A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a major company about an in house illustration position. The idea of being employed, let alone an in house employee, wouldn't normally be so enticing to me, but this was different. A hugely influential tech giant, a move to sunny California, an adventure, a pretty glossy comp package. After three interviews, they were ready to fly me down to meet the crew. But something in me just felt like I needed to really consider what was most important to me.
In the end, I realized that, no matter how good an opportunity this was, it wasn't aligned with things that are important to me right now: independence, having total say over how I spend my time and what jobs I take on. Not knowing what's around the corner. Having that constant motivation of not knowing whether I will get another job, nor from whom. There are many other reasons like this, mostly centred around me personally and my career.
The most important factor was less about me, though. My wife just started working again after 5 years of new-motherhood. My girls, 3 and 5, are in pre-school and kindergarten, respectively. They are making friends and are putting their own roots down here. And we as a family have so much community — friends, family and networks — that it's hard to imagine leaving this all and starting over again.
Just because you choose the right thing, it doesn't mean you chose the easiest thing, or the thing that made you feel the most amazing, at least right away.
Personally, I wanted to do it. I love adventure and not knowing what's around the corner. And I would have had the option of leaving the job in the future if things weren't working out. But the reasons to go were all personal, whereas my wife and kids would be left to figure out what to do in a new city, in a new country (my wife without a working visa) to feel at home.
I emailed the company back on Wednesday to tell them my final decision, before they booked my flight and hotel. I felt good about it, peaceful in my heart. But even though the decision was right and has given me peace, I am still struggling with the sense of deflation. For two weeks we were readying ourselves for a big change of life, and I was feeling pretty important. And now it's back to business as usual.
The rain fell a lot harder this week, and the wind blew stronger. And I saw a lot less action in my inbox, and some of my clients seemed to go silent. Some of my clients were more critical and less pleased with my work than I'm used to. Self doubt set in. Maybe I should have taken the job. Maybe I was too cocky. Maybe I'm not as good at this as I often believe. Sure, I've enjoyed some success, but maybe it's coming to an end. Maybe I'm becoming irrelevant. These are the thoughts that sunk into the vacuum that was left when the promise of new things went away.
Here's what I know, though: by deciding to go with my heart (not my head), I upheld my integrity and reinforced my conscience. By letting a lucrative offer go, I cast a giant vote of confidence in myself and my ability to keep doing this. By loving my family more than myself, and community more than my career ambitions, I respect myself more. I put my money where my mouth is (or something like that). I chose something that was good even though it was hard.
Just because you choose the right thing, it doesn't mean you chose the easiest thing, or the thing that made you feel the most amazing, at least right away. But it's a temporary sacrifice for something better in the future. There is no divine reward for doing the right thing. A good thing is is in itself blessed. The most important result is inner peace. And I have that, even without having the outer glory of what this job could have been for me.
Instagram, Twitter, social and economic status in general are all useful in their own ways. But they mostly show the outer veneer of what we think we want, what we think will make us happy. Listening attentively to the quiet voice inside (quiet because we drown it out with endless distractions) and letting it ask hard questions, and answering these questions with the most precise, brutal honesty is what, in the end will give us joy.
Clearly, I'm in the middle of feeling deflated. We were gonna do something cool, but in the end, it didn't sit right with our consciences (this was a family decision, of course). I'm proud of myself (one of the few times I will actually say that) for making the best decision. Now all that's left to do is ride out the waves of self doubt. But here is where the real adventure begins: now that I have chosen to stay, I have a new sense of purpose in being here and doing what I do already. The challenge is now to keep growing and evolving, as I have been since I started this journey of being an independent illustrator. The fact that I was even presented with such an opportunity is testament to my success. I know I didn't flaunt my success by declining it (I wanted to make sure I wasn't being cocky like that). I simply knew I had a good thing going, and I'm not done yet.