Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?

When I was a freshman in college, I interviewed for my first real job at a law firm for a legal assistant position.  Oddly enough, the person that interviewed and hired me was my BFF, Emily.  That was how we met.  Isn’t that romantical?  I was hired to work for one of the partners in the law firm named Doug.  In the three years that I worked at the firm with Doug while I was going to school, he taught me just about every lesson in business I’ve ever learned.  He taught me by example that it takes a smarter person to accomplish things with kindness than to accomplish them by bullying.  He taught me that you should always dress for the job that you want, instead of the job that you have.  He taught me that when you work hard, you can play hard and that you better not put the wrong one of those priorities first.  He was just a good, decent person.  And he took me under his wing.

Like my parents, he thought I was destined for law school.  And I was right there with them.  I would work through college, get my law degree, and come work for Doug.  It was just the understood plan.

But, life happened along the way.

Two weeks after I got my acceptance letter to law school, Chris got his acceptance letter to Yale.  And there was no question in my mind.  I would go with him.  We were going to be married that summer and he was my new life.  For the sake of all those people who believed in me and supported me and encouraged me over the years, I pretended like the decision to postpone law school for Chris was a hard decision, but it really wasn’t.  I declined my acceptance, threw away my acceptance letter, and moved to Connecticut.

When I got here, I planned to re-apply to law schools in the area so that I could go to law school at night while working to put Chris through Yale.  But, with my newest batch of applications submitted, I started to reconsider my plan.  Chris and I had been married for almost six months.  I loved coming home to him at night.  I loved spending weekends with him.  I loved every minute of our time together and the thought of a life bogged down in legal briefs and legislation had lost some of its shimmer to me.  My priorities had shifted and, once again, I withdrew my law school applications.

I applied instead for my Masters in higher education, an area that I had always loved but had never really considered professionally because all eyes had been focused on law school.  But with that out of my field of vision, a whole world of possibilities opened up in front of me and I knew that brave new world wouldn’t include courtrooms.

When I made the decision to move in a different direction, it was fairly easy.  We had just moved to a new state and none of my new friends knew anything about my past aspirations.  I was essentially able to just wipe that part of my past away.  It was a dream I once had, but now only one of those hazy dreams that you can’t quite remember but you can’t quite forget.

I called Doug earlier this week.  We hadn’t caught up in almost a year and it was time to check in and see how he was doing.  He quickly filled me in on his two sons, now grown and in college.  We talked about people we used to work with and where they were now.  And he asked me about being a new mom.  Towards the end of the conversation, he harmlessly asked, “So, when are you going to law school?”

No one had asked me about law school in years and his question caught me off guard.

“Well, Doug,” I stammered.  “I don’t see law school in my future.  Haven’t really seen in there in a while now.”

“Well,” he said.  “That’s a shame, Katie.  You had a great mind for it.”

He meant it as a compliment.  As a pat on the back and a nod to all the work I had done to almost achieve a goal.  He meant it with all the goodness of the kind person that he is.

Its been three days since I spoke with Doug and that conversation is still rolling around in my head.  But its the thoughts that come after the conversation that I have been thinking the most about.  Did I regret not going to law school?  What would my life be like if I had gone?  Had I made a mistake?  Had I given up on something too big in exchange for quiet evenings at home with my husband?  Was I okay with that?

When I shared this conversation with a friend, she said to me, “You’ll go down too many roads in your life to count, Katie.”  And she’s right.  Maybe life isn’t one continuous road that we forge, but instead a series of roads.  The thing about this particular road is that I’ve never been old enough before to look back at where I’ve been.  I’ve never been old enough to reflect on life choices.

Until now.

As I think back through the individual decisions that brought me to where I am – getting married, moving across the country, changing careers, having a baby, buying a house – there is not one decision that I would make differently.  Not one of them.  And that’s not necessarily because I made the right decisions every time, but because to undo one of them would be to erase the rest of them.  And I’m just not willing to do that.

Today, I am not in the place that anyone ever expected me to be in.  I’m not in the place that I expected myself to be in.  If I had stuck to my plan, stayed on my one road, I would be in sensible heels and killer suits in some Capitol somewhere lobbying about insurance reform.  And that would have been good, too, I suppose.  But that baby that’s sleeping in the nursery across the hall?  He probably wouldn’t be there.  And that husband of mine sitting downstairs watching television?  He probably wouldn’t be there either.

So, is my life turning out how I imagined?  No, its not.

And that might be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.

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63 Thoughts to “Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?”

