After I gave my notice to my law firm and before I considered or committed to Teach for America, I experienced a lot of different emotions. Here are a few excerpts of things I wrote during that time.
“Today, I gave my notice…. How do I feel? Relieved. And slightly terrified.”
“It has been four days since I quit my job. It is 4:14 am—the first of many sleepless nights? I still waiver between relief and complete panic. I try to trust that I have made the right decision, but also question whether I have completely lost my mind…. So, I wait. And I look for that opportunity that does await me. With prayer and patience, I wait.”
“A friend told me last week that there would be days when I regretted my decision. I didn’t believe her. I do now.”
In hindsight, I can read that and smile. I now know that things work out. I now know that I will end up doing exactly what I wanted to do. I now know that even though my financial situation has changed, we will be fine. I now know I have so much to look forward to.
Change and transition are scary things. I don’t ever want to give people the impression that I was confident and certain during every step of my transition from law to education. I was not. It was scary. But the most powerful lesson that I learned during my transition was that if you put in the hard work to know yourself, you can trust yourself.
Here are some of the things I did (over the period of a couple of years) in preparation for my transition from law to education to learn about myself and what I want from my life. I literally sat down one day and drafted the mission statement and vision statement for my life. My mission statement was a concise statement of purpose for my life. My vision statement was a picture of what my life would look like if I carried out my mission. Then, I set formal goals in five areas of my life: my spiritual life, my family, my friends, my finances, and my career. And most importantly, before doing any of this, I formed a circle of four friends who knew me well and asked them to serve as my personal advisory board. Corporations have boards to ensure they are heading in the right direction–why can’t we?! I intentionally invited people who have known me for a long time and have known me well. I invited people I respect and admire. I invited people who were not involved in the details of my day-to-day life, but rather, had a big picture view of where I have been and where I want to go. And most importantly, I invited people who were not afraid to be honest with me. I reviewed my mission, vision and goals with these friends over the period of about two years (although they had been a part of my life for many more). Our quarterly meetings were rather formal and designed solely for the purpose of reviewing these things. Their insight and guidance through my process were invaluable. It is sometimes amazing how people who know you well, who are outside of your situation, can see things in your life that you may be unable to see. All of this work provided a reliable framework for filtering all of my future ideas and opportunities. I simply had to ask, “Does this opportunity fit within the mission and goals that I have identified?” If not, it would probably not be a fulfilling endeavor for me.
Once you put in the work to learn who you are and what you want from your life, you can trust that. You can trust your gut and your core confidants, and you have to learn how to process the unfounded criticism and skepticism of people who are not privy to your process. Yes-people who see you leaving a successful career will have questions. Yes-people who are unaware of what makes you tick will wonder why you are making a transition. People may question your motives and look for the scandal–”Was her firm conducting stealth layoffs?” “Was she not going to make partner?” “Could she not take the hard work?” Know yourself and be confident in your knowledge of yourself. Get rid of any stubborn pride–it will only hold you back. People will eventually come around and see you as you are. Your passion, your hard work, and your commitment will become clear. And the satisfaction of pursuing your dream is worth it all.