We are guided by successful leaders, entrepreneurs and entertainers to follow our dreams and pursue those particular things that light a fire within us. In my mid 20's, I resented those overly enthusiastic and positive millionaires who were quoted in articles saying things like "every accomplishment starts with the decision to try" and "believe in what you want so much that is has no choice but to materialize." I would mutter "screw you guys; you don't have law school loans to pay off the rest of your life." It was very difficult to look past the present and see what was awaiting me in the future when I was concerned about whether I was going to overdraw my checking account...again.
As I settled into my law career in my 30's, I began working on cases that were challenging and meaningful. I was helping people - not only random people, members of my community. I was working on cases for men and women with whom I went to grammar school and high school, their parents, my teachers, their friends. I saw the importance of the work I was doing and with a strong sense of purpose, I worked hard to succeed on their behalf. I advocated, I continued to learn and improve the ways I presented my cases. As a result of this elevated sense of purpose, I helped build a law firm, a practice group and a brand.
It wasn't until about 5 or 6 years ago that the fire that was driving me to succeed in this area of law began to die when I realized that it wasn't enough for me. Certainly, I appreciated the opportunity to develop and hone my trial skills, the chance to be recognized throughout the state of New Jersey and even nationally for my accomplishments and I was aware that had I worked anywhere else, I would probably never have been provided the resources and platform to become the trial attorney I had become at such young age.
When my daughter was born in 2011, I finally had to take a break. And I did for about 4 weeks, but while my baby napped, I was working. Part time hours at first, but then I recognized I was putting in more time. She napped a lot in those early months and I never stopped.
Of course, I wanted to be with my baby and soak in as much time with her as possible. But I was getting the impression that my absence from the office was being felt far more than I imagined it would - cases and clients needed my attention, the office needed my positive energy. And I was made aware that after 7 successful and hard working years, obtaining partnership status, the goal of most any lawyer in a law firm, required my return to full time status. So I came back early. Despite the impression that I would be rewarded for my unending dedication and loyalty to my clients and my firm, partnership did not come for another 13 months.
In those 13 months, I watched my daughter develop her personality through cell phone pictures sent to me by our amazing nanny. (Ouch!) I longed to be home with her more during the day, but luckily, the flexibility that comes with success did allow me to make time to spend with her, which was always appreciated. However, that time away from the office and the files created another problem - I had lost a step. Suddenly, my confidence wavered as I argued a motion before a judge or presented an opening statement before a jury. I was out of practice and rusty, which created an enormous amount of anxiety I never possessed. Afraid of failing, I began to pass opportunities for trial work over to a younger associate, which allowed me to spend more time with my daughter, but also pushed me further away from the court room where just 2 years before, I had set another record for another successful verdict.
And as I watched other members of my team succeed and gain the recognition and spotlight I had just stepped out from, I began to feel unneeded and unwanted and most unfortunately, unfulfilled. All the "uns" I felt began to lead me further into the world of resentment.
It was in this time that I wrote and published Trinity so I had the luck of a very good distraction as I traveled around from bookstore to bookstore and school to school selling my story and meeting "fans" (and not all of them are related to me, by the way.) I tried to reinvent myself at the law firm, taking on more management-like responsibilities and immersing myself in the area of marketing, a creative role I enjoyed Really, I was not and never was a true business partner of the firm, I was just a better paid W-2 employee with management responsibilities. And my complaints about that status were disregarded in what I can only describe as a case of reverse-nepotism. Enter more resentment.
It was also during this time that I began the Women's Entrepreneurial Network (WEN) because for the very first time, I identified with the unique challenges and needs of women in business and thought maybe I could help provide some support and resources to other women in business in my community. I needed inspiration and hoped I could provide some too. Balancing motherhood and professional fulfillment became a goal of mine and as far as everyone could see, I was doing it - well. Only I knew how I struggled.
In April of 2014 it was clear to me, through a tearful conversation with my best friend over a glass of wine after a successful all-day retreat for WEN that I was incredibly unhappy. Unhappy in my marriage, even though I pretended otherwise, unhappy at work and generally unfulfilled in my life. I was being pulled from one obligation to another, I was tired, out of shape and miserable.
On the positive side, I was back to meeting the challenges of a trial lawyer and litigator when I was given an opportunity to work on a really high stakes commercial litigation case outside of my comfort zone. The partner with whom I was working helped restore my confidence and love of new challenges. I believed I was starting to make my professional comeback.
But there were nagging questions running through my mind all the time. What was I working for? Fancy car payments? Status? What energized me when I first started my career? Where did my passion go? Why did I suck so badly? Why was I so insecure?
It dawned on me a few months later what the problem was - but the solution was going to be painful and complicated. I needed to rediscover the things that made me excited to wake up in the morning. I recognized that I needed to be creating. Being imaginative and coming up with my "ridiculously good ideas" was what lit my passion fire - whether it was developing different ways to present evidence at trial, or troubleshooting important issues effecting the legal profession, or writing a story, or developing a cutting edge marketing plan - I needed creative challenges.
I've been traveling this uncertain road, looking for a way out of the woods, for some time. Almost three years later, I'm still untangling the tentacles of my old life from the promise of my new one. The challenge of leaving behind a sense of comfort is greater than I imagined, but with the help of some really amazing people in my life, many of whom I met through WEN, I'm doing it. My daughter will be better for it and so will I.
Now, I wake up every morning with new ideas for helping lawyers obtain success for their clients, with new ideas for books I want to write, new concepts for marketing law firms. I'm confident because I know I am good at what I do. I have a proven track record of success and have been fortunate enough to have been recognized for my success time and again. So I know it's time to forge out on my own and make my way.
I am told by countless Pinterest quotes penned by successful people that believing in myself and what I can do will ultimately lead me to a new level of success. Visualizing myself in this new capacity is the first step so I daydream about it all the time. I now have a map so I know the roads I need to take and I have chosen my travel partners this time.
Finally, I am in a position to own my destiny. I even have a coffee mug that says "Lady Boss," which probably says it all. I still have work to do, but I'm closer than ever to my greatest comeback yet. Stay tuned, y'all.