“Fate is a question that I ask someone. And the answer… is something you must find yourselves”
Guardian: The Great and Lonely God (Korean drama, 2016)
Sometimes, we just need a bridge, a sounding board for the next steps in our lives, especially when uncertainty abounds.
Enter transitory mentors.
Society conditioned us to think of mentors as long-term and permanent. If we are fortunate enough to acquire mentors, then we are supposed to consult those same mentors for the rest of our lives. We assume that we will never outgrow our mentors. This also assumes that our mentors will evolve continuously throughout their lives so that they can remain our mentors.
In a linear world, these assumptions may be valid. But we do not live in a linear world. Personal and professional development progresses in a zig-zag fashion. The next step is not clear.
When the next step is not clear, you actually do not need people with answers, because they may have answers to irrelevant questions. You probably do not know what your core questions are. Instead, you need good sounding boards who can help you brainstorm a list of questions that potentially will be edited down to your core questions that you need to ask to prepare for the next steps.
It is as if you are searching for and collecting items in the dark and then bringing them out for closer examination.
Do I want any of these objects?
How do I know?
How do I know that I know?
These random questions ran through my mind when the law firm partner who recruited me suddenly departed nine months later without a word to me. This law partner did not provide me notice – other people informed me that she would be leaving the firm. I felt as if I were living through the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Am I Standing Still?”
I had to figure out my path quickly.
During that turbulent period, I had started working on odd projects with another counsel. In between talking about work, we just fell into talking about planning for our respective careers. He had to figure out how to balance his family and career interests, and also whether Washington, DC was even the right place to raise his family. He mused about these subjects out loud.
As I listened to his musings, I realized that I needed to answer the following:
Did I still want to practice law?
Did I want to move to another firm?
Did I want to move in-house?
Did I want to stay in Washington, DC?
What did I want to do with the next 5 years of my life?
What current activities were contributing to my goals?
What new activities did I need to take up?
Did I want to get married and start a family?
What were the goals of my parents and my brother – my immediate family?
Who else did I need to speak with to discover opportunities and test my theories about what I thought I wanted to do next?
Our meandering conversations enabled me to write out these questions. I realized that I needed to seek perspectives from various people, not answers.
Because the answers rested within me.