My fingers shook, the palms of my hand screamed sweat and anxiety. I cursed the dial-up modem of my computer. My mom was standing over my shoulder wondering what the digital screen would reveal. “Ugh, so slow. Not now. I can’t wait much longer.” I flipped the ends of my hair in a twist, somehow convincing myself if I continued to do this, the internet connection would move faster. Typing with purpose, I pressed on the keys fast until I reached the Texas Bar Examiners website.
Would I be a licensed attorney today? Never one who aced any kind of exam, the slow churning creeped in my stomach. As a twenty-something, I clinged to an external definition of success. Perhaps youth, misperception, and ego guided so much of my thinking almost a decade ago. While I perused the list, I kept yelling, please, please, let me pass. Let my name appear on the list. Like the list guaranteed perpetual success. As I clicked on my last name, there appeared the familiar assembly of letters. My name. And the very unaware self that said, yes, you’ve reached absolute success. How, as I type this, I laugh at my old self and what I defined as reaching the “height” of my professional life.
The years following that digital success were grueling. Deadlines, billable hours, and angst over clients and mean spirited opposing counsel. Long hours combined with a very healthy coffee habit fueled sleepless nights. I saw a “successful” self become a person I didn’t recognize. And five years ago I decided to quit and embrace motherhood and a writer’s life.
Do I still have doubts that I made the right decision? If you crossed paths with me in my twenties, you would know this: I absolutely and unequivocally pursued a legal education with a single minded purpose. There was nothing I wanted more. The idea that my name would appear alongside the abbreviation, Esq. often fueled me to try harder even if there were signs indicating that perhaps the steering wheel pointed in another direction. That’s how I defined success.
And even now, I probably wouldn’t do anything differently. My legal education and life as a lawyer has taught me so much. Having a single minded focus. Dealing with combative personalities. Learning that I can only change my reaction, but not people. Always being on time. Being prepared. Researching issues. Not drawing conclusions. Understanding the power of words, both spoken and written, can have a profound impact on another’s life.
Today, after marriage, a child, witnessing losses of one form of another, and learning the limits of money lend to a clarification of what success is for me. I am comfortable acknowledging that I am still defining the meaning of success.