So you didn’t get that job that you applied for? Or maybe you got a C as opposed to B in that class? Did you stay at the office late today, and yet still have piles of work to get through? Your car’s broken down…again. Sure these are all legitimate problems and life sure is full of them. What matters is how we deal with them and how we come out on the other side.
Coming home in May, not even a year removed from receiving my diagnosis, I had a new outlook on life. My first semester back at law school was eye opening. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do well and maintain my class ranking, but I also refused to push myself too hard and kill myself over schoolwork. During my hospital stay, my medical team constantly reminded me that I would never be measured by my classroom or courtroom experience. No matter what happened after my hospital stay, I would always be defined by my determination and perseverance in overcoming obstacle after obstacle.
During the ensuing months following my surgeries, I was a spectator to life. I viewed everyday occurrences with an open mind. No longer did I stress about getting an A. Did I want to? Of course (I am Type A, after all); but I knew that if I attended class throughout the semester, analyzed the readings, studied and completed practice exams, I had done all that I could do and whatever grade I earned at the end was okay with me.
From day one of the first year, the focus is finding a job and earning exorbitant amounts of money. Now, let me clear this up for you right now – that’s a fallacy. Unless you finish in the top 25% of the class, you bounce around from job to job or maybe even through temp agencies and in real life, never make those millions you imagined were possible. After my performance first year, I didn’t even concern myself with making it into the top quarter of the class, but even if I did, I’d be crazy to push myself that hard. Life is far too short and fragile to let one insignificant thing in the grand scheme of things consume you. I watched countless friends obsessively agonize over outlining and analyzing cases and statutes to earn the grade they were striving for.
The same holds true in practice. I am simply amazed by how many of my peers stress over getting the hours in or getting their motion heard on the court calendar. I just watch in amazement and think to myself “what if?” When I witness such events, it takes every ounce of energy out of me to not say something, but I understand it – we all work hard and want good results for efforts. If you work for a law firm, you have billing requirements that you must meet by years end, and after all, we need to keep our jobs to put food on the table. But at what cost? It makes me wonder why as a society, we have created all of these human manufactured stressors.
I don’t mean to diminish your worries. They are real and legitimate. At the same time, I urge you to never stop focusing on the big picture and seeing what is truly important. It seems to me that we too often take for granted what we have and lose sight of what really matters because we are too busy focused on nonsense. Ever since I’ve recovered, I’ve felt like my life is moving in fast motion. I have since learned to make sure I then take a deep breath and calmly approach the situation when I find myself getting stressed or frustrated. My persona has changed immensely and I know this is a blessing in disguise. Gone are the days where I rushed around, driving myself nuts to get everything accomplished by some arbitrary deadline. I got my second chance, and I refuse to waste it by missing out on life’s joys.
For me, when real trouble arose, the question was not “do you want to have brain surgery?” There was no option or decision to make – it was “Chris, you need to have brain surgery.” Not once, not twice…but four times, in addition to one gamma knife surgery. This was my life and the cards that I was dealt and I coped with it all. Like other situations, it’s not ideal, but unlike any of the scenarios in the first paragraph, this is a REAL problem and there’s no time to think about it or mull over your decision. Instead, you have to rise to the occasion and learn to grow from it. My obstacles have aged me years beyond my date of birth and I no longer stress over situations like those I mentioned here. I’m the first to admit it – prior to my surgery, I focused on school and finding a job. However, after my diagnosis, I realized that the important things in life are those that we have in front of us – family, friends and health. With those three things in hand, the goals are infinite and life is good. Yet, I still find reasons to throw on this t-shirt…