“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
Every now and then, I suffer from minor nervous breakdowns fueled by my sadist approach to life. Perhaps subconsciously believing myself to be Nostradamus reincarnated, I tend to approach most situations by overanalyzing them, while also trying to predict every possible outcome and provide for every contingency. If my crystal ball is murky, tells me that the outcome will be less than ideal, or hints at even a smidgen of discomfort, I press my internal pause and reset buttons. It is quite possible that mental chaos will ensue before my (or some trusted confidante’s) better judgment kicks in.
Whenever my yin becomes disconnected from my yang, I travel back in time to the summer of 2003, the summer after my first year of law school. After seeing my second-semester grades, I had difficulty accepting the fact that the closest I’d ever get to my school’s law review would be its office as I passed it on the way to my locker. Anyone who has ever endured the gauntlet known as law school can attest to the importance of pedigree, grades, and accolades such as moot court and law review membership. Certain nefarious elements of the legal community peddled the idea that employment at a big law firm was all there was to life after law school, and that law review membership was the only way to land you in that proverbial Promised Land. Succumbing to the hype, I was convinced that my average, non-law review self was destined for failure and poverty.
“No one will ever hire me,” I lamented to a fellow intern and one of my supervisors. How did they put up with my whining for an entire summer?
“I can’t afford to work for Legal Services,” I added, as I compared the cost of my future hefty student loan payments and New York City rents to starting salaries at non-profit legal services organizations. I almost suffered a stroke and a heart attack when I reviewed my first student loan invoices.
And then I remembered the times granny sent me to the corner store for groceries as a little girl, when I’d wait for everyone to leave before I dared to whip out my shopping list and food stamps that had “Food Coupon” printed on them in big capital letters. And who could forget our annual trips to the local welfare office to visit our nosy caseworker. Did I really go to college and law school for more of the same?
“Now, I’ll never be able to afford to take care of myself and granny,” I added.
Thankfully, my life did not turn out as I had predicted. I had great internships and did land a job after graduation. Although I did not end up working at a large law firm, my post-graduation jobs were very fulfilling, interesting, and aligned with my legal interests. In addition, they offered the kind of work-life balance I now need and appreciate. I’ve never had to dumpster dive for meals, and granny and I didn’t end up homeless. And I am especially grateful that I am at a place in my life where I can care for granny in ways that money cannot buy. Simply put, I have been very blessed and very bad at predicting the source and nature of those blessings.
In retrospect, my summer breakdown was much ado about nothing and my life perspective at that time was more screwed up than Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential campaign. Ok, maybe not more screwed up than Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential campaign, but you get the idea. I thought I needed to have life all figured out, right then and there. Three-year plans, five-year plans, and plans to take over the world are great. We should set goals and work diligently towards them. But, life sometimes throws us curve balls and requires us to regroup. Life is unpredictable. Sometimes, you just need to take a chill pill and a deep breath. Because in the end, life truly does have a way of working itself out. Situations won’t necessarily turn out how you envisioned, or even how you’d like. Things may not work out according to your own timeline. You may encounter bumps, detours, and setbacks along the way, but you will always end up where you are destined to be.