A few weeks ago we presented a program in Columbia entitled “What Matters Most: Crafting a Well Lived Life.” The program was for lawyers and explored what it means to live an “epic life.”
One of the speakers, Zack Paben, challenged the group with this question—Would your 12 year old self be proud of you today?
Ouch. That cuts a little close.
I went to college, got into law school, passed bar exams in two states, built a successful law practice and even have my own law firm. I am nothing if not grown up.
But reflecting on that 12 year old version of myself, I see a kid who possessed something I don’t have—the understanding of what it looks like to suck the marrow out of life. I think about a kid who wanted to study history..to make movies…to take epic mountain bike rides on single track deep in the mountains and swim with sharks. I’m pretty sure I never wanted to bill hours, work 7 days a week preparing for trial, or wake up at 3:00 in the morning worried about whether I raised a statute of limitations defense in an answer.
Like a lot of lawyers, there are ways I’ve allowed obligations and responsibilities to become my excuse for giving up on living the life I want to live. I tell myself I am realistic and pragmatic. But is that simply my way of letting myself off the hook?
Of course responsibilities are what it means to be an adult. My obligations to my children, my clients, and my firm are real. I would be a fool to pretend they are not.
But I don’t think it has to be either/or. Our binary way of thinking isn’t the only way to look at the world. We can be a good lawyer and still write poetry. We can be responsible to our clients and still kayak class IV whitewater. We can be a good parent and still build an art studio in the back yard.
The years are going to pass. We can spend them creating the life we want or we can spend them living the life we don’t.
Either way the choice is ours.
Zack Paban’s More Heart Than Scars helps adaptive athletes compete in Spartan races. A lot of the teams are made up of high school boys on the autism spectrum with whom he works as a mental health coach. In 2018 I filmed 3 of these races for Zack and his group. If you want to see what it looks like when a group refuses to be defined by their scars or disabilities click here.