Wishing Only Wounds the Heart

I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing a post for today or tomorrow on being thankful and what I’m thankful for. One part of me is just…content and happy and ready to shout some praise…and the other part of me is rolling my eyes and thinking “just another “thanks” post to add to the hundreds being written and published.”

On the one hand doing something because you feel like you need to is just a sorry excuse for anything. And on the other hand, participating in something because it is timely doesn’t mean you are a mindless sheep and sometimes people just need to lighten up with the eye rolling and the “oh look another 100 blog posts on Giving Thanks/Christmas Cookies/Gift Guides/New Year Resolutions.”

The truth is, I am thankful. For many of the same things others are thankful for- my spouse, my healthy pregnancy, my family, my job, my friends. The people and memories that separate the good from the bad, the things that provide you with some moral support or comfort when you need it. The people who are there to share in the good moments. But I’ve realized that some of the things I’m thankful for were once things I viewed as huge failures in my life.

When I was applying to law schools, despite good undergraduate grades and a solid LSAT score, I aimed at schools I was confident in my ability to get into. Unlike my undergraduate application process I didn’t really “reach” for any schools, and when I got into the school I wanted in Chicago and was offered a slot in a program that was going to let me specialize in my area of interest, I snapped it up. About halfway through my second year I realized that in that hasty process I turned down a slot at top 25 law school in another major city. And as the economy floundered and failed and job openings disappeared and my entire graduating class took the bar exam only to sit around and hunt for employment, I realized that the Top 25 law school would have served me a lot better in the job market. So I spent a lot of time kicking myself for the decisions I’d made, wondering how much better or how different my life had been had I gone to a better (or at least more highly ranked) law school.

In reality, I ended up at the right school for me and my life. I made connections, had great working experiences and met some of my closest friends and husband. Sure, those things could have happened elsewhere, but to discredit what did happen in order to daydream about what could have happened isn’t productive. I am thankful I went to the law school I did, even if I did have some lean months years and career stalls along the way.

Last week I was in the elevator bank at the hospital/doctor’s office and I ran into my old managing partner at BPLF. For those who are newer, BPLF is “Big Prestigious Law Firm” where I worked for the better part of law school. I worked my ass off and then some to prove to them I wasn’t just another summer clerk and I was on my way to full-time attorney employment with them when the economy took a nose dive. A week before I left to study for the bar exam I was called to the named partner’s office and gently told that there wasn’t a position for me as a lawyer there.

To say I was crushed would be an understatement. Suddenly the hours I spent after class and in the early mornings and on Saturday seemed like a waste. The memos and motions and discovery I drafted and carefully edited was for nothing. I was like everyone else- jobless and experience-less in the most competitive job market there ever was. I spent a lot of time being angry and frustrated, and I slunk back to BPLF after the bar exam to continue clerking (someone had to pay rent) while I searched for full time employment. Gone was my pride in my work, instead I was embarrassed as I ran into the only clerk who did get an attorney position there. I left in a hurry at the end of November, waving over my shoulder, thanking them for the opportunity and spent a long time being pissed that my plan didn’t work out according to..well, my plan.

But as I ran into my old managing partner last week and we chatted about cases and people and happenings, I realized my anger was gone. I’m happy with my career- as many twists as it took to get where I am- and I’m having a baby with my husband, a decision that would have been so much harder had I still been at the male-dominated litigation firm. Instead I work somewhere that truly allows you to balance work and life  and I’m just thankful for that. I’m thankful that my work is appreciated but so is my mental sanity and as long as I work hard I’m encouraged to play hard. My vacation time is mine, my flex time is honored and my days working from home are respected – and unlike in firm life, I’m still able to crawl up the corporate ladder, despite the fact that I’m a woman and about to become a Mom. For that I am truly thankful.

Perhaps the things I’m giving thanks for are not orthodox or typical, but sometimes I find, you have to look outside the box to truly appreciate what is inside of it. And so this Thanksgiving, as I give thanks for all of the obvious good things in my life I’m also giving thanks for the near-disasters that sent me on paths unknown…and as it turns out, I turned out for the better.

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