I don’t see myself as a risky person. I have always appreciated my ability to plan ahead, whether it was with finances or education; there has always been a straight, narrow and, most importantly, predictable path I would lay out for myself.
I like to know what’s around the corner. I also harbor a tendency to want to please everyone around me. With planning everything years in advance, I am able to accomplish both of those goals. Yet, when I graduated from college, the right path wasn’t immediately apparent. For the first time in my life, I had no plan. Most potential options felt nauseating.
To my horror, taking a risk seemed like the only option. So, I packed up my belongings into my 2003 Toyota Corolla and moved west—just as many young and idealistic people have done before me. I was intrigued by Los Angeles, but not because I desired Hollywood stardom, fame or fortune. Instead, I longed for something the opposite of what I was used to: What would make me the most uncomfortable? Maybe this discomfort would offer me clarity, I thought.
Six months in, I still don’t know if this was the correct risk to take. I still could potentially crash and burn. But from taking this risk, I’ve learned three essential lessons.
One, know your self-worth. The first job I got in the city, I quit after my first day. This was unlike me—I have never thought about quitting a job so abruptly. It felt reckless and irresponsible, but even more so to keep a position I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. I learned I have to protect myself, and that means having enough self-respect to firmly say “no.”
Two, it is impossible to predict anything. My dad commented to me over the phone, “Your generation takes many more risks than mine ever did.” I responded with, “How can we not?” People my age face more instability than our parents' generation, stemming from a potent combination of crippling student debt, rampant economic inequality, job insecurity—for starters. This says to me: You can plan all you want, but there are greater forces at work. These forces have little regard for your so-called plan.
Three, you can’t please everyone. There are people who wanted me to stay in my small town, find a reasonable job, to settle. Not living up to someone’s expectation used to immediately paralyze me—even if it wasn’t the expectation I had for myself. I have learned disappointing people is part of the process. This has been a huge relief.
The greatest risk of my early adulthood—and, really, my whole life—is still unfolding. While I’ve always been the type to have everything neatly planned out, I was able to recognize the power of embracing inevitable uncertainty. And as I discover more about this city and myself every day, I’m certainly glad I did.