Monday, April 5, 2010

Do I look like a lawyer?

Last week I attended a presentation on diversity in the legal profession and had an interesting conversation with the woman seated next to me. She said that, growing up, she didn't personally know any lawyers. It never occurred to her that she could become a lawyer until a woman - a lawyer - spoke to her high school class about the legal profession. She couldn't picture herself as a lawyer until she had an example she thought she could emulate. Maybe she thought that as a woman she couldn't be a lawyer. Or maybe she thought that she wasn't smart enough. Or tough enough. She had a picture in her mind of what a lawyer was like and it didn't match her picture of herself.

My experience was very different. My father was a lawyer. Many of my friends' parents were lawyers or doctors or "business people." Until I was in high school, I didn't know that not everyone went to college. It was a given that I would go to college - I thought it was a given for everyone else too. I knew - with a certainty that I didn't realize was somewhat rare in the world - that I could become a lawyer. Or a doctor. Or go to business school and do whatever it is that "business people" do (it was never obvious to me as a kid). I went to college and was pre-Med for two years until I realized that I hate hospitals and couldn't stand the higher level science classes I needed to take. It was a big crisis for me. I couldn't be a doctor. I didn't want to be a lawyer. I didn't know what I would do with an MBA. I didn't really see a lot of other choices.

I ended up going to New York and working in the entertainment industry (television commercial production mostly). But after a couple years of struggling in entry level jobs and feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere, I went to law school. Plan B.

It was easy to see myself as a lawyer or doctor. I had so many varied pictures of lawyers and doctors that it was easy to match them to my picture of myself. It was a path for which I had a good road map. I couldn't see myself as a film producer - which is what I really wanted to do at the time. I was scared that I didn't have what it takes to be successful in that business. For me, following that dream meant going without a map and at the time I didn't have the courage to do that.

Now I find myself in a similar predicament to the one I found myself in sophomore year of college. I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. I don't want to be a doctor. I don't really want to be a film producer anymore - it's kind of a thankless job and now that I'm a mom to a pre-teen, I have enough of that. (Although I still have a fantasy about winning an Oscar for Best Picture . . .).
My new dream is to be a healer. I don't really know what a healer looks like and I sure don't have a map for that particular path. I have a picture in my mind of what a healer acts like which is based mostly on assumptions rather than observation of reality. Whenever I don't behave in ways that are congruent with that picture, it makes me question whether I am capable of becoming a healer.

For example, this morning I totally over-reacted when my older daughter got pissy and obnoxious in the way that only 12-year-old girls can. I was over tired. I was anxious and feeling guilty because we were running late - again. I'm going through nicotine and anti-depressant withdrawal. She hurt my feelings. So I blew up. And yelled at her for way too long. And then she yelled at me. And we cried. And she refused to eat breakfast. So I said "You're not going to school until you eat breakfast." She called my bluff. "Fine. Take Meredith to school. I'll stay home." And I yelled at her again.

That is definitely NOT how a healer acts, right? A true healer gets all Zen and stuff. A real healer stays calm and says "Abby, I appreciate that you are exerting your independence but if I wasn't so Zen and stuff, you would have hurt my feelings. Please be nicer next time." Or something like that. A real healer would get enough sleep and would wake up on time with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. No bags under her eyes. No going on Facebook to tend to her farm before she makes breakfast for her kids. A true healer never loses her cool. Right?

Just like doctors and lawyers, I imagine that healers come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of mental stability. I think I need to stop looking for a road map outside of myself and make my own path. I need to look in the mirror and remind myself that I'm looking at a healer. Visualization is a strong tool for achieving dreams but only if it's used in the right way. Until now, my mental pictures have limited me in ways I didn't realize.

In what ways do you let your mental pictures limit you?
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