December 2011. The month that taught me just how quickly it can all change.
Six months out of college, I was waiting tables at a Broadway-style dinner theater in my hometown (which sounds classy until I tell you that it was also a buffet). Although I was applying aggressively to positions within the field, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to continue working in sports. With four related internships being the only things on my resume, however, I also didn’t have the background to do much else.
That November, I had stumbled across a position that, in my mind, would forever determine if I wanted to continue to working in the industry—a communications internship with the league headquarters of Major League Soccer in New York City.
I applied to that internship like I had dozens of others, and as with the majority of those applications, I didn’t expect to hear anything back. The position paid $300/week, would have me working on Fifth Avenue, and the idea of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world fresh out of college was equal parts invigorating and intimidating.
To my surprise, I received an email a few weeks later wanting to set up an interview.
I prepared for that phone call like I was about to have a one-on-one with the president. I made my parents leave the house for the afternoon, had a full spread of notes laid out across the dining room table, and threw on my best suit and tie, down to the socks and shoes. And I nailed it. The very next day I received a call offering me the position.
But that wasn’t the most important phone call of my life.
Because after taking the weekend to ‘work out the logistics’, I turned down the offer.
I was at my brother’s apartment in Chicago when I had to make this call. Disappointment and a little confusion came over the line when I revealed that I was turning down a position that was obviously a dream one for me. I chose to listen to everyone that told me it wouldn’t be possible, or ‘smart’, to live in New York on that amount of money.
Over the next day I felt literally sick to my stomach. Soft, involuntary “Fuck!”s would escape from my mouth, and I was inconsolably solemn. A sinking feeling that I had made a terrible mistake consumed me.
While I like to think I was nearing the following conclusion anyway, the next morning my brother surprised me over breakfast by saying, “I think you should call them back.”
I can vividly remember plodding into his bedroom for privacy, staring into his mirror while sitting on the edge of the bed, and taking in every detail around me as I dialed; the creaky hardwood floors, a dusty copy of Blink on the dresser, the noisy Belmont Avenue traffic outside. I knew that my life was either about to change forever, or I was going to have a new “What if I had. . .” that would inhabit some dark corner of my mind the rest of my life.
Despite the nervous shakes in my voice, my new supervisor was thankfully still happy to have me on for the next six months as her new intern.
And because of that phone call, it all did change, and quickly. I had some amazing experiences in one of the greatest cities in the world, grew immensely as a person, and made friends that I will talk to for the rest of my life, including one that helped me land my first full-time job.
I also learned that if something even remotely seems like it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to take it. It probably is.
What was an event in your life that changed everything in an instant?