For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of being a lawyer. From mock trial teams, student government, law camp (yes, that’s actually a thing), pre-law courses, and eventually law school…my entire identity has been built upon the eventual goal of adding “, Esq.” to the end of my name.
After graduating from law school with honors and passing two bar exams, the day finally came when I would take my oath as a lawyer. In a room filled to the brim with proud parents and loved ones, I vowed to defend the Constitution and, to this day, the memory of my mother handing me my license to practice brings me to tears. This moment, one that I had spent over a decade working towards, was the single greatest accomplishment of my life.
Having already secured a position as a first year associate with a prominent litigation firm in Boston, I jumped into a career as a civil litigator. The pay and benefits were great (is there anything that makes you feel more like an adult than a 401k?!), I had my own office with a window, and I even bought a closet-full of gorgeous “lawyer clothes”…as far as I was concerned, I was 25 and had everything in the world I’d ever wanted.
It didn’t take very long for the rose-colored glasses of being a new lawyer to wear off and, over time, I found myself sitting at my desk questioning why I had wanted to do this in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the most important people in my life are practicing attorneys (including my boyfriend-roommate-bestfriend-partner, Joel) and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the practice and profession of law. Lawyers are the protectors of our justice system and now, more than ever, we need competent folks sitting behind and standing before the bench. That being said, practicing law was nothing like the dream I’d developed for nearly half my life.
Call me naive, but I always envisioned myself standing in a mahogany courtroom delivering an impassioned speech to a jury like a badass, 2017-version of Ally McBeal. Blame it on the hoards of legal movies, re-runs of Law & Order, or the countless vacations I spent curled up with a John Grisham book, but my expectations for life as a litigator were…well, a little skewed.
The actual life of a first year associate? 60-hour work weeks, non-stop emails, strained relationships, a lot of grunt work, and stress. Lots and lots of stress. What started as a lifelong dream quickly turned into something rooted in dread; I dreaded seeing my coworkers, dreaded talking to my clients, and dreaded waking up to go to work everyday. What ensued was a period of several months that I can only define as dark and confusing, forcing me to question everything I thought I knew about myself.
Unsure of what to do next or how to ease my crippling anxiety, I turned to the one thing that had always brought me a little peace and quiet: yoga. Although I had been practicing yoga on and off for several years, I really only viewed it as a relaxation tool. Visits to a dozen or so studios gave me a rudimentary knowledge of the basic asanas and I dappled in meditation during hectic final exams, but that was really it. Given that I was knee-deep in the most stressful period of my life, I figured hey, it sure as hell can’t hurt to do some yoga. I googled “yoga studios in Boston” and signed up with the first place I found on December 30th.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I dragged my tired ass out of bed and made my way over to a 9am Vinyasa class. Unsurprisingly, there weren’t an abundance of people practicing yoga on the morning of the biggest party day of the year, so I settled onto my mat with a couple dozen dedicated yogis. That first class was tough and I was definitely rusty, but wow did it feel good. Walking home with a legitimate “yoga high,” I knew it right then and there: I was hooked.
I started attending yoga classes several times per week, bringing my mat to work so I could escape to the comfort of the studio as soon as the workday ended. Yoga became my refuge from the chaos that was my life at that point, and I couldn’t get enough. I attended workshops, bought yoga props, went shopping for cute yoga pants, and attended classes in just about every type of yoga you can imagine…heated classes, non-heated classes, classes themed to dub step, rap classes, restorative classes…you name it, I tried it.
While I told everyone that yoga was my way of fitting an exercise routine into my busy schedule, in reality it was my escape from facing my biggest fear: maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a lawyer. The thought literally shook me to my core (I toppled over in chair pose when I caught myself worrying about my legal career once) and I absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever could confront the idea that I had spent half of my life being so unbelievably wrong about myself. So, what did I do? Naturally, I ignored the whole damn thing.
Like most things in life, ignoring a problem can only get you so far before everything implodes and the proverbial shit hits the fan. My career as a litigator was no exception and, a few months later, enough was enough. I couldn’t stand counting my life by the tenth of the hour or the pit I felt in my stomach each time my work phone chimed…I was done.
I had no clue what I was going to do, where I was going to work, or how I would pay my rent, but I was certain that I had to get out. I gave notice, packed up my cushy-window-office, and walked out the door towards an uncertain life as a typical, lost, 20-something.
Determined not to let the entire legal idea go to waste, I quickly decided that I was destined to work as a public interest attorney. You know, representing the masses, fighting for equality…that sort of thing (think Sandy from the O.C. meets Atticus Finch). I applied to every single non-profit, government, and policy job on the Internet and started booking interviews right away. For a while, I even worked at a large immigration firm because hey, maybe that was my calling!
Unsurprisingly, this job hunt became just another way to hide from what I really needed to face: maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a lawyer. And, after a slew of interviews that just didn’t excite me, it finally happened. I was meditating alone in my apartment, trying to escape the confusion and defeat in my mind, when I broke down in tears. All of the pieces of myself that I had been running from for so long–the doubts, the fears, the anxieties–caught up with me at once and I couldn’t hide from them any longer. Ironically enough, yoga and meditation, the very things that were acting as my escape for so long, forced me to come back to myself.
I started practicing yoga and meditation not as tools to escape my life, but as ways to learn more about myself. Instead of running away from the idea of leaving the law, I welcomed the thought with compassion and invited myself to explore all of the pieces of myself that had been silenced by my former life as a litigator. Over time, I re-discovered hobbies and interests that had been dormant for years and, during this period of self-discovery, made the decision to pursue my 200-hour teaching certification.
The more I learned about the foundation of yoga through teacher training, the more I started feeling at peace in my own skin again. My spirituality reawakened, I was living a healthy lifestyle, and I was happier than I’d been in years. So, partially on a whim and mostly with nothing to lose, I applied for a part-time position at a local yoga studio. To my surprise and delight, I was given an interview and, shortly thereafter, a job offer. I was entirely unsure of where the opportunity would lead me, but accepted and jumped right into my newfound life as a Professional Yogi. Any you know what? I haven’t looked back since.
Instead of waking up every day with a pit in my stomach, I (sometimes quite literally) skip to the studio to start the day. I find myself surrounded by like-minded, positive people that teach me something everyday and can now say that I make a living by helping people find peace. As if that wasn’t enough, I even found a way to put my legal mind to good use and combine yoga and the law into my day job!
Now when I unroll my mat, I find myself glancing around the room wondering what sorts of things my fellow yogis are working through in the safe and glorious space that is yoga class. Perhaps the girl next to me in that amazing backbend is considering a job change just like I was a few months earlier, or maybe the man across the studio balancing in a supported shoulder stand just started a new career…
Being a part of this community, a community that is defined by love, compassion, and acceptance, has quite literally changed my life for the better. While I have no idea what the future holds, I find comfort every day knowing that I will always have my mat to figure it out along the way.
The Yogi Lawyer