I have a friend from law school. She worked in Big Law, until the firm unexpectedly dissolved in that time when many traditional big firms unraveled. Then she worked for a small firm, commuting an hour each way and figuring out child care while her husband finished his graduate degree in another city.
She told me, “I’m living the dream, Kim. The only problem is: it’s the wrong dream!” The hours, the commute, the stress of work, the demands of being a parent and wife were wearing her down. “I worked so hard to get here, and for what? To never see my kid or husband? To spend hours working with mean people? It’s a joke.”
I know a lot of people who are attorneys and have a similar experience. They are bright, driven, and hard working, so they are successful at school and in their career.
But what happens when everything you’ve worked so hard to get doesn’t actually feel that great? When you’re living the dream only to discover that, maybe, it kind of sucks? Or maybe you realize it was never really your dream — it was someone else’s that you adopted for any number of valid reasons? Or maybe the momentum led you here, to a place you never dreamed you’d be at all?
Take a deep breath, and then let it go.
Here you are.
You never know how it’s going to be until you get there. I know some happy attorneys. Some of them have careers in Big Law and others are running their own solo practices. Others are in-house. It’s part luck, but mostly I think it’s about knowing yourself and understanding the conditions you need to thrive and be happy. You start from a place of curiosity, and you follow it as the adventure unfolds. You figure it out along the way. You show up, and pay attention. You build it as you go.
Know that you do have the power to make your dreams come true. You’re here, now, after all. So maybe you just need to update your dream. Maybe when you get there, you discover that you’ve grown along the way and now you want something different. It’s ok. It means you’re learning, you’re growing, and that’s pretty much how it’s been since the day you were born.
Remember to check in with yourself along the way. It’s like when you’re cooking something, you need to taste it as you go so you can make appropriate adjustments. Find a way to taste your life as you live it.
That’s what mindfulness does, you know. It’s how you pay attention to your moments. It’s how you notice what’s present: it filters out past regret and blame, future worry and anxiety. Meditation is a tool for strengthening the mindfulness muscle. So your energy, attention, and time are applied toward building a life that feels good to live in. To living the dream.