Responsibility is not an all-or-nothing proposition. While it’s true that there are some folks out there who could be described as being entirely “responsible” or “irresponsible,” it’s not fair to see that as the standard. It’s absolutely possible to balance the two.
Okay, let me step off the soapbox and back up. Halloween is next week, and it’s going to be a fairly eventful day for me. By some miracle, I’ve managed to land a job interview in Baltimore for the morning. In the evening, I’ll be dancing with friends at a raucous Halloween punk show in New York. One of these things I’ve only known about for a day, but I’ve been looking forward to the other one for months. To tell the truth, I’m not sure which one I’m more excited about.
And for a hot minute there I didn’t think I could make both work. I panicked. On the one hand, I didn’t want to miss the only event where I could hang out with friends that I see extremely rarely; but on the other hand, I didn’t want to throw away my shot. And then when I calmed down and found a way to schedule the interview and switch my bus ticket, I began to get nervous about what would happen if my prospective employers found out about my evening plans – or that entire side of my life in general.
I know it’s completely irrational. I know I’m not doing anything wrong in my off time. I know this isn’t the 1980s and most employers don’t distrust people associated with the punk scene. I know that my purple hair would probably already be a tip-off that I’m not “normal.” And yet…
I mean, so many employers seem to see any sign of “irresponsible” behavior as a sign that a person can’t be trusted with any responsibility at all – even if that behavior is totally limited to free time and the person is strictly serious at work. It’s as if workers are just like the girl in the illustration above: they can only be on either the path of virtue or of ruin, with absolutely no in-between.
Yet the people I’ll see at the punk show prove that’s not true. The scene surrounding this particular band is full of brilliant people who are perfectly professional in their jobs but need to cut loose sometimes; you’ll see lawyers headwalking and astrophysicists in the mosh pit. And then there are the tons of creative geniuses you’d bump into – but all the amazing people you’d find at these shows are another subject for another post.
Maybe I’m just imagining this whole thing. (I really hope I am, even though it would make me look like a fool for writing this post at all.) But my point is, it can be done. I can be polished, poised, and professional at the interview in the morning and scream songs into my friends’ faces until my voice breaks in the evening. And both would be genuinely me – I’m not faking one while secretly being the other. And if an employer can’t understand that, maybe they’re not right for me anyway.