I sat in the car in the Walmart parking lot staring straight ahead. I was trying to make, what was up to that point, the toughest decision of my life. I guess I should correct that and say I was “re-thinking” the toughest decision of my life.
The editor of a small newspaper in upstate New York had called me the previous day asking for my decision on whether to accept his entry level newspaper job, covering the crime beat. The money was horrible, just a hair above the poverty level. The editor and other writers seemed nice enough, but were detached. They weren’t overly friendly. I had felt out of place in my two previous trips. To top it off, I lived 9-10 hours from the newspaper and would be starting over on my own.
The idea of building something new sounded exciting, but I still had my doubts. The editor needed an answer though. He couldn’t wait any longer. In my haste, I told him “Yes that I would accept the job.” He could hear my hesitancy and suggested that since it was late on Friday, I visit the area over the weekend, think about it, and give him a call back Sunday night. He was sure that after I saw the area up close, I would be on board “100 percent.”
Making an impromptu roadtrip
So, I did exactly that. The the next day I made the long drive. I didn’t have a ton of money so I could stay just for one night. I got there just as the sun was starting to go down. Even though I had been driving all day, I decided to take a drive around town. I hoped the drive would show me something that I had missed. I hoped it would make me feel better about my decision.
Instead, it did the exact opposite, the more I checked out the town, the more it felt wrong. There was no one thing, it just felt wrong for me. It wasn’t too big or too small, it just wasn’t me.
Biting the bullet
When it came time to leave the next day I stopped at a pay phone outside a small shopping center. I looked over my pros and cons list one more time. I had listed the beautiful mountains and surrounding area as a plus, and the depressed economy and high crime rate as a negative. That’s how the rest of the list went, for every positive, I could point out an equal negative.
After a few more minutes of thought, I got out of my car and went to a pay phone and called the editor and gave him the news: I wouldn’t be taking the job. He couldn’t believe that I had come to that decision, but I was determined to stand my ground. I had made a wrong decision and I was going to fix it. I wouldn’t be flip-flopping any more.
I always appreciated that the editor didn’t make it more difficult. We chatted just a few seconds more and then went our separate ways. I got back in my car and a wave of emotion came over me. On one hand, I couldn’t believe I was an idiot and had turned down the only job I had in front of me. At the same time, though, I was proud of myself for trusting my gut. I was still worried about getting a job and making something of myself, but I felt like I had made the right decision for me. In the end, my decision came down to one important factor: It just didn’t feel right.
The nine-hour drive to the town took forever. In comparison, the drive home flew by. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I came away with several great lessons:
–Trust your gut. Yes, the job solved a problem and filled a need, but it never felt right. I never had a good feeling about the people or the role. I couldn’t see how I could make a contribution or where it could lead me.
–-Make the tough decision. I didn’t want to call the editor back and tell him that I had changed my mind and that I wouldn’t be accepting the role, but it was the right thing to do. I can only imagine how it would have been to tell him I was leaving after being in the role for a month or two.
–Make the decision and move on. I made the decision to pass up the job and never looked back. Oh, I felt horrible, but I moved forward. I didn’t second guess myself. Of course, two months later, the editor of hometown newspaper, where I had worked summers and part-time in the past, called to ask me if I would be interested in a new role that had just opened up. You never know what’s around the next bend!