineers, where everyone was dressed in their best first-day wear. We smiled over our coffee cups and eavesdropped on the mundane small talk conversation that was really the most interesting thing in the room. I went to the washroom to adjust my awkwardly-fitting shirt a few times.
I didn’t have an engineering degree and I was not male. But you know what? I ended up doing fine in that job.
As a coder, it’s hard to differentiate your own code from other people’s code in a large code base, but I worked on a smaller code base with 2-3 other developers and it was not hard to see which code was mine.
I often worked through lunch and my team made me feel ridiculous about working too much, so I started going to the gym at 2pm and blasting rock music for an hour. No one else in the team remembered that the hallway lights and heating turned themselves off at 7pm but I figured it out in my first week.
I hated the part of the job that I never considered: the environment. Being alone in my office for 8 hours and talking to one person for the entire day, and not being told what was expected of me and having a team that was worried about their kids at home.
“You have leadership potential,” my team lead said during my last week. “We could help you grow.”
I spent four months learning this: you can be an expert at a self-taught skill. You can also hate something that you have no control over and no words to describe. And that is okay, because you will know what to avoid for next time.
Megz and I talked about wanting to start a company, or a coffee shop, instead of taking a job after university.
The stats are not looking good for startups: 90% of small businesses fail within their first few years. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to create a tech startup, simply to say that I’ve tried it when I’m wrinkly enough to tell campfire stories about my life.
But neither Megz nor myself have ever worked in the food industry; we only spend an obscene amount of time in coffee shops. My high school hustle was teaching piano, not frying chicken wings, and I tell myself that it is so silly to be sad over something that is not real.
Just yesterday, I tried to order a mocha latte and the barista asked, “Is a mocha okay?” Clearly, I’m still not quite sure of what I’m talking about.
If I’m honest, we’re all talk and no action. Neither of us make plans to understand how the food industry works and proceed with our lives thinking we might open a coffeeshop in the next year.
Recently, I got a job offer. It is a good offer on paper.
“What are your hesitations?”
“I’d have to move to the states.”
I take out my phone and type down the reasons why I don’t want to say yes. There are a lot of bullet points and I skim through them and refute some of them in my head.
If I still taught piano, I would write, “What are your hesitations?” in my teaching notebook.
I used to say “Why not?” a lot, but that sounds challenging, whereas this is a non-threatening way to understand someone’s doubts.
I think it will be the same situation again at this company; all my coworkers with their smart engineering and computer science degrees. I would hate to be the stupidest one in the room.
A lot of people don’t like the position that I was offered because there would be one of me and a lot of engineers and designers. I would be, in theory, “telling” them what to do. This is like in an orchestra, if the conductor wanted the pianist to play Bach with pedal and the pianist refused. Except, in some cases, the conductor would have authority over the pianist, and in this orchestra, I would not have authority over anyone.
Basically, I am afraid that I will hate the job and be stuck there for years like a squeaky cog in a wheel.
The bright side is, I get to join a team to make software. I like belonging to a group of motivated people (if I am able to belong, that is).
It’s a no-brainer to a lot of people to take the job, but not to me. People around me all seem to know the right decision and I shut myself out.
A few sleeps later, I am on the phone with the recruiter again.
“I want to travel,” I say.
“Can you sign the job offer today if we push back your start date?”
“Uh,” I say. “Yes.”
If this is the last time I will be able to travel continuously in my life again, then I will claim my four months of freedom right now, thank you very much. I want to wear a turban and race on a camel’s back at least once in my life.
I was ill a long time ago and I can’t explain how important it is for me to see the world. I don’t care about stability right now. I have the time and (finally) the health to eat as many chocolate cakes as I want. I like being able to ski on an Olympic-grade mountain or fly to Vegas on a whim.
Maybe it sounds silly to many that I did not snatch the job offer right away, but I have been learning to make sensible, slow decisions.
“How dare they?” My friend says. “How dare one of the top software companies in the world ask you to start earlier?”
“I want to start a coffeeshop someday,” I say at a later date.
“I have a friend who wanted to start a coffeeshop,” an acquaintance says. I look at him.
“Cool,” I say.
“Oh, he was not like you. He was for real. He used all his savings.”
This conversation stuck in my mind for a long time. It is confusing to me that everyone thinks they know everything about me, that duh I should take this job offer, live in the States, and stop dreaming about a startup. But they don’t know that I broke a chair once by sitting on it, or that I can lift half my weight and I can punch their lights out if I felt violent towards them for making assumptions about me.
Okay, so I will stop asking everyone for advice, because people are overwhelming. It makes me sad that the decisions that come so easily out of people’s mouths don’t feel right to me. Is this Grace living life, or everyone else living Grace’s life?
In the end, I said yes to the job in the States.
I don’t know exactly what I have signed up for besides moving my ass south of the border and eating more Cheesecake Factory and Taco Bell. Now I should say something profound about picking up my life, but I don’t have anything because it does not feel real yet. One year is too far away, and this home is still my home.
Has anyone else picked up their lives and moved somewhere for a job? What was your decision process like? Feel free to share in the comments down below!
If you want to learn more about some of my music teaching experience, check out this post about how to be a great music teacher!