Time to make a choice

He responded the day after, saying he found my profile really interesting and wanted to have a Skype conference… the next day! He explained me the topic of his research, how we could expend that to topics I was interested in (game theory, neuroeconomics a.k.a. decision process analysis) etc… The main issue was that he thought I would have to do one year of master to be accepted in the program. That made me shiver but he said I should take the time to think and give him my feedback in a few days. The two days that followed were probably some of the most stressful I ever experienced. Like a perpetual vertigo, my hands were shaking, my heart totally oppressed and I couldn’t sleep.

I called friends, tried to figure out what was scarring me the most between leaving for a totally different country, doing a Ph.D., having very little to live or even something else? But I realized that I was already thinking about the books and clothes I would have to leave here if I was going, as if my decision had already been taken. I came to the conclusion that what was unbearable to me was to have to do another master. Furthermore I don’t have the resources to finance a year without working abroad. So after two days of intense reflection, I wrote back to the professor, saying that I was ready to do the Ph.D. but on the condition that I didn’t have to do a master again. The second I pushed the button “Send”, I was peaceful. I realized then that what was paralyzing me was not the choice I had to make, or the difficulties ahead: it was just the fear that I might have to say no because I wasn’t ready to do anything for this objective.

This decision raised many questions. If I wasn’t ready to do all that it takes to achieve a goal, does it means that I don’t really try enough? Or was it fair to just say that I wanted to do a Ph.D., not a master, so there was no reason for me to accept to do the latest?

Another reason for my high level of stress was a matter of time. There are two moments in the year when you can start a Ph.D. program: one in September and one in March. That meant in less than a month and a half. So in addition to the choice of going to Israel or not, I had to decide WHEN. For many, going in September seemed the safest choice; it would give me time to organize things, maybe to make a bit more money in case of, and maybe let me the opportunity to find “a real job” here in Switzerland. Of course my parents were more for this option. I understand this point of view, I considered it myself, but something pushed me to go now. Not only because I think that I should waste as few time as possible, but also because I feared somehow that I might not be as willing to leave as I am now in six months. One does not know what can happen in six months, and as true as I have not much to lose now, it could be totally different in the Autumn. What if I had a relatively good job with a good salary? What if I found a man with whom I could see a future? What if I was so comfortable in my little life that I didn’t want to move at all, ever? Once again, these questions have challenged my motivation: if I could so easily change my mind, maybe it was because this project was not so important. Then maybe I should reconsider it.

The truth is that I know myself, and I tend to think that I start to understand how we, human beings behave. It’s easy to change when there’s nothing to lose, easy to quit a job when you have a new one, easy to move somewhere if a lot of people you like are there. It’s much more complicated to make those life-changing decisions when a lot is at stake. When I came back to Geneva from Zurich, I had promised to myself that it was only temporary because I was too young to go back to the city where I grew up. That was two years ago. I absolutely don’t regret these years, but I clearly see how as time passes it becomes more and more difficult to go somewhere else and start a new life from scratch. So I don’t trust myself enough to think that in six months, my determination will be as strong as it is now. And what if they find someone else in the meantime? What if they don’t have the budget anymore in half a year? I didn’t want to take this risk. Some might think it’s brave to decide to go in less than a month (although that’s the maximum delay I tend to have had so far before moving to a different city so it might not be a surprise from me) but it probably would have asked me even more courage to plan my departure in six months. Maybe my will for a more meaningful life is not as strong after all, we’ll probably never know, but at least I am trying. I won’t spend the rest of my life thinking I could have certainly done it but you know, it wasn’t the right time, and the situation there was not stable etc…

Speaking of the situation, someone said to me: “But the situation right now is not very good, are you sure you wanna go now?” I simply replied that the situation there will probably never be really good. To which he agreed. And that made me realize that the “situation” had never come as a parameter in my decision. That could be due to my utopist view of the country or to a seriously pessimist opinion of Occident’s future but I am sure I will have the occasion to come back to this topic later.

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