A lot of things haven’t gone as planned for me in 2014, so far at least. I’d planned to be in the office January 2-7 with no distractions, anticipating the early release of LSAT scores. Then, a family event (thankfully a happy one) called our family to Savannah January 2-6. LSAT scores were released while I was somewhere between Los Angeles and Houston at 30,000 feet. Of course.
Then, fast forward to Monday. We had seats on the first flight out out of Savannah so we would be back at work before noon PST. Ready to make up for the lost weekend, leaving our hotel at 4 a.m., I turned on my cell phone. There it was: notification that our flights were cancelled and rescheduled for noon. Wait, not just noon: noon on FRIDAY.
Thanks to the “cold vortex” my husband, two daughters, and I were stuck in the travel vortex. Through an hour of negotiations with the airline (by my practicing attorney of a husband at his best and worst) we learned that our only chance to get back to California before Friday was out of Houston on Wednesday.
So, we were first in line for a rental car when Hertz opened at 6:30 a.m., and we got in our Chevy Cruze, making way for the freeway headed west. I spent the next hour on Google Maps trying to figure out the best way to Houston. I really wanted to visit friends in Atlanta and Huntsville but they reported icy roads. We’re Californians. We don’t know what to do with rain, let alone ice. So we headed south: Montgomery to Mobile to New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Houston. One thousand miles in two days.
I talked to clients by day and checked applications and personal statements by night. My kids got to see Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church and had beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and my husband had his first (and last, if it’s up to him) real road trip. Through it all, my clients were incredibly empathetic and patient, my team members helped make sure people were taken care of, and the kids learned how to handle things when faced with inconvenience and unexpected challenges that are out of their control.
I told them stories of my clients as inspiration and explained how fortunate we were to be able to afford a rental car, hotel, and food, without being restricted to the inconvenient and pathetic airline vouchers. They got it. They were rock stars.
I don’t know if it’s all the hot yoga I’ve been doing the last six months or the fact that my 40th birthday is around the corner, but I never lost my cool throughout the ordeal. I actually, secretly, enjoyed three extra days with my family. After all, what could I do about it?
It took several days for me to catch up on work, and we faced a few more surprises upon our return, but I realized that how we deal with challenges defines us more than how we deal with success. And this lesson applies directly to those of you retaking the LSAT in February because December didn’t go well and to those of you deciding whether to apply or re-apply next year instead of late in the law school admission cycle this year. What will you do with your extra time? How will you deal with the delay? The cancelled plans? What can you learn from the experience that will help you when something bigger than the LSAT (or a cancelled flight) goes wrong? How can you regroup, meet your needs, and balance the needs of parents, friends, and significant others?
From my little adventure, I learned that my kids kept calm and happy because I did. Even though I didn’t work out for three days, we had no help with the kids (who were begging to be back in school), and we were missing work, we kept our cool and even had a few laughs. Had we been stressed, the kids would have reacted to that.
All of this turned out to be practice for a really big day today: my daughter confided in me about concerns about her coach, and a treasured and valued and loved employee gave notice that she wants to be a full-time mom. In 2013, either of these conversations would have become emotional. But today, neither one was. I was able to stop what I was doing (getting the kids ready for school) and sit on the stairs with my 10-year-old and make sure she felt I was taking her concerns seriously and that she knew she could count on me to hear her out and give her choices. And I did the same for my employee who called to resign. I was able to think clearly and propose a different division of duties and urge her not to act impetuously during a stressful time. I was able to find a way to show her that there might be a solution she hasn’t considered.
And instead of being stressed that I had to carve four hours out of my day to support my daughter in trying a new gym, giving up the whole “caught up on work” satisfaction and my own tennis workout, I sat and typed this blog post on my cell phone, something I would have said I didn’t have time to do had I stayed in the office. Maybe having to waste time is a gift, even when you think you have better things to do and need to be constantly moving forward.
For the February LSAT takers/late appliers to law school, think this through. Maybe apply this year to see what happens, but keep your options open about trying again early in the next cycle. Maybe don’t push so hard to start law school in 2014. Maybe take a deep
breath and regroup after a disappointing LSAT or a late start to the application process. Take time to evaluate your real priorities so you don’t end up at a law school you hate, far from the people you love, only to be stuck there after a disappointing first year of law school.
I got a lot done in the last week, some was tangible work and some was intangible, but all
of it was incredibly valuable. I don’t know what else 2014-or turning 40 in a few weeks- will throw at me, but I feel more ready for it. I guess I have the vortex to thank.