Will mixing sex with work ruin my career?

Mic’s tarot expert, Khalila Douze, takes to the cards to answer.

Reading the Room

Welcome to Reading The Room, Mic’s new tarot advice column. From the pandemic to the climate crisis, the times we live in can make it tough to feel grounded. Writer and tarot card reader Khalila Douze will help you navigate these murky existential waters by interpreting what the cards have in store. Read on for this month’s readings, and then submit your own questions to readingtheroom@mic.com.

Dear Room Reader,

I’ve been newly exploring polyamory, friends with benefits situations, and casual dating. It’s been a lot of fun! I recently moved to a new city, and keeping things casual is helping me acclimate and get to know people. And it’s all happening at a time when I feel more secure in myself as an artist and as new opportunities that require my full attention arise. The glow-up is real right now, and I feel very blessed!

Being in this new romantic territory is making me consider what I really need in relationships. I crave both intimacy and security. The connections I’m making are happening naturally; I’ve met people who feel aligned with my values — some friends with benefits — while attending events that resonated with my identity as an artist. Because I’m excited about my work, it made sense to talk about it with some of those people I’ve been intimate with. We’ve even made plans to work on projects together.

Still, I’m wondering how my creativity might be impacted by my desire to connect. How open should I actually be right now? Will being intimate and vulnerable with multiple people help or hurt my creative process and impact my career? In all of my relationships, I’ve always valued collaboration, but I’m wondering if I need to establish a stronger boundary between my love life and work life. How should I approach balancing the personal and the professional?

—Artistic Lover

Courtesy of Khalila Douze

Dear Artistic Lover,

As they say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” and you’re all about the spirit of collaboration right now — even, and especially, in your love life. Your first card, the Three of Pentacles, coming out upright affirms your experimentation with polyamory. That triangle suggests it could take more than two to tango; in fact, having multiple partners may help you build a more solid foundation in your life right now. Pentacles speak directly to life’s material side — all the resources that help us feel safe, secure, grounded, and abundant — so I’m not surprised to see this as a response to your questions. Don’t be afraid to explore the many possibilities new connections offer. Cue Usher’s “Lovers and Friends” — only grown folks can channel the maturity needed to explore the expansive potential of love, and you are one of these people.

Your second card, the Three of Wands, might give you some insight into finding harmony between your work and love lives. See how those sticks are all tied up, creating yet another triangle? The first thing I see: boundaries, baby! The two Three cards back-to-back suggest you may be dealing with two relationships in particular that are tugging at your heartstrings and art strings. Wands, a fire element, speaks to your passions, sense of self, and spirit. This card is screaming, “Stick! To! Your! Vision!” when it comes to your artistry, especially as you explore new ways of connecting with others. Do these budding relationships support your artistic goals? Do they bring you new opportunities? If yes, you can feel confident about loving on these lucky ducks. If not, draw a line in the sand. Prioritize the stamina of your work life. Offer intimacy and seek security only with those who understand and respect how important your career is to you right now.

Your final card, The Lovers in reverse, is a very powerful message. This is literally major (it’s what’s called a Major Arcana card). We’re talking soulmate, self-defining, karmic, life-changing relationship energy — the kind of connection that teaches you everything about yourself. This card is more about you than any of your current relationships. Your experiments with love are providing you with an incredible opportunity to know yourself. I applaud you for exploring how expansive the spectrum of love can be, but what you ultimately gain from this dating period probably won’t be a committed partner or the love of your life, but rather the clarity necessary to be your best self in the long run. Have you seen the film, Everything Everywhere All at Once? Without spoiling, your Lovers card is giving, “I have access to parallel dimensions” and, “I can only know myself by exploring all possibilities.” Consider this moment in your life the portal to your next chapter as an artist — one that feeds your soul on a deeper level than you may have ever experienced. Prepare to enter a new dimension of self-love, and allow yourself to continue having fun along the way.

Dear Room Reader,

Everything in this world seems to revolve around money. I know money comes and goes, so it feels like there’s only so much I can do to maintain financial stability. I have a job that pays pretty well, but I don’t love my work. And even while I’m at the most financially stable point I’ve ever been, I still want to make more money. Is chasing wealth a fruitless mission that will leave me unsatisfied? My life is about so much more than just money — I have wonderful friends and a loving family — but it’s hard to focus on other things when I’m feeling financially insecure. How do I stop focusing on the feeling of not having enough and protect my inner world from financial stress?

—Financially Frustrated

Courtesy of Khalila Douze

Dear Financially Frustrated,

First things first: You gotta give yourself a break! Yes, we live in a messed-up world that unfortunately operates within a system of capitalism and exploitative labor practices. Yes, we may be in a recession. And yes, there’s some truth to the saying, “Money makes the world go ‘round.” So while I must remind you that (as you seem to be aware) financial stability is a myth, I also hear you: Wouldn’t it be glorious to just be free?

That said, your main challenge currently seems to be prioritizing rest — and your first card, the Four of Knives reversed, confirms you’re in need of some downtime. Knives (or Swords, in other decks), which are symbolized by the element of air, speak to our mentality. How often do you allow yourself to just be? Carve time out each day, even if just 10 minutes, to mentally recharge. Try meditating — it won’t completely rid you of the very real-world obstacles that money pressures throw your way, but it can afford you some of the stress relief and protection you’re seeking; even a little bit can go a long way.

