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Following my Passion: 3 Years On, Scarier than Ever

May 22, 2013

Three years ago yesterday I stepped out of my Bay Street office for the last time.

My good friend LVS came downstairs to see me off, I want to see this, she said. What she saw was me whirling around with my last box of lawyerly things, twirling down Bay Street smiling, skipping naively into the unknown. When I arrived home a few minutes later my mother was waiting for me with open arms saying I love you so much.

I wondered what had gotten into both of them. Why did LVS want to, in her words, witness this with her own eyes and what had happened to my mom that day to make her so serious? It may have been that both of them had a better understanding of the profondeur of that day, of that decision, than I did at the time.

May 21, 2010, will forever be the day I gave up doing what I should do in exchange for what felt right.

Mom and I, Week 1 of my Post-Bay Street life, Easter Island.

Mom and I, Week 1 of my Post-Bay Street life, Easter Island.

Last June I wrote a post about returning to Geneva for the graduation ceremony of my LL.M. programme, I called it: Geneva One Year On: Not Quite as Scary Anymore (Read it here), and as tough of a time as I had during that year, returning to Geneva, having successfully completed my degree, with one international law contract under my belt and at the outset of a new one in Ethiopia, the old-school French academic rules, my fiance’s visa that never arrived, the isolationist attitudes – none of it seemed as scary anymore.

But here, now, 3 years to the day of leaving my firm, back in the very city I left, having no real plan for the immediate future, following my dreams is scarier than ever.

If someone had of told me, 3 years ago, that I would be sitting here in the same coffee shop where I studied for bar exams years ago, still not having a set plan, I never would have believed them. Up until that point I had pretty much been, in the words of Beyoncé, Schoolin’ Life, at least from the outside. Just cruising from one stage to the next. I figured by 2 years into this I would be well on my way in my new career as an international lawyer. If someone had told me I would still be here, figuring things out after so much time I would probably have brushed their comments aside. I had a plan; I was going to complete my LL.M. in international law, improve my Spanish and French enough to practice law in both, do the CBA Young Lawyer’s Abroad Programme (oh, and I was going to be leading 5.10s by my 30th birthday (sorry, necessary rock-climbing reference)) – and sure enough, somewhat through planning and somewhat through what could only have been fate, I followed that plan to a “T”. I ploughed ahead and did all of those things – so how can it be that I’m here now, still figuring things out?

It turns out that living the dream is hard to do. For me it has been much harder than when I was not living the dream.

When I made the decision to leave my firm some people commented about it being a hard decision. But to me leaving wasn’t hard, it was necessary. But now I see that maybe this was the part they were talking about, the “what next?” When people ask about the book I’m writing I joke that I started out writing it as some-kind of an inspirational follow your dreams book but that it has ended up being more Follow your dreams… and then what?

It is a much different story than I initially envisioned. A much different journey.

At home writing in Toronto, Winter 2013.

At home writing in Toronto, Winter 2013.

I thought I had made the decision three years ago and that was it, but it turns out that wasn’t the end of it; every single day I wake up and have to consciously re-commit to my decision. Some days the pull is so strong I have to stay indoors, for the fear that if I were let out I may start running up and down Bay Street, throwing my cv at every suit-clad passerby pleading take me back, it’s too hard, I’ll do anything, just let me bill some hours! Even if you write them off, I don’t care, just let me bill something!

Every single day I have to re-commit to my decision and plod along this new path, having faith that I’ve made the right decision for my life.

But the good news is; I have still, to this day, not once regretted my decision to leave. Although it has been harder, much harder, than I ever imagined, I never regret it. Not one day. Not while consoling each other on unexpectedly failed exams in Geneva, not while checking in with colleagues at 6 a.m. to confirm we hadn’t been kidnapped in the Darien Gap, and not now, writing this book and not knowing if I’ll ever find a publisher, or even a reader.

I am happy to report that I have never once regretted my decision, and that gives me the faith to go forward on this journey – destination to-be-determined.

After a few harrowing days in the Darien Gap area, el Choco, Colombia.

After a few harrowing days in the Darien Gap area, el Choco, Colombia.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Elva Sullivan permalink
    May 22, 2013 2:22 pm

    Hi, so our journey up the Amazon wasn’t your first kidnapping journey, stay safe on Bay Street and don’t talk to strangers, I still love you. xxooo Mum

    • May 22, 2013 2:41 pm

      Hi Mum, no it was not, and it probably wasn’t even my 2nd, but I’ve got to keep some stories for my book, don’t I. Love you too! Allison

  2. May 22, 2013 3:49 pm

    I enjoyed reading this post and have always been so in awe of your adventurous spirit. At the same time it scares me too much to veer from my linear path (but I give big kuddos to everyone who does!). Even though my linearity has treated me well, sometimes I ask myself if I can keep doing my job for the next 25-30 years, knowing that regardless of the answer to that question, I most undoubtedly will. I think it takes a lot of courage and resolve to eschew the path you’ve set up for yourself in favor of pursuing a passion.

  3. May 22, 2013 4:26 pm

    Wow thank you so much for your supportive words. They are so nice I’m not even sure what to say except THANK YOU. It is support like this that gives me the will to carry on with this. I was blown away by the support I received from everyone while working and travelling in somewhat precarious places abroad but then was perhaps even more blown away at how the support mostly turned to negativity as soon as I got home and took a couple minutes to breath and try something a little different that no one seemed to get. So thank you so much for that and I’m going to share the sentiment with some of my colleagues who don’t have a blog and the chance to get this support but are working away just as hard in private! All the best to you in your endeavours as well and thanks so much for reading!

  4. May 22, 2013 10:35 pm

    Proud of you and proud to call you my friend.

    Keep on keepin’ on. If you’re ever in Ottawa, drop me a line.


    • May 23, 2013 2:40 pm

      Thanks for the support Sacha, right back at you! And yes, I am overdue on a visit to Ottawa hoping to make my way there at some point this summer!

  5. May 23, 2013 5:52 am

    “…leaving wasn’t hard, it was necessary.” Yes! I feel this! Thanks for sharing your journey. I’m almost a year into mine (a year since I quit the job, 8 months since I started traveling) and I can’t imagine my life any other way, although it’s difficult to break free of the “shoulds” and “what ifs.” I find so much strength in the words of others who’ve chosen a similar path.

    • May 23, 2013 2:43 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Colleen, I feel the same way – we all need to support each other in this, there is so much support for other decisions/paths we take in life and for some reason not as much for trying something different career-wise. Congrats to you as well, keep at it! If you’re ever struggling drop me a line to commiserate!

  6. June 9, 2013 11:02 pm

    Sometimes the scariest things in life are the most well worth it. Good luck with your book and way to keep following your dreams!

  7. March 10, 2014 11:56 pm

    I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.
    Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Exceptional work!

    • March 11, 2014 4:10 am

      Thanks so much for your comments! I am glad you like it! I didn’t hire anyone to help with the theme…just spent a lot of time teaching myself the nuts & bolts of WordPress! I have actually been planning to overhaul the blog/at least update it so those comments are helpful. Thank you for reading and please feel free to send along any comments – good or bad!


  1. Following my Passion: 3 Years On, Scarier Than Ever | The Prodigal Adventurer

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