4 min read

I want to kiss the wrong guy.

Defining risk and failure to synergize my personal and professional world.
I want to kiss the wrong guy.
I want to kiss the wrong guy. I want to show up to a party overdressed. I want to piss someone off. I want to be selfish. I want to quit something.

Most people envision their past, present, and future with a stark contrast between their personal life and their professional life. Juggling both lives - “personal” and “professional” and meshing them into one (aka ourself) has become to be known as a very important skill to learn. Some call it work-life balance. Some call it self-care. It’s an important skill because each of these “lives” come with different (and sometimes opposing) goals, expectations, and fears. The idea is that both of these lives should be maintained separately as the effort instead should be focused on achieving a so-called synergy among them. While I’d love to dive into the odd nature of this mindset and discuss its flaws and consequences, I’ll save that for a future essay. In today’s writing, I want to frame my ideas within this framework of thinking: personal life and professional life. I’ll be highlighting the separation in which I make different choices and assume different risks.

I personally also have a pretty stark contrast between what you’d consider my “personal” and “professional” life even though that separation is not a part of my framework of thinking. The most major difference lies in the way that I perceive risk and regrets.

The biggest risk is not taking risks. That sounds like an oxymoron but risk itself has such a negative connotation. It’s seen as foolish to participate in something with perceived danger to the point that we forget the danger is based on perception itself. I came to realize that the the biggest risk to me becoming a better version of myself everyday is having regrets and ‘what ifs’. In other words, the biggest risk is not taking risks out of fear of the perceived danger. Dropping out of school had perceived danger associated with it but not dropping out of school to learn what I wanted to learn seemed riskier. Declining big tech job offers had perceived dangers associated to it but settling for jobs that felt meaningless or boring seemed riskier. Not pursuing current opportunities at hand had perceived danger associated to it but settling for an environment where I didn’t feel respected seemed riskier.

I owe the development of my perception of risk to the stability of my early professional life. I grew up with a pretty unstable childhood (personal life) and coped with it by pouring my focus into my schoolwork (professional life). The stability turned into confidence in my ability to build and learn which helped me push my boundaries and challenge my perception of traditional risks. I’ve now come to the conclusion that I’m not really scared to fail. I don’t believe I truly can, if I’m being honest. I believe that I’m very privileged to have developed a skillset and mindset that no amount of financial loss or career-related loss could make me feel as if I’ve “lost everything”. And thinking this way is the main reason I can be bold in my professional life. Unfortunately, I had never come to same conclusion in my personal life.

I find that so many of the people around me are worrying about the job title of the first full time position they want to get post-graduation, as if somehow the title would be permanent. I have other friends that are so dissatisfied with their careers but refuse to switch jobs because a change in jobs within 2 years of starting one would “look bad” on their resume. The idea of serving their best interests in their professional lives seems too risky to them.

I thought I didn’t relate to my friends who were settling in their professional lives they didn’t truly want out of fear of potential disappointment. I was wrong. I was blindly creating the same patterns in my personal life. I had not realized, until now, that the instability of my personal life at a younger age makes me afraid of taking on the same type of risks that made my professional life thrive. I’m so deathly afraid of letting anyone down that I continually sacrifice my own needs to mimic stability in my personal life. I want to change this.

I want to kiss the wrong guy. I want to show up to a party overdressed. I want to piss someone off. I want to be selfish. I want to quit something.

I want to chase perceived danger to the point where failing in my personal life doesn’t scare me. I want to believe I can’t fail in my personal life as much as I believe it in my professional life. Failure in both these “lives” looks different. Failure in my professional life probably looks like being broke or not being able to be taken seriously. Failure in my personal life probably looks like hurting the people I care most about in my life. I’m much much more afraid of the latter, and to overcome this I need to have the same level of confidence I have in my professional life. I need to believe that with my values and character, I would never intentionally hurt someone the same way I believe that will my mindset and skillset, I could never be broke.

Thank you to Sonaya and Amy for calling me out on my fears.