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Think you don’t take your personal life into the office? Think again

By Raz WahidMay 6, 2013British Asian, Coaching, Jobs, Unemployment, Values, Work Life Balance

The agonising pain as the stone hit my face, tearing my eye and leaving it blind for life. That wasn’t supposed to happen to a 5 year old, but it did.
Insecurity, anyone? It isn’t funny when I’m looking at a child and he looks over his shoulder, thinking I’m looking at someone else. Even less fun when a client does the same thing in a meeting. But I’ve learned to ignore it.

The private letter I wrote to my mother, telling her I was running away, without ever having the intention to do it. Ignored. Trashed. 8 year olds are not always heard as clearly as they wish.
Your boss is not a mind reader. Make sure your message is c.l.e.a.r.l.y.u.n.d.e.r.s.t.o.o.d

The defiance at challenging the boy at school who had the audacity to tease me for wearing glasses. One glare from me was all it took. No words required.
That bully in the office? He is worth standing up to. Take the formal route and keep it professional. Stick to facts. And if it doesn’t work, get out. It’s what I did.

The unjustified injustice as I took yet another day off school to care for my ailing mother. “This is the reason why we have children. You look much older than your 11 years. Start acting like it”.
Not everything you do will be fun. But you knew that already, right? I hate waking up at 5am to take a flight that means I spend a day in a city, back-to-back meetings, and return in the evening without having seen the sights. But it does mean I don’t have to spend every day at the same desk. And I love that.

The battle when I had to ask for permission from my parents to apply to a university. The answer was no. But I applied anyway. And got in. Don’t stop me now.
Play by the rules to push the boundaries. Play nice with the boss to get the fun projects. But mean it.

Not the typical student. “Are you going out tonight?” “Erm, no. I’m going home”. “Good little Muslim girl” he sniggered. They didn’t know about how much time I didn’t have left to spend with my Dad.
This fitting in thing? Make it work for you. Some businesses actively look for more women for the Board. Some beg for ethnic minorities. Use it.

The heavy-hearted relief when he died.
Shit happens. For a reason. The reason can take some time to reveal itself. The next time I lose my job and it feels unjust ? Remember – shit happens for a reason.

“Women don’t have a job. Marriage and children for you, my girl.” Hmm… been there, done that. The t-shirt didn’t fit.
Not every business will share the same values as you. Find one that does. The fit will feel natural.

The firestarting freedom of buying a house and decorating it from top to bottom. By myself. I can do anything. Imagine what it’s like having me on your side.
It’s real. Tangible. Methodical. I’m good at it. I have a job where I use the Skills I. Am. Good. At.

The aching loneliness as I sat in my expensive apartment without a penny to my name, having moved to London for a future. Is this what growing up is supposed to look like?
I gave the client the wrong advice because I didn’t check my facts. I wasted people’s time in a meeting as I didn’t have a clear agenda. Take responsibility. Don’t repeat the same thing – once is an experience, twice is a mistake.

The wide-eyed amazement as I reflect on how I’ve lived in two major cities and have been blessed enough to build my community around me as I’ve moved.
Now is not a constant. What were you doing years ago that you thought would never stop? What will you be doing in years to come that will make the anguish of today appear meaningless, worthless, insubstantial?

The euphoria felt at seeing friends in a new city – real friends – gathered to celebrate my birthday.
I like people. My energy comes from other people. So I need a job where I am surrounded by people.

How much your baggage are you taking into the office? Consciously or otherwise? 



  • Vishnu says:

    Wowed as usual – is this a post or poetry! Very moving the many parts of your life that you went through and take with you now everywhere, including the workplace.

    I don’t think I take my personal life into my office haha but of course, I do. A series of life events happening to me, injustices and wrongs, helped me end up in a legal career. Then wanting to empower more people, because with people there’s more collective power, I transitioned to working with the community. It was at a time in my life where I needed more people and motivation. And more community.

