I’ve recently reclaimed my spot on the grid after being completely off of it for weeks. I stepped away from life, spent 10 straight days with family members. Undoubtedly, this is exactly what we needed but it was also the first time I’d ever done something like that.
I literally spent no time in public, completely removed from life’s trivial and not-so-trivial worries and difficulties. Away from life’s great joys and big accomplishments. I refused to participate. To look inward, begin the process of understanding the ways in which our family has recently been changed. Because I was overwhelmed. And when I re-emerged and forced myself to once again interact with the huge numbers of people who surround me, I stood overwhelmed in a different way. With love.
It felt like that scene in Love Actually, where they film all the people reuniting in the airport. There were so many concerned faces and warm hugs, their own hearts breaking for mine. My mentor said to come back gradually to full-time work, something I hadn’t considered before he suggested it. Thank God he did.
So I’m coming back. In fits and starts. And so grateful for his suggestion. At my office, their encouragement and support runs deep. When this sabbatical from life first happened, I was consequently unable to participate in the one professional event I had most been looking forward to since I started practicing law. I was going to try a case and give the opening. And when they learned what happened, it wasn’t a question that I would need time off. In fact, I really played no part in the decision. There was no guilt, no resentful undertones. All simple love and support. Achingly simple, actually.
I was speaking to the partner I was to try that case with a week or so ago. Thanking him for the time I’ve taken off. And you know what he said? He urged me to take more.
“A few weeks, or a month, or even a year away from the law is even less than insignificant in the long run, Tori, it will have no impact on your total career.” In the race to achieve, there is always constant pressure. It comes mostly from within. To get to those places where the partners are…to “make it.” But, naturally, he is right. In the long run, a few weeks away really doesn’t make a difference. And with this attitude and insight, I’ll be practicing, very happily, for the rest of my life. How many people miss this lesson?
We should all be thinking about our lives, our relationships, and our careers for the long run. How can we make them sustainable and full…in the long run? How many employers treat their employees this way, with a long view on their productivity and success? We’re so focused on the micro and completely miss the macro.
People are always saying life is short, and I’m not disagreeing. But life is also long and we can’t live at breakneck speed. There are ups and downs, bad things and good things, distractions and then periods of undisturbed productivity. Maybe the entire work-life balance debate would simply end if everybody took the long view. Maybe every question and decision should be decided by also considering its impact in the long run.
The happiest people I know never lose this long perspective, never stop focusing on the horizon, like they’re always gazing off into a beautiful sunset, unperturbed.