When I was younger, I was always “good” at school. I turned in my homework on time, never caused a ruckus, and never questioned the teachers’ authority—after all, they were adults, and adults always know what they’re talking about, right?
I also happened to be good at test-taking and, consequently, got good grades. Not just in English and history, but math and science, too. As I continued to get older, the classes got more difficult and extracurriculars came into play, but I still was “good” at most things. Sure, it was easier to pull A’s in English and History classes, but I was still good at math, and science, though getting more difficult, really interested me, and was still certainly doable.
But then I started to encounter classes that I wasn’t so good at. A “B” in chemistry. A “B-“ in biology. In college, a “B-“ in the next level of calculus. I even had a “C+” in Spanish in high school that was changed to a “B-“ because of a rounding error; my average was 79.6.
Some of these classes interested me quite a bit—I just wasn’t “good” at them right away, or ran into a teacher that I didn’t jibe with, or didn’t do well for some other equally stupid reason. Instead of buckling down and working harder on those subjects, I tried to skate through them as easily as possible before throwing them in the “do not take in the future” pile. Pretty soon, I was taking almost exclusively history/English/Poly Sci courses, with a few random “easy” classes thrown in to fulfill prerequisites.
As college drew to a close, and the time came to choose a profession, I was pushed by well-meaning friends and relatives toward law. I guess that’s what poly sci majors “do.” I had no idea what a lawyer actually did, but everyone reassured me that a law degree was very versatile. “You can do whatever you want with it!” was the common refrain. Even though I wanted to do something more creative, or, barring that, in something like physics, those were either “impractical” or “too hard” in my mind; perceptions that were reinforced by the well-meaning individuals around me.
So I took the LSAT, figuring, “why the hell not?” I studied from a Kaplan book at lunch every day and took a practice exam or two in the weeks leading up to it. I didn’t waste money on one of those test-prep courses because, honestly, I wasn’t terribly excited about “the law” anyway.
Unfortunately, I ended up doing very well on the LSAT, and, at that point, in my mind, the die was cast. I was going to law school because that was the path of least resistance.
Of course, here I am six years later, on a completely different path entirely. The big problem was that I followed the path of least resistance for far too long, a dangerous decision. Following the path of least resistance made my default reaction to adversity “shutdown mode,” where I just told myself I wasn’t good at whatever it was, and moved on to the things I still was “good” at. In retrospect, this was flat-out cowardly on my part. I never really had to work all that hard in school for anything, and consequently found myself headed somewhere that I didn’t want to be.
As the years compound upon themselves, the path of least resistance probably offers a fairly comfortable, safe existence. I could’ve continued on as a lawyer at my old firm for a few more years. Heck, I might have even been able to make partner there. But being a lawyer, let alone a partner at a law firm, isn’t really what I wanted with my life. I was just flat-out unhappy. I had to venture off the path at least once in my life to see what’s out there; to see if I could make a go of it. If you find yourself acting cowardly, the path to bravery is paved through areas where you are uncomfortable or otherwise encounter adversity (at least that’s what I learned from the Lord of the Rings movies). Before I had a family to care for and all kinds of great “stuff” like a mortgage and car payment, I had to see how I responded to some real –life adversity.
So far, so good. Sure, there are days where writing can be a real slog, and I wonder if I made the right decision. Sure there is rejection and there are setbacks. But with each success I have now, I learn how to deal with those other obstacles in a more sustainable and bolder manner, and can feel myself gradually turning into the person that I want to be.
And it feels pretty fucking great.