20 years ago, I was the picture of career-minded and ambitious. Newlywed, fresh off my first year in law school, and working a a law clerk for a well-known law firm, the world was my oyster. The previous year, I had graduated from the University of South Carolina magna cum laude in English. I presented my senior thesis (a requirement as part of the Honors College) in leadership at the LEAD conference in Charleston. I and a fellow senior David Haller received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award for our involvement in student life, a huge honor at the University.
None of these accolades really makes that much difference now though. Not in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of my past; I’m just trying not to stay living in it. If I defined myself by whether I had continued to receive this recognition after the kids came along, then I would really be down in the dumps.
Moving on: I clerked for a genius circuit court judge who is now on the United States Court of Appeals. Followed by my two year stint as an associate at a Greenville law firm. I was on the partnership track, baby. Four years in, probably 3 more to go.
I had all kinds of plans.
Then my beautiful daughter was born, 9/11 happened, and I said, “No way.”
I chose the road less traveled, at least in the legal community. Or in the community of people who say you need to be moving and shaking. The only thing moving and shaking for me after leaving my firm was me trying to bounce my 5 month old to sleep. And you know what? I was blissfully content in my decision. I may not be a razzle dazzle lawyer whose reputation precedes her. But I wouldn’t give ANYTHING for the time I’ve gotten to spend with my kids. It was the right decision for ME.
20 years later, the nagging question remains: did I mess up by choosing not to eek out a few more years and make partner? I still say no, though some might disagree. I followed my heart and my gut. But I did forget along the way that I had lots of dreams, too that weren’t necessarily mutually exclusive from my being a mom. I didn’t keep in touch with people like I should have. I didn’t spend enough time focusing on my well-being like exercise and fitness. I’ve gotten better about those things but when you’re 40something your body doesn’t always want to cooperate.
I started out on a rocket path trajectory with the law. Today I work part-time as a real estate attorney. I don’t participate in clubs or get my name out there like I should, so I’m by no means a “mover and a shaker.” Real estate isn’t what most would call glamorous. But I love helping people and deciding when I work and being my own boss. If you asked me what would scare me the most when I graduated law school, I would have said hanging a shingle and going into business for myself. That idea petrified me. And it still did when I took a leap and set up my firm in 2010. Sometimes the fact that I am a sole practitioner with my own firm still seems surreal. The 20 year ago me never saw that one coming!
As for this endeavor, I’m trying earnestly to make a go of this blogging thing. Most days I think I’m just failing miserably because my site doesn’t have a huge following, I don’t make money from it, and I am trying my darndest to get sponsored posts and become known in the travel sphere. So far, I’m probably barely making a ripple. Does it mean I should stop? Hell, no. That would be like me giving up on something I cherish, something that’s an enormous outlet for me. I juggle practicing law and blogging. Law pays the bills; writing feeds my spirit. So I need both. I hope that attempting both makes me varied, not foolish. The verdict is still out on that one 😉
20 years from now, I hope I’m saying: it all came together for the greater good. I was a work in progress. I’m still not done because God’s not finished with me yet. Even on my downest days, I am reassured by that hope, the possibility of potential in the very next day. The road less traveled has made all the difference–indeed!