So, a week/lifetime ago we woke up at 2:11 a.m. because it sounded like a freight train was driving through our master bedroom and, once my ears adjusted to the overwhelming sounds of what turned out to be 80+ mph winds overhead, it became clear there were tornado sirens going off as well. I grabbed my phone and read all caps TORNADO WARNING IN YOUR AREA. SEEK SHELTER NOW. Claire flew into our room as I was reading those alarming words because lightning lit up the sky and thunder hit our house so hard it felt like the whole thing shook. Our power went out right then and I wished, for the rare time, that our house was not 50% made of glass.
We don't have any interior rooms, or walk-in closets, or a basement (obviously; this is Texas), so our best "storm shelter" is the girls' bathroom, which has a small window, but also has a thousand pound cast-iron tub and a half wall with plumbing in front of it, which from my extensive google research, means it's our best bet. The kids get in the tub. James and I sit on the floor and wait for the roof to start shaking, at which point, we'd probably lay ourselves on top of the kids. It's a fun thing to think about at 2-fucking-30 a.m.
The tornado warning expired at 2:35 and the tornadoes missed us, though the winds still did plenty of damage and we didn't get power back for another 10 hours. Landon and Cora went right to sleep, but Claire came into our room every 20 minutes for the next 2 hours to ask "is the tornado coming back? when is it coming back? where is it now? what would happen if it hit us?" and other easy-to-answer questions at 4 a.m. It was a long Wednesday after that.
We had more storms over the weekend, which necessitated much fort building and even a little home improvement.
It made me a little crazy to be trapped inside because there was no organizing for me to do after my week of sickness cleaning extravaganza. But I did have a row of hooks for James to hang up for Cora's dresses and making him do that made me feel accomplished.
I had a mini happy hour yesterday after work with my best friend at the SEC. He started 3 weeks after me, so we both just had our 5-year anniversaries. As we clinked glasses (frozen margarita for me, obvs), he said- so did you think you'd still be here in 5 years?
No. Absolutely no. 3-4 years tops. Enough time to get me through the mid-level associate years and follow my mentor back to a partnership track senior associate or counsel position in BigLaw. Unlike nearly everyone else I work with now, I really liked my BigLaw job. I liked being a litigation associate. I thrived on running giant doc reviews and writing briefs under pressure until the wee hours of the morning. Being a law firm associate meant there was a clearly mapped out stair-step of tasks to achieve and gold stars to win and every year you moved up another step. Sure my life had no predictability and I worked and traveled way too much, but I was fucking good at it. Really good. And I liked doing something where I felt smart and competent and important most of the time. Sure, I realize now much of the importance came from a false feeling of constant urgency- like waking up to a blackberry full of emails and reading and responding to them before I even got out of bed, but it was a little addictive. And-- and this is still true-- I genuinely liked the legal work. It was a never-ending intellectual challenge to write some of the briefs I needed to write. To finesse facts and case law into a clear and convincing argument under the page limit. To make something deeply technical seem so clear and obvious the reader had no choice but to agree. I truly loved that. I still miss it. I miss a lot of it.
So, no, I never thought I'd still be here in 5 years. Even less, I never thought that at 5 years I'd have no plans of leaving at all.
Would I leave for the right opportunity? Sure. Am I looking for it? No. Do I think it will fall in my lap in charming little Fort Worth Texas? No. Would I consider commuting to Dallas? Absolutely not no never. So, here I am. A town I've fall in love with. A husband with a small business that is very local. A school and community we adore. A house I love that we could never afford anywhere else. A thriving, fun, cultural downtown and arts community (and zoo! #4 per USA Today) less than 5 miles away. A car that's 2 years old with less than 10,000 miles on it. My life is very local, very layered, and very happy.
I struggle sometimes with the fact that I feel I've allowed my career to stall. Or worse, not just allowed, but actively pushed my career to a side burner. I'm still at work 45 hours a week, but my job is very much cabined in those hours and I have no interest in extending them. I do enough but rarely look to do more. Far from gold-star searching and partner-pleasing, I'm efficient and competent and just... enough. I do enough. I don't do more. The me of 7 years ago would be disappointed. The me of 7 years ago is disappointed. I'm just no longer her.
