What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?
This will be a fun one!
As you may or may not know, I started a job this past July at The Florida State University, in student activities. What you may not know, however, is that I had very few intentions of staying in Florida after grad school.
I still remember sitting with my parents at our house on Malloy Road in Ohio in 1991, as my dad explained to 4 year old me and my 2 year old sister about our impending move to Florida. He had accepted a position there at the University of South Florida, and we were going to be leaving. So much about that move sticks out in my mind. Our visit to campus and staying at what used to be the Holiday Inn on Fowler Avenue, arguing with the moving guys about whether or not my shoes were on the wrong feet (they were, despite my vehement claims to the contrary), and trying to bargain with my parents for a house with a pool. But my two most vivid memories of the move are as follows:
(1) Telling my sister, “Oh we can go to Florida. That’s where Disney is,” and envisioning myself playing outside all day because it would never snow.
(2) Flopping down inside after my first 5-minute play session in the driveway, realizing it was going to be too damn hot to play outside all day.
I’ve grown up in Florida, and absolutely love the sunshine, the ability to surf often, and yes, even Disney World 🙂 However, a part of my heart was left in the Northeast when I went there for college. There’s something about the North, with its history, its intellectual intrigue, its four fully formed seasons, that has always appealed to me. That desire to experience the North drew me to Brown when I was 16 for a summer program, and was enough to return me there the following summer to start my college career at the University of Rhode Island. Add to that the second family that I formed while attending college, and that was enough to draw me away from a place that I’ve called home for so long.
However, when it came time to buckle down and do the job search, the switch wasn’t quite as simple. While the lion’s share of the jobs that I applied for were in the Northeast, and I had good opportunities at a few of those, I also went fairly far in the search process of a few jobs in the Sunshine State. When it came time to make a decision, I was torn in a way I didn’t expect to be. Was I ready to leave? Absolutely. But I also had the chance to make my mark in a prestigious position at a very good school, with ideals they were instilling in students that truly resonated with me. So, fighting against what I had believed for years, I chose to stay. I decided to make Tallahassee my home for the next few years.
Will this be the last choice I make like this? No, I don’t think so. And will this mean I’ll stay in Florida forever and ever? Doubtful. The Northeast and the people in my life who are there are still tremendously important to me, and will be a place I end up eventually. But for now, this is a good fit for me. I love my students. I’m close to family. And I feel like I’m doing good work in a supportive department, with a supportive division of student affairs behind me. Trips north a few times a year are enough for me right now- when they’re not, I’ll reassess and make moves. But in the meantime, I’m happy with where I am.
So for those about to make job decisions, think about your make-or-break factors. Think about them hard. And then think about whether those alternative options really would “break” you.