  1. Jen

    This is beautiful. Your posts never cease to amaze me.
    Some of the things that you said have hit close to him, and yes, I have been there as well… and just like you, I wouldn’t have it ANY other way!
    🙂

  2. Pam

    I’m always fascinated by the twists and turns that life takes and this post spoke beautifully about them. So thank you, not only for talking about some of your changes in direction; but, in helping me stay focused on the path I’m currently on as opposed to one that I recently veered off of.

  3. Maggie

    I just discovered your blog and this post really resonated with me. I did go to law school and now wonder daily whether that was the right choice for me. But since I met my fiance there, I’ll never regret it… though I do wish I didn’t have quite the student loan debt to repay!

  4. I don’t think this post could have come at a better time for me. I just went to my old workplace on Sunday. I was so close to owning my own fine dining restaurant. I left because I had breast cancer at the time. I’ve been thinking about it all day. What if? I don’t like my job now but I love my life. I love being able to see my husband and family on holidays and in evenings. None of this would be the case if I were running my own restaurant.

    What next? I have no idea… but I guess in the end things will work out. Having B with me no matter what makes all the difference.

  5. Mallory

    Great post, Katie. And such a sweet family pic at the end!

  6. What a wonderful post. I am starting down a new path right now. I resigned from my job last Thursday, and am starting 2 part time jobs instead. I am a little scared, but elated that I am being true to myself. (Now I just wish that came with insurance!)

  7. Lisa

    Your post is bang on. I followed my husband from Canada to Dubai (we were dating for about 4 years at the time) and while in Dubai, I found that I couldn’t get a job in the field I had studied in at University. I made the decision to stay with him and move into a different career path because I knew with all my heart that I wanted to be with him and I wanted the relationship to work. Though I miss my family and friends, I don’t regret the choice I made, he is my home, and I know I can find a career that makes me happy. I’m at the stage where I’m starting to look into a new career path yet again, so while my jobs may change over the years, I will always have my husband to come home to.

  8. Heather

    OMG, Bean is totally starting to look like a TODDLER in that last pic!

  9. sometimes I feel like you’re writing MY story

  10. Thank you Katie for another GREAT post!

  11. I feel the same way about my decisions so far..am hoping it remains that way. 🙂

  12. I remember when I first realized that life isn’t going to turn out exactly the way I always imagined it, and that that was OKAY. It’s good to have these realizations. And I’m so happy with life right now!

  13. Fully regret going to law school here, so…good move! I’m impressed that you worked in a law office beforehand though to figure it out. THAT was smart.

  14. Elisabeth

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m at a point where I’m seriously reevaluating my current career path but I can’t see what’s down the path.
    Ironically, my original plan had always been to go to law school. When my LSAT score didn’t work for the school I wanted to attend, I threw the whole plan into the trash. I still wonder what life would be like today if I had just sucked it up and went anyway.

  15. I just don’t think being a lawyer is all that it is cracked up to be. It isn’t what it once was. I did go to law school and I’m now a second year associate. I wonder almost every day if I made the right decision or if I should have taken another path. But– without that job I couldn’t have bought the house I love. So I guess its good for now. But I hope that the future will present opportunities for me to start again in a new career path.

  16. I was led here by a Google alert for “law school” (I’m the About.com Guide to Law School), and what a wonderful post I found! I did go to law school, and don’t regret one minute of it, but I never wanted to practice law and got out of that track pretty quickly…now I live in southern Italy doing freelance writing and raising goats of all things…somewhere I never thought I’d be for sure!

    It’s great to be able to look back at our choices and appreciate them as otherwise we wouldn’t be who and where we are today 🙂

    P.S. I see in your sidebar that you’re up for the Bloggies; congrats and good luck! I was up for Best European last year…an honor just being nominated of course 😉

  17. Heather in ND

    LOVE IT!

  18. Wow, this is another fabulous post. I’ve been down the same path too. Just like you, I didn’t hesitate to change my own career path so I can follow my husband to Japan so he can pursue his. You know how they say that behind every successful man, there is a strong woman supporting him every step of the way? I do believe that is true in most cases. It’s because we have such strong faith in our partners that we are willing to embrace all the changes that come our way. There are days I stop and ponder “what if” but I’m quite happy with where I am today, even if it’s nowhere near where I had thought I’d be. Jason and Ellie are my life and there’s no where else in this world I’d rather be than here with them.

  19. Katie K

    I needed this post. Thank you.

  20. Awesome! It’s wonderful when you are able to reflect and realize that even though you weren’t where you once imagined you would be, you are in a far better and more exciting place! 🙂 I’m personally grateful that you didn’t go to law school because I’d be missing out on this blog!