On Monday I kissed the kids and headed out the door at 7:45 am. At 8 I was at my desk. I worked, went to lunch with my coworkers, and worked some more, drafting a document request to a foreign regulatory agency, taking a call with a partner at a top firm, and following up with another. I left at exactly 4:30 pm to get to my barre studio to teach my class at 5. At 4:50 I had my barre clothes on, my barre music blasting, and the big glass garage door in the studio open, soaking up the fresh air and even using a barbell and my phone's 10-second timer to get a few pictures to use to promote the class. I taught, loved it, and then drove my sweaty self home to greet Cora and our Monday nanny- who were both outside on our playset, playing pirates and princesses. I changed, cooked up one of our favorite dinners (southwestern bbq chicken quinoa salad) with Cora's help ("help"), and straightened up the house a bit. The big kids got home from the pool with James at 7, we ate, cleaned up, and got everyone in bed at 7:55. At exactly 8:00 my nominating committee for our PTA Board arrived at my house for wine, snacks, and the task of nominating all the positions of our Board (I'm Parliamentarian and this is one of my sacred duties). They left about 10:30. I went to join James on the couch, laying my head on his lap with my kindle while he worked with his laptop on his knees. We chatted, I read, he answered emails from prospective clients. We got in bed about 11:30.
That is a full, but fairly normal day and precisely sums up what the me of 7+ years ago couldn't understand. My life is so full. There are so many more dimensions to it. I have a second job that I love. I'm very involved in our school, a cause I believe in deeply. I can do all those things and still make a healthy dinner. I actually enjoy cooking that dinner because I have the time to do it. My kids are older and busier and so much more complicated than the babies and toddlers I had at the firm. I can support James in his busy and stressful life as an entrepreneur and swim coach. I read a LOT (in fact; at 11:30 when we got in bed that night my phone let me know it had downloaded the latest JR Ward novel and off I was, reading until 2:30 because I'm an idiot and paranormal romance novel addict). I work out 6 days a week. I want to get more into photography. I want to finish my kids' most recent photo books. I want to continue growing in my yoga practice. I cannot imagine taking these things away from this very rich life I now live.
And yet, when I see friends climbing up their prospective career ladders, when I see law school classmates making partner, when I read articles of women leaving law firms and the dearth of female partners I feel very much that I should be doing more. That I've let my own resume and past self down. Before I joined the SEC I think my job was about 80% of how I defined myself. And that worked well, because I was good at it. Now I'd say it's about 20. I'm okay with that for all the reasons I wrote above, but I'm maybe a little disappointed too. Or disappointed that I'm not disappointed. I don't know. I know that at the end of these tornadic thought cycles my 5-year-anniversary keeps putting me through I come out at the end with the same conclusion. This is a really good job. I get to do really high-level work that is interesting and challenging. If I stay, I will probably be in the exact same position I've been in for the last 5 years for the next 5 years too. I will not break any barriers or make any more money. But I will keep teaching barre. I will be involved in our school. I will spend hours and hours just hanging out on the couch with my husband, chatting about whatever pops in our minds. I will cook hundreds of new dinners and I will discover fascinating things about my children when they randomly pipe up to talk to me as I chop vegetables. I would like to volunteer more and am searching for my right place. I would like to sleep more, but as it's 11:56 p.m. while I type this, I suppose that one is unlikely no matter what job I have.
And yet. I thought I would be one of those amazing women who made partner in BigLaw. That I could prove it could be done when so many said it couldn't. And even if I'm the one who initiated the break-up with BigLaw, back then I really did think we'd get back together. And even though I'm also the one who's moved on- happily, fully, multi-dimensionally so, I have a little regret on an anniversary I didn't think I'd stay to see over the fact that I don't want it back. I think because I worry that at the core of it, I just didn't want to work that hard, and all the reasons I listed above are just excuses. And so the thought cyclone spins again.
But then, I decide yet again, even if that's true, maybe it doesn't matter. If I like where I am and what I'm doing, maybe it doesn't matter that I (maybe) could have achieved more on a different path entirely. Maybe it's okay that instead of constantly looking up in one narrow area of my life, I decided to pause and spread out instead. That seems so obviously true, it is surprising to me how often my brain has to go through this thought cycle just to settle back on the same thing again.