Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are three absolute rights that are guaranteed to us by the Declaration of Independence. But did you notice the phrase that I used? The pursuit of happiness, not happiness itself. Does this mean that happiness can be found in the pursuit? Yes! In fact, most happiness is found there.
Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a lawyer. I loved studying history and found lawyers to be inspiring, probably because I perceived them as powerful. I kept my eye on the prize throughout my childhood and early adulthood and I finally made it! I was in law school! My dream had come true. I soaked up every bit of knowledge from each and every class. I earned A’s in almost all my classes and graduated with some of the highest honors given by my law school. I passed the Bar Exam with flying colors. Now it was time for my little girl dream to come true: to practice law.
From my first day as a practicing attorney, I knew it was not for me. Yes, you read right. I had reached my dream, only to realize that it was not for me. I was a lawyer. Yet, I was miserable. Something just did not click. To this day, ten years later, I cannot explain what it was. Was it the law firms? Yes. Was it the areas of law that I was practicing? Yes. Was it the attorneys with whom I was practicing? Yes. It was all those things, yet it was none of them. It was me and my expectations not being met somehow.
Let me take you back to when I was an undergraduate. I was fortunate enough to work for an attorney who was a true lawyer’s lawyer. I still idolize him to this day. What I didn’t realize was that lawyers like him were very rare. He was the type of lawyer who has such grace and integrity to put other people first. I was very fortunate to see the brilliant side of the law first. And, it further cemented my desire to become a lawyer.
Somehow, the lawyers that I worked with after law school just didn’t measure up. They were not bad lawyers, but they were not good lawyers either. Where does happiness fit into this equation? I was never happier in my life than when I was pursuing my dream of becoming a lawyer and more miserable than when I was a lawyer. How is that for irony?
On my first day at my new job right out of law school, I actually shed a tear. Upon reflection, it reminded me of the quote by John Lennon,
“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” I knew that I had to leave and not waste a single second miserable because life is too short.
I started this article with the pursuit of happiness as the theme because, in my experience, setting and achieving goals generates happiness. There is something invigorating about waking every day with a purpose. When the purpose is fulfilled, you must set another purpose, intention, or goal. In the practice of law, I became a victim of someone else’s intention for my life. I was no longer in control and it was scary. I gained control over my life and began setting and achieving my own goals and, therefore, generating my own happiness.
You’re probably wondering how I handled myself after I realized that the formal practice of law was not for me. I reinvented myself! I read about alternative careers for attorneys. I started writing. I began my own internet radio talk show. But most significantly, I started blogging. I found that blogging about fashion and beauty was much more fun than practicing law ever was! So that’s how I controlled my destiny and my happiness.
Audrey Hepburn once said “the most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters”. I took her advice and carved out a life for myself that I find fulfilling and yes, where I derive my happiness. It is by no means perfect, but it is satisfying. So, I have come to conclude that happiness is really in the journey. Both my journeys to the practice of law and to blogging about fashion and beauty have been very fulfilling!
Beth Shankle Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief and Blogger at The Style Bouquet and an attorney who is based in Tallahassee, Florida. She was named a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition’s Essay Division in 2014 & 2015. Her website iswww.TheStyleBouquet.com.