  21. Wonderful post, Katie. One of your best, I think… it is nice to be old enough to be able to look back and see how the decisions we have made, right or wrong, have affected the outcome (thus far) of our lives. I think I might take some time to do that today 🙂

  22. Meg

    This post is beautiful. You couldn’t have put the decisions we have to make in life into better words.

  23. Angie

    What a great post! I struggle daily with what I am “meant” to be doing, but agree completely with not changing a thing that has lead me to the people / family / husband / house we have now . . .

  24. Word.

    For years, I figured that I would end up a high school art teacher. Then as I was making my way through art school, I thought that art history/museum studies would be where I would end up. During my last semester of college, I started applying for internships: 2 were for art history/museum internships, 2 were for scenic painting internships (I applied to theater jobs as “back up”–who does that?!) I was turned down by the museum jobs because of lack of experience, but got offers for two scenic painting internships/apprenticeships right off the bat. That’s how I ended up working in theatre. I took the job in Maine because it offered the most money and because I would be near my boyfriend at the near. And it was at the job that I met Aaron. That was 9 years ago. So, you really never know how it is going to work out…like John Lennon says in his song “Beautiful Boy”–“Life is just what happens to you, While you’re busy making other plans.”

  25. Jennifer

    This is my first time commenting on your post. I just recently found you through Pioneer Woman’s site and I must say I love your blog.

    I love this post because I too have struggled with this for the last two years wondering if I had done this or that where would I be and it was nice to see it from someone else’s point of view. Thanks!

  26. It’s amazing to think about the little twists and turns, the decisions big and small, that end up making our lives what they are. I’m often amazed at the smaller decisions that end up being huge. I had a blank MySpace page for a year before I put up a pic and filled out my profile info. One day, I had a slow day at work and filled it out. The next day I got a message on there from the guy who is now my husband. You never know when what you do will make the biggest impact on your life. I’m glad you’re happy with your decisions and can see the wealth in what you have.

  27. Where did you come from Cotton Eyed Joe?

    Sorry, your title made me think of that song. I played it as my celebration song and danced around my dorm room when I found out I had been accepted in the summer geology program to dig up dinosaur bones and study paleoclimate in Wyoming. It was the summer I knew I wanted to be a geologist. That summer changed my life.

  28. After three failed engagements and 2 cancelled weddings, my family was suprised when I planned my wedding in 6 months. And then when I turned up pregnant a few months later and had a son who I am so patient with…my family still talks about how they never seen me “settled down”. I sometimes wonder what would have happened; but I wouldn’t give up the life I have now for any of it. Love your posts!!

  29. It’s funny because I’ve been thinking about how I sort of wish I hadn’t committed to law school. How working at a firm and making “good” money really does tie you down – there is no option to switch to another field without being crazy radical (and I am not that!). I like being a lawyer but I have given up 10 years of dinners at home every night (starting with 1L year in law school) and time on the weekends – first with respect to my husband and now our kids. I don’t really regret my choice but sometimes it feels limiting.

  30. What a beautiful, beautiful post. I am so glad I read this.

  31. Lindsay

    I am a lawyer and I read your blog and wish I was cool and creative like you. I wish I had taken a moment to think if law school was what I really wanted to do with my life. But I just barreled down that path and now 10 years later, doing anything else seems really, well, impossible. So good choice you made!

  32. This post warms my heart. I too work in the legal field (District Attorney’s Office), I too had law school in my sights since grade school, I too had the support of my friends, family & new husband, I too had an acceptance letter in hand when I picked up a camera. I found a new passion, a passion that made me excited to get out of bed everyday, including Saturdays & Sundays & I questioned everything I had planned. I knew my plans and goals were shifting. My husband supported me, my family thought I was nuts when I declined acceptance & started my business. Nearly a year later I’m so proud to be following my passion instead of a plan. If you had asked me a year & half ago where I’d be, this is no where NEAR what I would have expected, and you know what? Its so much better! Thanks for the encouragement & I just wanted you to know you’re not alone. “Reality is so much better than ‘happily ever after'” – Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy!

  33. lovely. change is inevitable, eh?

  34. Kate

    I recently found your blog and wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying it. As a 24 yo who got married the summer after college, it’s great to hear about someone else’s experience. Three days before our wedding, my other half heard back from his dream medical school and we decided to accept the offer, completely changing our plans. Two and a half years later, I’m preparing to apply to med school as he prepares to apply for residency (kind of stressful to find positions in the same city) so I’m pretty sure we’ll have been married 8 yrs by the time we have a dual income (yikes!). I haven’t regretted following him and it’s led to some great opportunities but it’s never where I imagined we’d be.

