Shortly after deciding to leave law school, I had been working different jobs and floundering through life, trying to figure out what was next. My whole life had been geared toward one goal: become a lawyer. If you ask any of my family and closest friends, my role model in my life, and the person I looked up to most, was my older cousin, who was like a sister to me. She was a lawyer so of course I wanted to be a lawyer. When I realized the life of a lawyer wasn’t for me, it was my cousin that supported me and made me feel like it was okay. She said it was better to know and be confident in my decision to leave now than to finish and hate my job later and also be hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. She knew, being a lawyer herself, how grueling the hours could be … and she also knew being a first time mom, the struggle of work/life balance. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would come to have many conversations about this once I became a mom myself.
I felt lost in life when it came to my career. But there was one thing in life I was absolutely sure of, the love of my life. My then boyfriend (now husband, thankfully or my mom would never have let me live this next part of my life down), had just been transferred to his Phoenix, Arizona satellite office for his engineering firm. After several grueling weeks apart (I think we maybe lasted 2-3 weeks), I decided to come visit him. After realizing how gorgeous Arizona is and the fact that I no longer had anything specific tying me down back in Michigan, I decided, ‘what the hell?’ I’m going to move to Arizona! I started looking for jobs, which took a little longer than expected (it was 2008, the job market was terrible there too). But, after a couple months, I was able to find work near our apartment. We had some great friends there that we would go hiking with to local mountains, the Grand Canyon, support our respective Big Ten teams (Go Green!), and relax by the pool (since it was Michigan summer pretty much year round). Arizona summer killed me a little – 110 degrees on average.
It wasn’t until Thanksgiving came around that next year that changed everything. Prices to fly home around that time of year are INSANE. There was no question we would be coming home for Christmas so we decided to save money and skip going home for Thanksgiving. Well, if you know me at all, Thanksgiving through my birthday (January 8th) is probably just about my favorite time of year. I love celebrating the holidays; all the food, getting together with family, relaxing, time off work, and just the general good mood everyone tends to be in. Even though our friends invited us over for their Thanksgiving, it was actually painful to miss my family’s Thanksgiving. To top it off, my cousin went into early labor with her second child and I wanted nothing more than to be there for her, not just on the phone for her.
Christmas time could not have come soon enough. As surprisingly brisk as it was, I welcomed the Michigan cold weather as we got off the plane. We soaked in every minute of our time home with family. But as our time dwindled, I found myself counting down the days with dread that we would have to return to Arizona, this beautifully, gorgeous, vacation state, but a state so far away from everything and everyone I love. As we sat at our gate I looked outside and started to feel tears welling up. Matt looked over at me and gave me a half grin, and put his arm around me. He didn’t have to say anything, I knew what he was thinking.
That next week, we started working on a plan to get back home. Matt spoke with his company about transferring back to Michigan. We started to tell our friends in Arizona the news, which turned out to also be pretty sad. We hadn’t realized in such a short time, the relationships we had formed. A few months later we had packed up our life and we were returning home to Michigan. What I didn’t know, was Matt had more plans in mind all along.
A few months later, we were up at my parents’ cottage for 4th of July weekend and he asked me to walk down to the beach. Moments later he was on his knee, proposing.
My cousin, now maid-of-honor, was still my go-to support. She was helping me with wedding planning and I was still trying to figure out my career. She asked me if I still had an interest in the legal field. After realizing I did, she suggested I get my paralegal certificate and work as a paralegal at a law firm.
Years later, Matt and I still talk about that conversation with my cousin that day. Without knowing it, I was getting myself into a position that would better suit my needs as a mom. It’s as if I was predestined to start and leave law school, to follow the path I did, so that one day I would end up here. You see, I didn’t realize just how much I needed balance in my life until I was in law school and had to give up everything to study. I didn’t realize how much I needed my family until I left them. I didn’t realize how perfectly this well-balanced career would work until I had kids. I didn’t realize how much all this would become a part of my well-crafted village, until I needed it.