Packing up your entire life will cause you to reflect on your past. I don’t condone living in the past, but on occasion, we must reflect and this has been my opportunity. We must look at where we started and the journey we took to get where we are today. We must then contemplate what we want next.
As I was packing up my home office, I came across memorabilia from high school, college, and law school. And so, the ride down memory lane began. I came from humble beginnings in Westminster, Maryland. High School was all about family, basketball, and physics. In all honesty, my high school raised girls to be housewives. That is just what you did. I, however, was a little different, hence my love of physics. College, after the first year, was all about getting into law school and dating my now-husband. The law school bubble, from what I can remember, was about reading cases, law review, and socializing with classmates.
Which brings me to today, where my type-A brain tells me I am not doing enough, not working hard enough, not reaching higher goals, not a partner, and so on and so forth – see last week’s blog on professional guilt.
I used to work a million hours on one particular class action case that involved a lot of traveling. For a while, I thought that was awesome and what I wanted to do. Turns out, I can only do that for about two years without imminent death. I was recently on a work call with co-counsel who exclusively does class-action work. He was talking about this case that went on for three years and involved 20 separate class actions in many different states stemming from the same “bad act.” For a long moment, I thought maybe I should get back into those crazy cases. It was fun and getting that deep into a case is fun, for me.
Then I thought to myself, I totally burned out on those types of cases. To a type-A person, that is the same as failure. However, I must get over myself. It was not a failure. If I liked it enough, I would not have burned out on it. So, I return to a more positive thought, which is that I love what I do.
If I had told my younger self that I would be practicing commercial litigation at a high level in a large Baltimore firm since my late 20s, setting up CLEs with judges, being asked to sit on panels to discuss the legal field with new admittees, I would have been thrilled. It is important to remember what our goals were, the goals we met, and the goals that changed. Not all goals remain the same; they can and should change over time. We must set our new goals looking forward to what we want out of life. It will not be the same for everyone and we should embrace that.
A note to those who are averse to goal setting: I was not always a goal-setter. In school, my only goal was to be a business lawyer at a private firm. When that happened, I found myself just working with no end in sight. Finally, I realized that goal-setting is important in figuring out what I want to do when I grow up and how I want to do it. I am determining my own version of happily ever after.