I spent years running the rat race. Hours in the car, head on my hands on a steering wheel staring at a long sea of taillights. That’s what lawyers do. They commute to work, figure out solutions to problems, work hard for someone else, just to drive back home ten hours later to solve different problems at home (I know many of you can relate to this).
So, after years of being a General Counsel for several different large healthcare organizations, always rubbing my sore feet from wearing heels, sitting through boring meetings, and chugging coffee, I hit my breaking point. I was losing my mind. I was a single mother, recently divorced, feeling the need to support everyone in all ways, emotionally and otherwise.
Something Had to Change
I wasn’t happy, and I knew I had to make at least one move towards changing my situation. So, I did. The day I turned in my letter of resignation was one of the scariest moments of my life. What if my boss told me to walk out the door that very day? What if I couldn’t make it on my own? How will my kids survive?
Spoiler alert: I made it. And mostly by telling myself that a career spent learning and growing would yield a harvest. I had to believe that all the work I put into being a lawyer for almost fifteen years had value, and somehow, I would harness that value to my family’s advantage. What other choice did I have? It’s not like I could survive on child support and sandwiches.
So I called people and went to lunch. I called people and grabbed coffee. I lied and said I was “in town anyway” and met people for drinks. I went to so many affairs that involved food I’m surprised my credit card company didn’t call me one day and advise a diet. But I got one client, and then another, and magically that first month I managed to pay the mortgage.
What It Looks Like for Me Now
Now it’s been over three years since I quit my job. My office is located inside my house, my commute consists of a staircase, and my wardrobe is mostly t-shirts and comfortable pants. My clients don’t care if I edit contracts in flip-flops, or analyze business deals at 11 pm after the kids are asleep, as long as I’m responsive, effective, and offer them a service that’s valuable.
I’ve often wondered what stopped me from doing it sooner. What stopped me from taking the plunge to work for myself from home, making my own destiny, creating my own future? Perhaps it was fear, thinking I couldn’t be the sole expert on anything. Perhaps it felt too alienating to not have a team around me. Perhaps I was worried I’d be sued or wouldn’t know the answers. There is no “perhaps” about it. All of these were true.
But the simple truth was, I was dying inside. I needed out to have freedom. Freedom to pick my kids up from school. Freedom to write and go on walks and read books. Freedom to live. So I took a deep breath and told myself I’d make it, even when I didn’t even believe I could.
So yes, sometimes I wear stretchy pants on conference calls, advising high-power attorneys in Washington that their reading of a statute is faulty, their contract language is vague and confusing, and that my client won’t give in. No one knows, or cares, that I’m not wearing three hundred-dollar shoes. They only care that I’m their advocate and passionate about what I do. That I solve their problems.That I’m good at it.
Being a problem solver means you go in when people won’t, that you fight for people who can’t fight for themselves, that you figure out different routes to get to the same destination. It takes determination and guts, a creative spirit, and a hearty appetite for coffee dates.
You Can Get the Life You Want
You can get the job, the deal, the life you really want. But it will take time to build up the courage and depth of knowledge. You have to be an apprentice for a while before you can truly fly. But someday you will know it is time. Time to make a change. Time to leap into the waters, big and unknown, with arms spread wide open, billing by the hour in sweats, just because you can.
It’s a brilliant and wonderful world when you’re finally free. Mostly because you can switch the laundry over your lunch hour.