Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
It’s a cliche that really takes me back. I’m talking way back. I can see myself gleeful in my graduation gowns: high school. college. law school?
Law school graduation was a strange day for me. I was proud of what I had accomplished. I was tearing up because it had been such an ordeal.
Six months ago I decided I’d had enough. I didn’t know what would come next or where I was going, but it was one of those “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” moments. I knew that my time in the firm had to end.
So yesterday, April 15, was my last day at the firm. I am grateful for the last few years. I worked with wonderful people who I am quite fond of. I’ve learned so much about myself. And I did something that it was important for me to do in order to let go: I asked myself whether there was any circumstance under which I could thrive in a firm. There isn’t. Letting go of something you’re really good at isn’t easy. But just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you ought to keep doing it.
As you know if you’ve read other posts on this blog, I’ve struggled with mental illness for about 10 years now. Law school took a real toll on me. For most people, getting into my law school was the hardest part. Getting out and doing well in life were givens. For me, getting through and getting out were real struggles.
Knowing what I know now, my struggle wasn’t evidence that I was losing my mind. I was simply going against something that was ringing true deep in my spirit. My body was trying to tell me that law school had nothing for me. Or at least, law school the way that I tried to do it was not for me.
Had I known then what I know now… Right?
I don’t know when I’ll go back to practicing law other than on pro bono matters. Or if I’ll go back. Right now I can’t imagine what would draw me back in. I’ve been miserable for the last 4 years. Much of the last 8 years really.
For the first time in a long time I feel like I don’t need an outfit or afro or song to let the true, hidden parts of me shine through — hell maybe I’ll go get a perm right now!* For the first time in so long I’m just being myself.
I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a door recently and I realized that the woman I saw there is exactly who I want to be.
After so many years of self-loathing and feeling like I am failing, so many years of going against my gut because I had something I needed to prove and I was trapped, and so many years of being terrified of taking any kind of risk, I finally stood up for my self.
For complicated reasons, I turned my back on my true self years ago. I thought that I was saving myself. And maybe back then I was. But the outcome of trying to stuff myself deep down was a broken heart. And in many ways I broke myself. But things can change. People can change.
I have changed.
Today the woman you see is, in fact, really me.