Have you ever had a moment where you were lying in bed or commuting or drinking coffee while reading the New York Times on a rainy Saturday morning and you suddenly felt wrong. What I mean by wrong is you suddenly felt like you chose the wrong path, or you might be in the process of choosing the wrong path? I had this moment my sophomore year of college. My original plan for my life was to be an author. I wanted to write great novels about family dynamics or coming of age stories. Then somewhere along the line, I decided I would be on the other side of things: I was going to be a literary agent, editor, or some other bookish role that went into the process of helping others get their work into the world. Then one day, while chomping on popcorn and drinking tea, I looked at my roommate (who also happened to be my best friend), and said, “what if I went to law school?”
Now, this moment wasn’t the kind of Elle Woods moment you may think. I didn’t wake up and decide I was going to law school one day. My decision to change my career’s trajectory came somewhat slowly. Looking back, law has always been a contributing instrument in the background of my life. I used to have files of research I’d done on things I was interested in, which included a rather embarrassing stint with the Founding Fathers, many of whom were lawyers. I went to Girls State in high school, where me and five hundred other CA representatives had to draft bills, and figure out how laws became laws and what the implications of certain laws are for given groups. I also served on Academic Honor Council in college, where I worked on cases of academic dishonesty. I got a serious rush every time I saw AHC emails come in. I felt an even more intense rush when I picked up a case packet to review. I went through each document with a fine-toothed comb, trying to come up with good questions to ask at the hearing.
Somewhere between my Founding Fathers obsession and my Academic Honor Council service, I decided being a literary agent wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. That’s when I started researching other careers, and I discovered Intellectual Property law. This area of law deals with copyright (protection provided by law to authors of “original works of authorship.” This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other creative works.* Think novels or blogs -insert wink face) and trademark (“any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another and to indicate the source of the goods.”* Think Nike’s swoosh). I felt giddy because this seemed like it could blend my love of the law and working with people to protect innovation with literature, music, and the creation of brands. That’s when I knew my four-year plan was changing.
As you know from my 1L in review, I almost had a life-altering change again once I got to law school. However, the hurricane of stress is now past, and I’ve reassembled myself so I will be sticking with my dream of being an attorney. But the change to my “dream” (for me it was a career dream, but dreams, as we know, come through many facets) was subtle. I didn’t feel it happening all at once until a change was basically having a staring contest with me over popcorn. Change can be seen as negative. I mean, how many times do we hear “she’s changed” or “he just changed” about people in the context of lost romances or friendships? Change in such a context isn’t interpreted positively. The person changed and that was wrong because it led to the demise of something. So, I wanted to share some thoughts on changed dreams.
One || It is ok to change your dreams. I thought about placing this last, but I feel like it’s important to get this out there upfront. Change is ok. Change is allowed. Change should be encouraged. If you know something isn’t right or is no longer making you happy, even if it is something you referred to as your “dream,” do not be afraid to wake up and let it go. The best dreams are those that aren’t clearly outlined, but rather left an impression. Have you ever woken up, knowing you were having a vivid dream, but once your eyes flutter open you realize you can’t recall a single detail but have this wholesome, happy feeling in your gut? Those are the dreams you should chase. If you feel like it’s Groundhog day, and you’re in a rut that’s sucking your life away, it’s okay to make a change. This doesn’t mean going from ballet dancer to top chef, but maybe it means going from ballet dancer to hip-hop dancer. It’s ok to change completely or tweak just enough to get you excited again!
Two || Go with life not against it. Sometimes life just happens. When you think about it, natural disasters and life are basically the same. Life can be gorgeous, and going well for so long, but suddenly, WOOSH, a big huge storm comes in. There’s a reason “when it rains it pours” is a cliche for life. You can plan out every year of your life, but sometimes there’s no chance to prevent change. Dreams can be forced to change because of circumstances outside your control. Don’t fight change when it seems like every “sign” is pointing in a different direction. You’ll tire and burn out faster if you constantly swim against the current than shifting course and letting the current take you [apologies for all the nature metaphors].
Three || Trust your gut. I think the hardest decisions I ever made were those when my head said one thing and my gut said another. Knowing what to do when you are having an internal Cold War can be challenging, and often leads to inaction because we’re too scared to go one way or the other, convinced whatever decision we make will be the wrong one. This may seem similar to my second point, but this is more personal. In my second point, life is against you. In this, you’re against you. When you know something is wrong, listen. I have this thing where if I know something is wrong, but it’s breaking my heart to acknowledge that fact, I have difficulty letting go. I also feel like when everything’s going right I’m just as doubtful! I guess I’m just an overly analytical person, but may you are too!
Four || Consult the opinions you value most. I think we all have people in our life we go to for advice. Under the umbrella category of “I trust your advice,” we have the “on” category. As in, I trust my dad’s advice on financial decisions, I trust my mom’s advice on my personal life, and I trust my sister’s advice on fashion and beauty (note: I trust them all on a lot more than the listed items). When I am making a big life change, I want to hear what the people who mean a lot to me and who know me well think about the decision. Do they think I’m making the wrong choice? Do they think there’s a better alternative? It’s all up in the air, and if I really need advice, I have a short list of people I consult. However, I find I usually only consult people if I am unsure I want to trust my gut!
I could add more tips, but I think the four that I shared are my best. Changing your dreams is hard. However, dreams are essentially glamorized goals, and people tend to be less scared to change their goals than they are their dreams. If you’re unsure you’ve decided the right path, it’s okay to redirect. If you’ve seen the movie Something Borrowed, there is a part when Dex (the attractive male attorney) asks his dad if there was ever a time when the dad went really far down a path, so far it seemed impossible to turn around and change course, even when he really wanted to. The dad, given the circumstances, brushes this off, telling Dex to stay the course. However, I think this question is so important. We only have one life to live, and it’s very important we live it well. We cannot be afraid to redirect. This doesn’t mean running away when things are hard, or flip flopping all the time, but if you’ve gotten into something and realize it’s not what you feel you’re meant to do, it’s okay to alter your course to feel more at peace.