Your second card, the Seven of Knives, suggests that this particular chapter of financial angst is rooted in something deeper than paying your bills on time, or even beyond the world and its oppressive economic system. If there’s one thing I know about the tarot, it’s that it will show you what’s going on beneath the surface. In this case, there’s an element of self-deception, and the card is raising a few questions: How real are you being with yourself? How often are you counting your blessings? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a paying job? Can you afford life’s basic necessities and, occasionally, more? These questions make me think of herbalist and healer Alexis J. Cunningfolk’s Green Bottle sliding scale model, which I’ve adopted for my tarot clients. Take a look and see where you fit into the scale — I find it helps folks assess how much support they actually need.

You asked if chasing money was a “fruitless mission” and my honest response is uh, yes, honey. Your emphasis on accumulation seems like something to investigate further, with intention. We already addressed how important it is for you to rest and meditate, which will naturally give you time to really take stock of what you have. If you’re constantly focused on securing the bag, you’ll miss opportunities to not only just be, but also to enjoy the blessings life has already given and continues to offer you. Gratitude isn’t reserved for the successful, the wealthy, or even the materially comfortable. We can all identify things we’re grateful for — like friends and family, music, art, or a delicious meal — and the simple act of doing so can work wonders for that inner sanctuary you’re rightly protective of. No one and nothing can take this feeling away from you. Whether or not you feel satiated by your material reality is completely up to you. And I have to ask: Why worry about making more money when you do feel stable? What a waste of your beautiful, creative mental energy! If productivity mindsets are conditioned, then of course the only way out of these traps is through the mind.

Once you get into a practice of letting go — like, really letting anxious money thoughts come, go, and flow through you — and regularly identifying the things in your life that bring you joy, find some time to let your mind wander. Your third card, the Three of Wands, is a powerful opening. It’s a creative, generative, and visionary card. Wands are symbolized by the element of fire, which is understood to speak to spirit, passion, and purpose. This is about getting in touch with who you are at your core. When’s the last time you allowed yourself to daydream? Or listened to music and let it conjure your imagination? What about your day-to-day life fascinates you? Start small: Take an alternate route to work tomorrow. Discover something new along the way, and follow your curiosity. There are all kinds of magic around us to play with, and it's our birthright to inhale the vastness of our human experience. It’s time to tap into your inner child, who is always with you, and choose to let them guide you every now and then. You’ll be surprised at the wonders that are eternally accessible to you.

Dear Room Reader,

This year, I (a WOC) entered into a business partnership with two men who are about 10 years older than me. They are generally supportive and understand the need to make space for people who are traditionally excluded from executive positions. For the most part, I do feel heard, but when there are moments of tension, I take it very personally. Sometimes I feel pressure to make decisions at a pace that’s different from my own, or I get annoyed at our generational differences in opinion. I’ve come to a good place of realizing that I’m learning a new style of working and trust, and that comes with discomfort, but what can you tell me about how to practice maturity in relationships and when to draw the line?

—Uneasy Exec

Courtesy of Khalila Douze

Dear Uneasy Exec,

First of all, congratulations on what sounds like an exciting, albeit challenging, career move! Committing to a professional partnership with anyone is daunting, let alone two men a whole decade older than you. Shout out to you for stepping up to the plate. Your first card, the High Priestess, is coming out reversed. She’s a powerful one. A member of the Major Arcana, the High Priestess tells me you’re all the way in tune. She’s the keeper of mysterious ways of knowing — dreams, feelings, the subconscious, and the sacred. Your sensitivity during moments of tension or disagreement has less to do with immaturity and more to do with intuitive knowing. It’s giving, “These men brought you in for a reason.” As you said, they understand the need to make space for people like you to lead businesses; your intuition is an important part of that. Knowledge and experience can only take a leader so far; being in touch with what you feel is key. That the High Priestess is reversed tells me what you’re really asking is, as someone who feels so deeply, when and how often should you silence yourself?

Your next card is the 2 of Wands reversed, and I love to see this. It points to something loud and clear: Don’t ever feel like you have to suppress the sensitive part of yourself to make room for a more detached, “mature” or “professional” version. You can be all of it — passionate, driven, intuitive, and professional — at once. Silencing yourself is not an option. The 2 of Wands, a fiery card, deals with actionable goals. Consider what’s truly important to you. What initially lit you up about this opportunity? What dreams or visions did you have when stepping into the role? Did you accept this position in order to provide for others? To gain experience in new territory? To bring more harmony to your work/life balance? To align your career with an intended path? Whatever the case, your needs are worthy and deserve to be met, regardless of what other people think. Boundaries are crucial — but remember, they require planning and structure. Go back to your original intentions and start there.

It’s going to feel really good when you achieve your goals. Your third card is the 6 of Wands, a card of triumph after obstacles, and I’m thrilled to see it come out for you. In many decks, this card depicts a figure riding a horse and leading a crowd of avid supporters. The people want to see you prosper, and that’s a beautiful thing. Own it! You will succeed at this, as long as you don’t silence yourself and set boundaries around the goals that are most important to you. With the 6 of Wands, you may even find yourself gaining public recognition for your work. Make room in your workspace for awards and trophies, because the world wants to see you win. It’s about to be your time to shine.