Why? Why now?

In two weeks I am getting on a plane to Bogota, Colombia with my younger brother, Steven White. We have a hotel for two nights when we arrive, and zero plans between then and when I depart from Buenos Aires at the end of August in the middle of September. This is coming from someone who just downloaded an app in my uber to the airport to plot out the best lunch at O’Hare (it was good, Tortas Frontera). But more on our travel philosophy in the next post…

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First, why am I doing this? When I let people know my plans, I get reactions ranging from “Wow! You/We can do that?” to “Jen (insert slight arm touch, hushed voice, and look of concern)…is everything OK.”

Yes, I assure you everything is OK. In fact, everything is all and all pretty great right now. But just to confirm for the sake of the Internet record – I’m not having a mental breakdown, no major health issues, and I am not burnt out.

So then, why?
I’m eight years into law practice. Those eight years have been a sprint and have passed by in a flash. I can’t believe if I were at a firm, I’d be starting my run for partner. I’ve worked hard, really really hard (I’ve of course also had tons of fun and made some history). Before that, I rushed my way through college and law school, working throughout both. In the past 15 years, the only time I’ve really ever been untethered from a job/school was my six week post-bar exam trip with Jerry.

Then Steven decided he wanted to take six months off and travel the world. I thought “that is awesome, but he is a dev, it is easy for them – they can sneeze and get competing job offers.” I then, like the diligent lawyer I am, went through in my head all the bad things that could happen if I even just asked to take some time off. Would people take my career less seriously? Would it impact my upcoming review? Would I get less exciting work and passed over for good roles? Given I enjoy my job, I didn’t want to do anything that would put my current trajectory at risk.

But after going through a few personal issues this year that were those slap in the face reminders about how short and precious time is, my thought process eventually switched from paralyzing myself with all the risks, to focusing on the risks of not doing it, and telling myself “Jen – don’t be an idiot – what is really the worst that could happen.” In comparison to the slap in the face reminders, it was nothing.

Also, as I hit the mid-career phase, I now see with more clarity how careers are a marathon, and if I continue to treat mine like a 100 meter sprint, I won’t make it to mile 26. Time to regroup, refresh, and switch up my training methods to prepare for the longer term.

Regarding timing and why now, I realized that in my current living situation there is an opportunity. As most of you know, Jerry took a job in California about a year ago. That has meant we commute (royal we, Jerry bears most of the commute burden) and live ~700 miles apart during the week. This allows me to take the three months without the impact being gone for that long would usually have. And I have to say, Jerry has been the most supportive partner I could ever ask for in this – challenging me to make the right decisions and push myself. Thank you, Jerry.

Luckily, in the end I worried myself for absolutely nothing. My leadership and colleagues have been nothing but absolutely supportive. Nothing bad has happened. In fact, in many ways I’ve experienced the opposite. So thank you to everyone who encouraged me to make this happen. I promise I won’t waste this opportunity and I am eternally grateful.

 

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