In early 2004, I felt ready for a change in my life. I did not see opportunity for growth with my then employer. I wanted to earn more money. I wanted to challenge myself to do something I never thought I could do. So, I decided to go to law school. I took the LSAT. I applied to schools. I told my supportive work colleagues that I would be leaving my job in the fall. Everyone felt excited, especially me.
One problem. In summer 2004, I learned I didn’t get accepted to any of the schools I applied to. I remember sitting at my inner-office desk, looking out my window into the sea of cubicles, feeling completely deflated. Yes – I could reapply. Yes – I could put school off one more year. But, I really didn’t want to. Excitement vanished. I felt trapped.
Then, someone asked me the right question. I sat in my therapist’s office in one of those oversized comfy therapy kind of chairs, complaining about my results and discussing the feeling of being trapped. My therapist listened and then asked, “Why can’t you quit your job anyway?”
A lightbulb not only went off in my head; it exploded. My therapist did not care whether I stayed or left my job. She just wondered why I felt like I had to stay. Until she asked, I had never considered it. I saw only two options: go to law school or stay at my job.
The power in this question allowed me to see a million possibilities. What would I do if I wasn’t trapped? Why did I decide it was either/or? What if I stayed? What if I quit?
I started brainstorming. I could quit my job. I could get another job. I could travel. I could consult. I could reapply to law school. I could decide not to reapply to law school. I could stay with a friend for a while.
The question did not solve my problem. It helped me get out of my own way. Once I started considering more options, I no longer felt stuck.
Ultimately, I decided to quit and use some of my savings to travel across the United States. That fall, I put over 11,000 miles on my Mini Cooper, visiting San Francisco, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati, upstate New York, Manhattan, Boston, Charlottesville, DC, Atlanta, Fort Walton Beach, and New Orleans. On my drive back west, I made stops in Houston, San Antonio, Marathon, and Austin (Texas is BIG), as well as a stay in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
When I think back to summer 2004, I do not feel the embarrassment and disappointment about not getting accepted to law school. Instead, I remember my therapist’s question, and I can still feel the excite and freedom of the adventure that followed.