Proximate Cause

I am usually well-prepared for pretty much everything.  I do not just have a Plan B for most things, but also plans C, D, and E.  I hope for the best but expect the worst, a philosophy that has served me (and my clients!) well.  For this reason, the morning of April 28th was a surprise.

April 28th was my last day as a law firm partner before starting Pivot Point on May 1st.  I entered the office early that morning to drop off my keys, building pass, and laptop.  And to send the “farewell” email I had already drafted.

I was so laser-focused on moving forward that it was almost like I had tunnel vision about the future.  My office was packed, and the boxes were ready to ship.  All exit forms had been filled out, and the departure memos had been written.  I had already formed an LLC for my new business, obtained the EIN, and opened the business bank account, along with dozens of other pre-launch tasks. Out with the old, in with the new! I was SO ready to start my new endeavor.  At least, I thought I was. 

The unexpected happened as I sat at my desk for the last time and looked out my eastward-facing Sixth Avenue window.  I started to cry. The crying quickly turned into outright sobbing.  All the while, three letters kept going through my head:  WTF.  Why was I grieving a life I was choosing to step away from?  Was I unprepared for what was ahead?

In all my planning and preparation, I failed to appreciate something: I was leaving the full-time practice of law.  I was so excited about the future that I forgot that I had spent more than half my life either as a law student or practicing law.  Being a lawyer was a vital part of my identity for so long.  While I was still going to practice law part-time in addition to consulting, I was leaving behind the only way of life I had ever known as an adult.  The significance of this pivot never even crossed my conscious mind in the lead-up. It took turning into a sobbing mess for me to see it.

During the last few weeks, I have given myself some grace and time to reflect. After a lifetime of society and psychology telling me how dangerous it is for my job to become my identity, I have learned that it would be impossible for my career not to be part of who I am. 

I am happy that being a lawyer has shaped my identity.  I would not have been able to pivot into risk management consulting otherwise. 

In tort law, there is a concept called “proximate” cause.  It means that “but for” a specific action, a particular result would not have happened.  But for being a lawyer, I would never have conceived of, created, and launched Pivot Point.  And I would not have wanted it to be any other way.

Change is hard.  But I have learned in the last few weeks that leaving parts of your life behind that no longer serve you does not mean forgetting everything you have been through or throwing away your whole identity and ties to the past. It simply means transforming yourself, integrating your past, present, and desire for the future into something new and better. 

In retrospect, while I may not have been prepared for the loss I would feel, I was ready for the future. I just needed to grieve the loss of my old self as part of letting go of “what is” in favor of “what can be.”  And “what I can be” would never have evolved but for my past.