You Have a Friend
“Each of us has a rainbow in the clouds. And the fantastic, most wonderful piece of news is each of us has a possibility of being a rainbow in somebody’s cloud. Isn’t that amazing? Somebody you don’t even know, whose complexion might not jibe with yours, who may eat different foods, or the same foods prepared differently. Somebody.”
— Dr. Maya Angelou
When discussing how she endured harrowing lows, Dr. Angelou, influenced by a 19th Century Black-American spiritual, often recalled the “rainbows” in her clouds. The “rainbows” were people who buttressed her against life’s distresses, when those calamities would be so inclined against her that she might have collapsed under their weight. “Rainbows,” countervailing human forces who joined her in defiance of difficulties, sorrows, tragedies, disillusionments and suffering. Warm voices who lavished balms of encouragement on her wounded spirit. She credited her rainbows with reaching into the darkness of her life to draw her back to the light. A trusted friend who appeared on her doorstep and refused to leave until she allowed him in. She had gone days without answering calls or leaving her apartment or bathing or eating. A grandmother who gently and lovingly wooed here away from six years of mutism following a devastating sexual assault at just nine years old. Rainbows, humans who parted the clouds or opened a broad, sturdy canopy to catch the rain. On this reflection she added, in her speech to students at Wake Forest University, “So if you look beside you, you might see a rainbow. You may have no idea. In fact, when you look in the mirror, you’ll see a rainbow.”
Some days we are immersed in darkness; others we bask in the brilliant light of the Sun. Still others, we are the rainbow: the reflection, refraction and dispersion of light that create the sensation of hope.
In 2015, I awakened to the realization that I had been running from my legal career for the better part of two years. I did have work but was not employed, and for a time was content with this actuality. The condominium I rented had been built to two-levels, and abutted a South Florida canal, just north of Miami. A friend I met in a document review room had decided to leave Florida. She recalled my positive remarks about the peacefulness of her home and the convenience of its location. During that breezy, boozy conversation, fueled by red wine, she revealed that a long-time friend of hers rented the condominium to her at a reasonable rate, based on their friendship and the concern that finding a reliable, trustworthy tenant in Miami was more difficult than finding winter coats there, both rarities! When my friend decided to move, she passed my name along to her friend and gave a glowing recommendation. I was approved to rent the home, along with a roommate of my choice, and was quoted an unbelievably reasonable monthly rate. She was a rainbow. In fact, they both were.
It was in this space that I awakened to my reality: I had not been happy in my career since it began, excepting two rather tumultuous-yet-glorious years as a criminal defense attorney in Savannah. There were numerous mornings, early in my career, during which I spent hours convincing myself to get out of bed and get to the office. What had happened to my dream? Inspired by Thurgood Marshall, Perry Mason, and the polemically-bold Rose Sanders, at age nine I decided I would become an attorney. When I was admitted to the Bar in Georgia in 2005, the nine-year-old in me was elated, but the adult in me was disinterested. I had worriedly accepted the first job offer I was made, and although the pay far exceeded my debts, I did not want the job. Consequently, for six years I used stress as motivation to get me out of bed, into the shower, out the door, and up to my office in Buckhead with a large window overlooking some of the best views in the neighborhood. I managed a team of three-then-two paralegals, and eventually rose to the position of second attorney. This was not an honorable position, and the work we did embarrassed me.
These were the thoughts that stirred me awake during an early, balmy Florida morning just north of Miami in 2015. As I sat in nearly two hours of traffic –only to go sit for another ten as I thanklessly poured over volumes of evidence– I pondered the choices I had made that had led to what I finally knew was a very profound sadness. I should have been happy! I lived in one of the liveliest cities in the world, in a clean, comfortable home, on a canal. Miami was equal parts sun and water, and was host to one of my favorite tennis tournaments. I had work, and could occasionally afford the tempestuous night life on South Beach that was preposterously exorbitant! But what was I doing there? Gone was the uptight disposition I had surprisingly taken on in Georgia, but also gone was the curiosity that drew me out of my apartment back in Chicago. And, I never made good on the promise to myself to get licensed in Florida. Here, in 2015, I was north of Miami and north of forty. I had little interest in parties. And, I no longer wanted to be an attorney. I was lost.
When I arrived to the building hosting the review rooms, I found an open spot facing a beautiful palm, looking out on another of Miami’s multiple canals. I sat for a few minutes in my truck, grateful for the view. Months earlier I had begun mediating actively, and meditation had shown me the positive effects of stillness and gratitude. Three years later, in 2018, parked under that same palm, before that same canal, I sat in my truck and decided that it was time to leave Miami, to either take up my career anew or choose another career altogether. And, almost a week later, the friend who had served as my reference for the condominium with the relaxing views, unexpectedly re-emerged to offer work under her supervision. Suddenly, my professional sunshine I had come during the stillness.
The work I was offered paid well, and could be done from anywhere. I chose Jacksonville. I had already considered moving there in an effort to establish a reasonable pace in my life, and it was close and easy. In Jacksonville, after some wrangling, I created a beautiful, peaceful home with sunset views off the balcony. I worked tirelessly, nearly every day of the week, and unwittingly re-kindled my passion for legal work! The nine-year-old who had engendered the dream of becoming an attorney came alive, and my recently discovered love of the law was now insatiable. I fed my hunger with webinars, CLEs, and ravenously consumed any content related to eDiscovery, Data Privacy or Cybersecurity. I began to wonder what my career might have been had I found this passion in year one as opposed to year thirteen.
Two years later –in year fifteen– the Universe answered my query, during a pandemic. The messenger was an indefatigable, irrepressible connector of humans. She reflected, refracted, and dispersed light spiritedly, and unfalteringly dispelled what had been more than a decade of rainstorms. She began pushing me beyond what I had long accepted as my “middling” years, and set me on a course to share my life, honestly. Thus began a blog. And, as I now close another tale expositing my journey to becoming a whole attorney, I reflect in gratitude on the year’s broadest, most colorful rainbow and how she converted a wandering, middling attorney into a focused thought-provider with illimitable dreams.