  35. Great post!! My fav quote has always been “Sometimes on the way to a dream you find another”

  36. The post was beautiful – it had me smiling and holding back tears untiil the end 🙂

  37. Keshet

    Oh, how I love this post. Love it. Relates so so much to what I’m going through in my own life–in law school, as it happens, but gave up corporate/firm life for a lower salary and more life.

  38. I can really relate with your story. About 3 years ago I switched careers from working in the legal system to becoming a full-time mom. I certainly never imagined that this would be the road I would take and although I occasionally experience moments of “what in the h*** was I thinking” I have never looked back. Life is certainly not about what you do, but what you do with it. Great post! =)
    Mindy
    http://www.thesuburbanlife.com

  39. Katie don’t do it!! Don’t go to law school if you’re not 100% committed to the practice (and practice and practice and practice) of law!! And definitely don’t go because someone else thinks you’d be a good lawyer. I think we’ve probably all heard someone say that since we argue, have opinions, and tend to get our way, that would make good attorneys. This is such crap. I know way too many people that went to law school b/c they didn’t know what else to do and they thought they might like it (or be good at it), just to end up hating their job (or worse yet, not finding a job) and dealing with more student debt than they can imagine. It’s so much better to be doing something you love than something that might make you more money. Trust me on this one!

  40. Jessica W

    This was beautiful and thank you for the perspective you have given me in my own life.

  41. I love this post. It put into words things that I have been thinking for quite awhile. Thank you.

  42. courtney

    I didn’t go to grad school so my husband could first finish college and then get started in real estate. After he was established we then had our son who is now 2. I sometimes think of what I could’ve done, but I know without a doubt that I’m happiest where I am now. Maybe one day I’ll go to grad. school, but today I’ll enjoy my family and my life as it is. I completely understand your feelings.

  43. Laura

    I really like this post. I ended up moving to Australia to be with my boyfriend, and I often wonder “what if”: what if he and I hadn’t met? Would I live in America? Who would I be with?

    I think you have made some great decisions, and it’s just beautiful to see where life takes us!

  44. Katherine

    Very true! One of my favortite quotes goes something like this “I may not have gone where I intended to go. But I think I ended up where I needed to be!”

  45. I just made a new blog today because I needed to write about how I’m feeling at this point – when I’m about to put my career on hold to be with my boyfriend. Everybody around me think it’s insane! Reading this post helped me get a grip, and made me feel that maybe this is not such a crazy decision after all. Thanks!

  46. Katie, I needed to read this. I often think about the roads not taken. I think about what I would be doing with my life if I hadn’t met Donald. I wonder whether I’m supposed to be doing something else. We’re on the brink of another move for his career and children and a house are probably in our near future. I’m trying to wrap my head around what is actually a sacrifice and what is actually what I want in my life. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on your journey. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one.

  47. What a wonderful post!
    Thanks so much for sharing your story!!

  48. CB

    As a law school drop-out, I can not fault you for your decision. It’s a truly rotten place to be if your heart isn’t in it – and you don’t know if your heart is in it until you’re there. Catch 22.
    Clearly, I’m in the minority, but my then-boyfriend (now husband) moved across the country with me when I was accepted to law school. He quit an excellent paying job with no new prospects in sight, and left his entire family behind so that I could figure out that law was not something I wanted to do. The fact that he did that for me, so selflessly and so willingly convinced me that he was the man I wanted to marry.
    I think we were both raised with feminist mothers. 🙂

  49. Heather Ben

    Choices are hard…as someone who went through law-school but had figured out two years through that I didn’t want to be a lawyer but stuck around the next two years (I worked full-time during the day) to get the degree since i had already sunk so much time in…and during the four years we put off having kids (daughter is now 1)…i totally understand. only you can know what you want, and the answer doesn’t always have to be more power, better job, etc. etc. it is okay to choose family first even though you could do something else.

    and, oh yes, I get the questions – “don’t you feel like you wasted all that time? why aren’t you going to take the bar – what did you go to law school for?”

    PS – also, law school changes a lot of people. i saw it for myself. it is like super-arrogance they try to instill in you – i get it, wanting to win your argument & all but still… it isn’t always pretty and can make for lots of unpleasant times.

  50. Peachy

    Amen.

    My life is nowhere near what I expected (or what anyone else expected) when I was in college. Those often steep, curvy or crooked roads led to my place in the world. I am content. What a wonderful place to be.

