Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.
Every few months the conversation among colleagues and friends turns to speculating about opportunities that presented themselves in the past, that we decided not to pursue. It’s a little like “The Christmas Carol,” looking backward at past events and then wondering how differently our future might have turned out had we opted to follow those alternate career paths.
Some of the people with whom I have had this discussion go all the way back to their choice of college discipline. Others think out loud about what it would have been like to actually hold out for practicing, for example, entertainment law, or some other area of law that is notoriously difficult to break into. Yet others wonder if having completed that JD/LLM program they dropped would have made a difference to their professional standing today. Or whether they should not have quit that job that seemed so onerous at the time, but now doesn’t seem that bad.
Everyone I talk to has a story about what might have been, or where they might be now had they chosen another path. Sometimes they are confident that a decision they made was a good decision, other times they lament not having taken a different road.
As this year ends, it is natural to think about these things. The year that was cannot be changed. The coming year may seem full of possibilities for some of us, but not for others.
The start of a new year is a great time to think positively about opportunities we passed up or career ideas we gave up on. There may be a little time during the holidays when you can sit quietly and assess your career situation, look at what has been, what still may have appeal for you and what yet could be.
There are many career guides that offer lists and other tools to evaluate your skills and work desires and advice on how to develop ways to achieve a more satisfying work life. And those are very useful. But I am talking about looking back at your career and at your future in a more visceral way and asking yourself what you really want to do. What immediately comes to mind when you ask yourself that question? What path not taken holds the greatest allure for you today?
I do understand that the sky is not the limit; that to a significant degree your particular circumstances and the job market limit your options and that some ships may have sailed, never to return to port. But it is possible that you might be able to fashion a more thrilling work life for yourself if you reexamine your past and envision your future taking into account your old aspirations, in a new way.
In the coming weeks I will tell you the stories of some people who have done just that.