    So actually my personal life has been parallel with my work life. Whatever is happening outside the office determines my career, what office I’m actually in and what I’m actually doing with my work-life. Injustices brought me to law, being the underdog inspired me to build collective power, feeling life-shifting events occurring in my life motivated me reduce the fast-paced stressful nature of my work to work less and write more.

    I guess you’re pretty much on point – your work is your life. And you’ve made that point with this excellent literary masterpiece Razwana!

    • Razwana says:

      ‘literary masterpiece – I like that! Thank you V!

      So you took your personal life into your entire career ! Wow! Did you consciously change your work when life was changing? Your comment on life-shifting events in your personal life indicates that you did?

  • Ann Stanley says:

    Hey, I like your writing! (Read your comment on Penelope Trunk’s blog and thought I’d drop in).

    • Razwana says:

      Hi Ann! Thank you for your kind words and thank you for dropping in – I love Penelope Trunk’s work !

  • Steve says:

    Wow, so many life lessons. It’s interesting how many things shape our work lives from our personal lives and vice-versa. Sometimes it’s hard to see what you’re bringing into the workplace from your personal life. I know I don’t think about it all too often.

    • Razwana says:

      Neither do I – it’s not in the forefront of my mind all the time. In my experience, once I recognised what patterns there were between the two, I was able to improve – whether it was my reactions to people, or my self esteem. It’s a never-ending process …

  • Melissa says:

    Hi going backwards with your posts… your topics are pretty interesting esp. that it’s the first time I encountered such blog…

    About the baggages/ personal life in the office… well, my colleague and I are nurses so I guess she understands me just as much. She’d just do initial assessment (by looking at me) and she’d know when I woke up at the wrong side of the bed or not 🙂

    I usually keep my composure and not dish out too much information about me in the workplace. The only time they saw me cry, I guess, was last year. I’d rather ‘listen to their stories’ than telling about my mine…so we end up really talking about their kids.

    Re your next question, How much of your personal life can be used to find your perfect job? I’m not sure I understood what a ‘perfect job’ means or if there is such, but I think, the lessons we’ve learned from our past are just as important in finding the ‘right’ job for us… well, to end this, let me use your phrase: Remember – s**t happens for a reason 🙂

  • Razwana says:

    The right job….that’s interesting. It’s the right/perfect job for right now. Makes sense to me!

    Often it’s not the conversations or connection we have with colleagues that means we are taking our baggage into the workplace. For me personally, it’s things like allowing certain people to treat me badly because they represent someone in my personal life. Or not speaking up in a meeting because I don’t feel worthy, etc.

    Great to see you here Melissa, and thank you so much for your comments. They are really thoughtful and add a lot to the discussion.

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Razwana 🙂 I like the platform of discussion in your blog (almost similar to forums) so I’ll be reading your posts and be kept updated.

    Hmm… it might be a different set up for us here, since our bosses are in their clinics and we get to meet only once a week. But I do understand what you meant 🙂

    Lots of love!

  • Wendy Irene says:

    If only we were taught from a young age to follow our passions and not worry about the rest. I believe with all my heart in trusting the universe will take care of you, even when you have no idea how!

    • Razwana says:

      Hi Wendy. In retrospect, we can see how everything was happening the way it was meant to for sure.

      Thank you for your comment!

  • Hiten says:

    Hi Razwana,

    This was brilliant writing! I thought I was a reading a novel!

    My own personal life has helped me with one of my roles, which is coaching. I grew up with a stammering problem and suffered from low self-confidence and low self-esteem for years. However, I faced my fears and learnt to overcome my difficulties. I’m continuing with this journey. Doing so has inspired me to help other people who face similar problems to those I did.

    Thank you.

    • Razwana says:

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂

      I’m sure the kids at school didn’t help you much, did they? Overcoming it is definitely a learned behaviour and one that takes concerted effort.

      Are you coaching clients on this stuff now?


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