It was a gorgeous summer's day, I was luxuriating in my Friday off & happy in the anticipation of a meeting a friend for lunch on the terrace of our favourite cafe. We'd been sitting for only a moment when my friend leant over to me & with tears in her eyes said "Mills, I hate what I do." It was the proverbial 'Bolt right out of the blue'.
My friend, so strong & assured, so assertive & intelligent - the one we all look to for stability & strength. When things go wrong & we occasionally lose our way through life's great journey she is always, always there to pick us up. I was totally at a loss. Maybe I 'd misunderstood what she had just said, maybe I'd missed a couple of vital words - but no, as she uttered the words again, I knew for certain that this lunch was going to be very different from all the others we'd had over the years.
She did law, topping her class with distinction, then followed a rapid rise with an established group, culminating in a partnership. About 8 years ago, the chance to buy the practice on the retirement of the 2 Senior Partners saw her taking the risk & doing it. She worked hard, introduced new & innovative initiatives. Her business grew & thrived & expanded, her loving husband & gorgeous kids always by her side with their love & support - by all intents & purposes she had it all. There were overseas trips speaking at international legal conferences , accolades by her peers, a book on her expertise in mediation almost complete - my brain could hardly process her mind-numbing words.
But then the haze & fog of my confusion lifted & I began to understand & see what she was really saying. It was not the work per se she hated, it was the specialty she'd chosen all those years ago - Family Law. So many years of adversarial combat in court, watching people's lives unravelling in the most horrible ways, listening day in & day out to the vitriol & hatred & contempt that sadly so often goes with relationship breakdowns. She's not burnt out, or suffering from depression, isn't hormonal, nor is she going through a temporary crisis, she's just simply & totally over it - done, finito. I know her so well & that's the facts.
So now, the impregnable armour she's clothed herself in each day for so many years has been pierced & she's bleeding profusely. To cut a long story short, we talked for 3 hours & will continue to do so in the coming days. She is determined in her resolve to make a change in her life, but it has intense & multi-faceted ramifications. Her family are confused & worried, not knowing how to help or counsel her. She will do what's needed I'm sure of it, but it's going to be a hard few months. In her wonderful way, she has always ensured a balance in her life by developing strong & diverse interests outside of work. I believe she knows that one of these is where her future lies & with courage & conviction, she will follow her heart down that path.
For me, the big question here is "Do you love what you do?" And if you don't, if all the practical obstacles could be removed, what is it that would make you the happiest - & produce a life of great meaning, fulfillment & deep personal satisfaction. Yes, it's a little D&M for a Monday morning, but it's the question that's been spinning around in my head since Friday. If you'd like to share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you. I think there'll be some fascinating comments - & if you've been a lurker at The Hedge maybe now's the time to join in - you'd be warmly welcomed.