Triumphantly, I made my return to the office last week. Yes, three-and-a-half weeks removed from brain surgery, I went in. I was eager and motivated to do something – better yet, anything other than sit at home and channel surf. I was well rested and feeling great and had recently received medical clearance from my doctors to return on a part-time basis for a couple of weeks. But what would I feel like after a 20-hour work week when I had done literally nothing for the past four weeks? Over time, the answer to this question became clear.
Initially, I was overcome by emotion but also very excited to see my coworkers and peers. Making the rounds and saying hello to everyone, I felt like an exhibit – “where are your stitches?” and “what are you doing here?” were the common questions. Perhaps this is my “new normal” but unlike others, I expected to be back that quickly. My surgeon had predicted I would be out for 3-4 weeks at most and I know how my body recovers and heals. So when I woke up after surgery with no unexpected side effects, I fully expected to be back to work in no time at all. Of course though, in a matter of three-and-a-half weeks, over 600 emails had piled up and I needed to sort through them.
Per my doctor’s orders, I was to work no more than 4 hours per day, even though I think I could have done more if I wanted to. Nonetheless though, I went in and picked up my job tasks right where they had left off before my leave of absence. Two months before I left, I assumed a new position – Associate Administrator – Marketing and External Affairs. I decided it was time to step away from my pursuit of the practice of law and instead refocus my efforts in a position to which I felt I could make a career.
I’ll be the first to admit – nobody in the office is more upset than I that I am not an attorney after working so hard for it and putting in the time – but, I came to the realization a while ago that right now, being an attorney is not in the cards for me and just simply not meant to be. Sure, I was disappointed and frustrated. I took out student loans equivalent to a second mortgage on law school and was in desperate need of a way in which to repay them. Furthermore, I had devoted time and money into passing the bar exam three times. Each time, it was the same result and same old adage – close, but no cigar. I needed a new goal – something tangible which I knew I could achieve and excel in. Alas, this opportunity presented itself and I jumped. I understand the inherent risks in that I am now on a different path than my peers who graduated at or near the same time that I did. I will watch them as they grow through the ranks of a law firm and make more money than I ever may. However, at the end of the day, one word assured me of this decision – happiness.
When I think about how I got to this point in my life, I think back on a number of things, namely those who doubted my ability to pass the bar exam due to my cognitive impairments: the neuropsychological evaluator; my law school professors who admired my courage for carrying on; my surgeon’s own admission; my law school dean; my bar exam tutor. Admittedly, they were all correct. Yet, my family never once doubted any of my decisions as I moved forward in my life. Rather, they continually support my daily decisions. For this, I am forever grateful.
I can’t worry about my future and what successes I’ll find. While I may not have reached my goal of becoming an attorney, I know success will come because I’ve survived the toughest obstacle of all. The bar exam may have beaten me down, but my tumor showed me I have what it takes; tenacity, perseverance and the strength to carry on. I must keep plugging away, fighting adversity and rising to the occasion. It’s true when they tell you that life isn’t easy. Take it from me – it’s not. As the song lyrics go: “In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy. “