The decision I knew was coming has arrived. I received a call from the 9-1-1 dispatch center, telling me they are finally moving forward and asking if I am still interested in the position.
Starting pay of 47 grand a year? That’s a lot of money, what degree-less 24 year old wouldn’t be interested in the position? It’s taken over a year of testing and waiting, that’s some dedication.
Now the downside is that if I took the position, the sporadic switching of shifts that occurs for the first 2 years would prevent me from being able to take classes towards my bachelor’s degree. So this has become a huge life path decision, do I take a decent paying job now, or finish school and become a well payed mechanical engineer?
I brought this up after receiving the call during Calculus 3 study group. Surrounded by four individuals who were withdrawn enough from me that they would have unbiased opinions, I felt that they could give me sound advice, particularly because most of them are planning on entering engineering fields themselves.
Immediately Eric asks the salary and starts crunching numbers on his TI-84 graphing calculator while Marcus is telling me that math changes and it’s hard to get back into. “Two years off of school might be too long, you’d have to reteach yourself Calc 1-3 and Physics.”
“But my last math class before this one was in 2008, so it was 4 years without math before this semester, and while it’s more work, but I’m doing just fine,” I pointed out.
“10 years,” Eric says. “At about the 10 year mark, you’d break even financially, including the tuition at UIC. And at that point you’d be making way more as a mechanical engineer.”
“We need to flip a coin,” Marcus says, “It will tell you your fate, if you should take the job or not.”
I thought about this, and I liked the idea. Math students love flipping coins. Statistically heads and tails have an equal chance of coming up, so what if something of a higher power causes one side to come up over the other? I believe that our fate is predetermined and since I’m having a hard time deciding on which choice would be best for me because of the inevitable unforeseen circumstances, maybe the flip of a coin is exactly what I need to point me in the right direction.
Marcus pulls out a quarter and shows me the coin. “Heads, you take the job. Tails, you keep going to school.”
With that, he flips it in the air and catches it in his palm. All five of us lean our heads towards Marcus’s closed fist.
He opens it slowly, “Tails. Don’t take it.”
“What if you flipped it again and it says something different?” I ask.
Eric’s friend says, “That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Whatever you hoped for when the coin was in the air is the decision you should make.”
“But I wasn’t hoping, I was just waiting.”
And that is the story of how the choice was made to turn down the well paying job. The moral is, don’t play a coin flip game with someone who is a fatalist.