This week, I will have the honor once again to guest lecture at Georgetown Law Center. It’s always a thrill to connect with these bright young minds, but now more than ever I feel the need to warn them about some of the challenges that will lie ahead in the upcoming years. Among the many things I’d wish someone would have explained to me, here are a few:
(1) Live and let live– You probably won’t “get” the 75% that never finished college, and they won’t necessarily “get” you. It’s ok, as long as you don’t pass judgment on one another’s life choices.
(2) Keep an open mind. Through law school, life came with a clear cut plan– after you get that degree, many of your plans may well get thrown out the window. You may not get married when you want to, or you may get divorced when you least expect to; you may not get the job you imagined having; your friends may all scatter. The more you can adapt to life’s twists and turns, and not try to control everything, the better off you will be.
(3) Not all efforts get rewarded. Some clients are impossible to make happy; some bosses will be terrible about positive affirmation; companies can lose funding and may have to let good people go. So, find ways to validate and reward yourself.
(4) Work is not everything–don’t let it consume your whole life. Strive to find a balance between work and a life outside. Don’t take significant relationships in your life for granted, if you do, you may wind up very alone.
(5) Mental Health– Be aware that depression and anxiety are common problems among professionals. Many don’t cope well with stress and develop bad habits. Find positive ways to decompress and recharge, and remember it is ok to ask for help.
(6) Stay positive, and remember you alone are responsible for your happiness. Happiness is not a permanent state of being, it is a feeling that you need to keep finding for yourself through a variety of experiences. Learn what your needs are and develop healthy ways of communicating those with others.
(7) Don’t avoid conflict. It’s an unavoidable part of life, so address it. By that, I don’t mean launch World War III and go nuclear. Not all situations have to be adversarial– in fact, most are not. Try to shut off the litigator mentality outside the courtroom, those around you will appreciate it immensely.
(8) Be kind to yourself. Constantly striving for excellence is exhausting and impossible to achieve. Realizing that 90% is still pretty darn good can be quite liberating– and it becomes essential once you enter parenthood.
These are just a few of the many tips I’m hoping to share during my lecture on family law. It’s funny how obvious they seem, and yet so many struggle to implement them in their daily lives. I imagine that those that at least make a concerted effort to follow these are the ones staying together; the ones that aren’t are the ones I see every day in the divorce world.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.