Every thing I’ve ever done has led to this moment.
I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
. . . . It just took me awhile to get here.
After 17 years as a practicing attorney, I just up and quit. Walked away. Left it all behind. The hard-earned reputation, the client relationships, the network, the leadership in law firm management. I washed my hands of it.
And I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.
The signs were all there. I was meant to do something creative with my life. I’d come home from school and sketch fashion designs. I dreamed of going to the Fashion Institute and spent hours pouring over W Magazine. I loved taking photographs for the yearbook, and I even arranged elaborate photo shoots with friends where I “styled” their clothes and props for the shoot. I loved art. I loved creating.
But more than I loved those things, I desperately wanted to get away. While I greatly appreciate it now, at the time I felt smothered by my small hometown with its graduating class of 43 students. I needed to get away from a bad situation at home. I needed to get away and prove that all those things that made me different growing up would make me great somewhere else. I wanted desperately to prove that I could succeed.
So I did. I put my creativity on a shelf and went away to live the life I thought would prove that I was somehow “good enough.” It started with college where I competed for the speech team. The years sped by and I graduated without a clear direction of what I wanted to do or what I wanted to become. I knew that I wanted financial security, so it seemed like graduate school was inevitable.
I was all set to go get my master’s degree in speech communication, even with a scholarship. And then as I walked out of a grad school fair, there was this beautiful black folder with burnt orange foil-embossed lettering on the front. It said UT Law. (See how I’ve been drawn to beautiful, shiny objects from day one? I even picked my law school because of the aesthetics of its marketing brochure!). I grabbed the folder, took the LSAT, applied to that one law school, and proceeded down the path to what I thought was success and a lucrative career.
I hated law school. I was already working for a family lawyer to make ends meet, and I knew that what I was learning in school was nothing like a real law practice. It was boring. I hated reading the cases. Plus, everyone was so competitive. It was a microcosm of the regular school environment, except here everyone was used to being an A+ student. For the first time in my life I wasn’t motivated, and I quickly fell near the bottom of the heap. Sure, I still wanted to be an A+ student, but I didn’t have passion for what I was doing. It reminds me of the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote: “If you can eat sawdust without butter, you can be a success in the law.” I clearly didn’t have a taste for sawdust.
Don’t get me wrong. I found things that brought me joy. I liked being a Teachinq Quizmaster, the women I met on the Texas Journal of Woman & the Law were amazing, I had a blast with the Assault & Flattery theater productions, and I made friends that I still cherish today. Along the way I found ways to tap into my creativity.
I threw myself into creating elaborate Halloween costumes for me and my friends. I was part of a small group of friends who cooked dinner for each other, and I found myself focusing on choosing meals just so I could have elaborate thematic decorations to go with it. Still, without any kind of career counseling or guidance, I just wasn’t picking up on the clues that my passion lay outside the law.
So I graduated law school and landed a position at Walsh Anderson where I practiced law for my entire career. In those 17 years I went from baby lawyer who thought she knew it all, to equity shareholder, to the leader of our school law practice group. Over the years I developed a respected reputation, had a loyal following of clients, was a sought-after speaker, and made a good living. By all measures I had made it. Success. Check. Financial security. Check. Respect. Check. Good enough? Yes, finally.
Except I wasn’t really happy. I most enjoyed those parts of my career that weren’t legal. I loved speaking and writing, taking complex subjects and distilling them down to their basic concepts so that anyone could understand them. I loved marketing the firm, working with our graphic designer on the firm brand, searching for office space and assisting in selecting the finish out. I loved planning and leadership. I loved analyzing our legal market and strategizing about our competitive position. And with the gracious mentoring of one of my dearest friends, I got to do a lot of those things which made the legal sawdust taste much better…
Along the way I met my husband who has an entrepreneurial spirit and an un-ending bucket of support and faith. I’d have periods of time where I’d talk about quitting and starting a boutique featuring local artisans, but I was never brave enough to make the leap. So for awhile I ran a cookie decorating business on the side. Later I began to design jewelry and traveled to shows across the state. I took art classes. I made elaborate scrapbooks. In short, I was searching for my passion. But still, I was tied to the law by those golden handcuffs.
My husband is a residential real estate broker (you can check him out here), so we began to buy and renovate properties. It started with the remodel of our first home together. As my husband describes it, I have a “magical” ability to see through walls, which we came to realize was my gift for spatial relationships. It was such a joy working on our remodel, so we eventually did several more. At last! This was something I loved, something I could spend hours doing and completely lose track of time. It became a fun hobby of ours and a way to supplement our income.
Time rocked on, and our family grew. We had two children, and after the birth of each child my connection to my profession grew more strained. I felt pulled to be there for my kids, and I also felt immense pressure at work to meet the almighty billable hour. I was pulled in two competing directions, and I became pretty miserable. In short, I felt like a failure as a mom and as a lawyer.
Apparently I can swallow a lot of misery, because it took me awhile to get up the courage to explore leaving the law for good. My husband was incredibly supportive, as was my mentor at work. After a lot of hand-wringing and their consistent pep talks, I quit. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. It was full of emotion, mourning a change in identity, and generally freaking out. But I did it. And even more importantly, I took that leap not knowing exactly where I would land.
So here I am. Starting my blog. Starting a business that is still a little undefined. Evolving.
I am sure the journey will be an interesting one. Will you join me for the wild ride?
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