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Photography of Alvaro Montoro being a doofus
Alvaro Montoro

World Citizen

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Thirteen years

career personal

Today, Facebook showed me one of those "on this day" post flashbacks. It was from 13 years ago and read: "Rejected the internship in Saudi Arabia, so.... I'm definitely going to NYC." But there was more to that story than just that.

Thirteen years ago, I was at an exciting crossroad:

  • Passed the process to be the tech person at one of the Spanish consulates in the Middle East;
  • Received a scholarship to study (part of) a Computer Science Ph.D. at a university in Tokyo, Japan;
  • Could continue working as a contractor at my job at the time (although, tbh this was not an option I considered); and

  • Was accepted for an internship in NYC. An interesting project, but with meager pay (especially for NYC).

Each option had its pros and cons: I had never been to the Middle East, and it was a prestigious program that could go for a couple of years. But, even when the salary was competitive, I must admit I was but aware of going there.

It had always been a dream of mine to go to Japan. Also, continuing my education and getting a doctorate could open many doors... some doors that, because of Spain's idiosyncrasy, were closed for other people but had the potential to be unfairly open for me. But the scholarship barely covered the flight and a tiny stipend for accommodation. I couldn't depend on my parents anymore.

I could have stayed at my job as a contractor for a local government branch. It was boring and somehow unstable and stable at the same time. The pay was low, but it would mean staying in my hometown, close to my family and friends, and working with some interesting people. This option was the lowest on my list.

Finally, New York. An internship at a start-up would mean moving back to the USA (I had studied a year of my Master's at the University of Texas at Austin as an exchange student) and working in something that I liked (web development with a ton of back-end and databases tasks). It also meant being closer to my girlfriend at the time. But it was an internship: the pay would barely cover my accommodation and food. I wouldn't depend on my parents, though.

I turned down the offer from the consulate, rejected the Ph.D. scholarship to Japan (this hurt a little, I must say), didn't have to do anything for the contractor job because I had already put my two-week notice, and accepted the New York internship.

So, I got all my things and papers ready and hopped on a plane towards the Big Apple. One of the first things I did was call my girlfriend to tell her I had arrived. She sounded sad and cold: "I don't think a long-distance relationship will work.". "Oh, yes, it will!" I replied. And it did, considering that thirteen years later, we are still together, married, and with two beautiful (although sometimes a bit annoying :P) children.

But I digress.

Thirteen years ago, I decided to return to the United States. It was not an easy decision. There have been good moments, and there have been bad moments, good and bad companies, good and bad friends... I don't know what would have happened if I had gone to Saudi Arabia or Japan or stayed in Spain. My life would be completely different. But I don't regret the decision I made thirteen years ago.

Don't take me wrong. I have made many mistakes in these thirteen years, and I regret some. But coming back to the USA, meeting new people, making new friends, forming a family... those I definitely don't.

A close friend told me, "I have foreseen your future. You are not coming back." A prophecy that so far is fulfilling but that I hope I can break one day. And at the same time, I fear I can't or shouldn't break. These thirteen years changed me, my home country, and my hometown. Friends and family (and society in general) have moved on with their lives, and I have missed many important dates. Sometimes to the point that I don't recognize them. And I don't know if I would fit.

I digress again.

If there's a lesson in this story —apart from me getting old :P—, it would be that no matter what you choose, you should not look back with regret. Make the best of it, and enjoy the ride. And these past thirteen years have been a heck of a ride.

...So many memories just with a single post on Facebook...

Cover image by Jose Carlos Garcia Lopez (CC BY-SA 3.0).

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