I am killing time on a twelve-hour plane trip from Tokyo to Toronto and I feel compelled to share some of the reasoning behind a few of my recent life decisions.
If you don’t know me, I left my job in Seattle two months ago to move back to Canada. Was it hard work? Yes, but for those who might think otherwise, I never left because I could not hack it.
Before I jump into the work thing, I was at the University of Waterloo for five years. Those five years were a period of intense personal growth for me. Through my program, frosh leading, and via other friends I grew a lot on a personal level and left with what I consider an amazing social network and set of friends. In 2009, I left the comforts of school to move to Seattle to work at Amazon.com.
I was at Amazon for only 26 months. I was never the smartest or most experienced person in the room, but I honestly cannot imagine things having worked out better professionally.
Amazon was an amazing, albeit busy experience. I got to learn from people who were leaders in their field, had started their own companies, earned PHDs, and had gone to some of the best business schools in the US. Coming in with no experience, I was surrounded by people who were smarter and more experienced than me and I learned a lot. The organization was also remarkably flat, I saw the CEO in the cafeteria, it was not uncommon to have a VP at a team meeting, and was lucky enough to meet and/or have lunch with a few VPs here and there who who told me about the risks they’ve taken to get where they are.
I launched (an admittedly simple) side project that ended up making the company millions. Billionaire founder/CEO Jeff Bezos personally presented me with an award in front of several thousand people at the company all-hands meeting. I created a strong professional network, netted the highest possible scores on my last performance review that put me somewhere in the top 10% of my level and I got promoted two weeks before I left. My manager netting me the highest raises that he could and combined with a near tripling of my stock options, at only 24, my salary for 2012 would be in the six figures.
Did I make mistakes? Oh, yes. When I joined, I was 22 and green. I was far too concerned with getting things done quickly instead of correctly, acted before I thought, took feedback far too personally, and with zero years of real world experience, I was far more concerned about where I wanted to be instead of where I was.
So why did I leave? While I did more professionally in 2 years than I would have done in 4 (or more) back home, I felt I let 2011 pass me by and felt 2012 could be the same. I missed my life back home and felt like I no longer getting the personal growth I wanted. I wasn’t quite sure where I was or where I was going. Quarter-life crisis? You bet.
I became torn between the professional credibility, stability and growth I was starting to create for myself in Seattle and personal life I had already built for myself in Canada.
In the end, I realized that I have my life to work on my career and I really just wanted to achieve more personal growth while I was still young, even if it means slowing down my career. For me, that meant Canada. While I certainly still want a good job, I want more than just that. I already have an established social network in Canada, I can use vacation on actual vacation (instead of visiting Canada), will worry less about why I am living where I am and there is a higher chance of personal growth than starting from scratch in a new city again (at least for me).
When I was torn about leaving, a lot of people in Seattle thought I should stay and a lot of people in Canada thought I should come back. But it was complicated – I was torn between a strong and promising professional life in the states and an equally strong and promising personal life in Canada.
While I was hitting every goal professionally, I was envious of my friends who were travelling, deciding to pursue higher education, who were happier earning less and all in all just growing more on a personal level.
Am I glad I went to Seattle? Absolutely, but I am also glad I left. I am happy I made this decision, but also need to make sure it doesn’t define me or become my claim to fame.
Will Canada work out? Who knows. Will I get a good job? I don’t know. Is it the answer to everything? No, but we’ll see how it turns out.