I was lying in bed in my colonial hotel room in Cuenca, Ecuador in early September last year watching an American young adult drama called Grownish (a spin off from Blackish, an excellent comedy which touches upon genuine issues in the afro American experience but with comedic genius) when it hit me. I immediately got out of bed and started furiously writing (well typing - why do I never have a pen or paper on me) down all the things I’ve wanted to do but was super scared of:
Pierce my ears again
Dye my hair
Quit my job (this was in bold)
Get a small tattoo
Now, I know this is not the most riveting list, and thus far I’ve only managed to tick off two things. I’ve pierced my ears (I’ve even done it twice!), and the most surprising one to everyone around me and myself, I’ve quit my job after almost 10 years.
Watching Grownish and seeing young adults try new things - some that worked and some that didn’t – and have new experiences touched a nerve. It reconfirmed something that I had been feeling for some time; I wasn’t living, I was merely existing. Having large periods of time where you’re by yourself really has you thinking A LOT - I recommend it. Now I know this sounds dramatic, but I felt like I’d been in a rut - not a bad rut, but a rut nonetheless, for years. I was happy enough I guess, but I wanted to do more, and I am capable of doing more, so what am I afraid of?!
I’ve always been quite risk averse ever since I was younger, especially career wise (I think I have a perpetual fear of slipping into poverty). I’m someone who heavily weighs up the pros and cons, and usually, the cons will outweigh the pros. Sometimes this is good, I’m careful with money which has allowed me to get onto the property ladder, and I have afforded myself a nice amount of stability. But recently I’ve started to feel like things are passing me by, people are having these amazing experiences because they are putting themselves out there, and I wasn’t because I was waiting for them to be offered to me – which we all know doesn’t happen (even Prince Harry had to hustle for Megan Markle).
I gave a talk at the University of East London (UEL) about careers and in it my key message was Be Bold. But after that talk I felt like a fraud, here I was advocating for people to go out there and take what they want but I wasn’t doing the same. Something had to change.
I was inspired to write this article after I went to a talk at Foyles bookshop last week where Elizabeth Day, author of How to fail, talked about embracing failure in life. I had booked onto the event in December shortly after the talk at UEL, when I was adamant I was quitting my job but was scared that I may have talked myself out of it, so I booked this as some added inspiration just in case (that’s the event planner in me, always contingency planning).
At the talk I plucked up the courage to ask a question (yes guys, even I get shy sometimes): how do you embrace failure when you’re risk averse? To which she said that all the best things she has experienced stemmed from failure, and that your 20s were made for failure (sadly I’m not in my 20s, but clearly my new Korean skincare routine is working). I am applying the same principle to my 30s, 40s and so forth though – I feel like we are never too old to take risks!
Now, when I say 2020 is my year of failure I’m not manifesting negativity (universe, it’s very important that you listen to me), I would love for everything I try to be positive and successful but that wouldn’t be realistic (I’m a big realist), and I feel there is a lot of learning you can do from failing, which in turn leads to growth.
Since handing in my notice I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of positive and kind things people have said about me, and it feels like I have some supporters who believe more in me than I do myself. This has been very touching (just so you know everyone who writes something positive on my post makes my eyes well up).
I’m not advocating recklessness (never, no way, no how), I’m simply saying when weighing up your pros and cons remove the big con of fear and self-doubt. You’ve got this, and if you haven’t, you’ll learn from it.
Next on my list is probably dying my hair - I’ve already taken a big risk and I don’t think my mum’s nerves can take it! I’ll keep you posted on my journey and let me know yours or whether you have anything you would like to do that you’re scared of...
In the meantime feel free to hire me for any freelance events (shameless plug) :).