  51. whitney

    Lovely post. Life sometimes throws things at us we never expected. I never thought by 23 I would have been married almost 3.5 years and have a almost 1 year old baby. I wouldnt change it for the world.

  52. ditto.
    i had a dream the other night that i was out on a date with my “life-long crush” and getting along swimmingly… when suddenly i realized that if i took the bate and married the man- i would have no more Jeff (my husband) and no more Charlie (my 10mo. old). no life in Utah, no student loans, no three flights of stairs to my apartment, no van… everything would be different.
    and i just wasnt going to give it all up.
    because, its just too good.
    its MINE.
    and its not perfect… but i wouldnt change a thing.
    as billy joel says, “i love you just the way you are [life]”

  53. Jen

    I like the post Katie but there is a BIG thing missing…why was it a decision for you to follow Chris and not he follow you? Didn’t you guys jointly make some sort of decision about his education taking a priority over yours? Did you ask or think about asking him to postpone his schooling for yours? It’s not to criticize your decision, but I don’t understand the full decision making process. Would be interested to see a 2nd post on this topic. I am sure Chris had questtions about your career goals and such, would like to read what he said/ thought at the time.

    1. Katie

      Those are really great questions and I did leave them out because you’re right – they’d take a whole second post! The short version is that in Chris’ field of technical theater, there just aren’t many graduate programs and Yale’s is arguably the best in the world. It would have been the equivalent of me getting into law school at Harvard. And you just don’t turn that kind of opportunity down. So, it wasn’t that he couldn’t and wouldn’t follow me – in fact, that had been the plan before Yale called him. But when Yale called and asked him to come to school there (he didn’t even submit an application!!), we knew it was an opportunity that wouldn’t come along again. I had been accepted to a second-tier law school and the chances of me getting in at an equivalent program somewhere else was doable. It wasn’t the same for Chris. His degree and, especially, the school was very unique. So, we made the decision because of that. Maybe that’s something he can talk about more in the Man Cave…if I can ever get him to post again!!

  54. Tressa

    Blossom where you are planted.

    Thanks for sharing this very touching story.

  55. I think everyone has a ‘what if’ in their life. Life wouldn’t be life without it. That is the point… to make decisions and sometimes they end up not being the ones you thought, but yet so much better.

    I think you chose happiness and that is always the right choice.

    Sadie at heyMamas

  56. Jen

    Thanks for commenting back Katie, and that WOULD be a great post for him! Tell him I said so! Even though you freely made a decision, I am sure he and other husbands/ wives in those situations struggle with a certain amount of guilt and complex feelings when their situation dictates those big things like where you’re living…reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Committed… she and her boyfriend deal with serious immigration issues and they end up marrying for his citizenship even though she’d sworn off marrying again…that’s a tangent, but kind of related! 🙂 Interesting stuff.

  57. Natalie

    Your post really came at a great time. I just applied to law school for the second time. I didn’t get in last year and spent the following months studying for the LSAT again and retaking it. Plus, I spent months revamping all of my essays, etc. As I was preparing to take the LSAT again this fall I started to feel that maybe I didn’t really want to go to law school. Now that I’ve applied the feeling is stronger. I guess I don’t have to make an actual decision (if I even get to make one) until the letters start coming in, but reading your post was a nice reminder that it won’t be the end of the world if I decide to go in another direction. Thanks for sharing your life with us!

  58. Alice

    It sounds all very nice but mostly woman pay with holding their own wishes back for the family with the following: Working the same time of the day but earning less money. And I don´t speak about beeing at home, but working somewhere in a job while the kids are in kindergarden or by their nanny.
    I feel there is nothing wrong with woman who study and become their children after the university and working maybe part time but for a lot more money. Its nothing wrong with your decisions, but its not really wrong to face both sides :-). Good luck.

  59. Lindsay

    Katie, I’m young and married, too, and I’ve been reading your blog for the past few weeks–ever since I learned I’m going to have a baby in the fall (yay!). Just wanted to say thanks for your many insights–like this one–that have comforted me and helped me find peace when I’m not so sure of things.

    Also, Bean is perhaps the cutest baby in the history of the world. 🙂

  60. Jen

    Thank you for this post. I’m going down a new path right now. I left my job (as close to my dream job as I could get) to move to a new state for my husband’s new job. It was an easy decision, but not easy to leave work. I am looking for a new job in my field but now I’m considering a new career path. I’m struggling to figure out what that is… I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up (Nevermind that I am 31)! In college, my career focused self would have never imagined myself here. But here I am, and it’s OK!

  61. Zoe

    That is so lovely. I teared up :’)

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