A Remarkable Absence of Fear

See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know
If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

-“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Today marked both an end and a beginning.  It was my last day at my law firm.  My last day as a real lawyer.  And to invoke an old (but in this case very apt) cliché, the first day of the rest of my life.

It was a bittersweet day.  I said goodbye to colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and even adversaries whom I’ve grown to really enjoy talking to and spending time with in recent years.  I certainly hope and expect to keep in touch with many of them, but it’s unrealistic to expect that will be true of everyone, so in a way it’s a sad day.

I certainly felt a mix of emotions as I sent my farewell email, cleared out my belongings, turned over my computer, and left the office for the last time.  It was made a bit less dramatic by the fact that most people had left the office early, leaving fewer faces to say goodbye to, so I didn’t get teary-eyed or weepy.  (At least for now…  that’s likely still to come at the happy hour celebration we’re scheduling a few weeks out.)  I still felt, however, just about every emotion I could imagine: sad, joyous, relieved, excited, grateful, determined….  But as I rode down the elevator it struck me that a single emotion was remarkable in its absence:  fear.  I was not the least bit afraid that I was making a mistake or that I will fail in my new endeavor.

Certainly that may still be to come.  But at least for now, I have this remarkable feeling that whatever I do, I am absolutely certain it is for the best.  I have not a single doubt that it is the right decision for me–not an ounce of fear of what lies in store.  Because the reality is that I can never know how far I can go toward my dreams unless I actually leave.  In that sense, I feel there is really nothing to fear.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a hard time answering questions to the satisfaction of either myself or those asking them.  A lot of people at work have asked (always with excited curiosity and never judgment) questions like “What kind of job will you have?” “Where will you work?”  “Where will you live?”  “What exactly do you mean by marine conservation?”  The true and most accurate answer at this moment in time is I don’t really know.  But the lawyer in me still doesn’t allow me to give that as an answer and most often I stumble through some attempt to portray some of the (many) ideas in my head.  I could work for a non-profit.  I could work for the U.S. government (well, not really at the moment, but that’s a whole other blog…).  I could work with foreign governments.  I could live in DC working directly on federal government policy.  I could live abroad on some idyllic tropical island.  I could focus on coral conservation, overfishing, endangered marine life, effects of climate change…   The possibilities really are endless.  And paradoxically, it is that uncertainty that rids me of fear–it makes me realize that regardless of what I actually end up doing, I know I will do something that will effect change.  What exactly?  I won’t know until I try.

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve opened up every blog post with a quote–something that inspires me, motivates me, or reflects my thoughts.  Since I started this, I knew that for one important post I would use my favorite line from Moana.   Now I’m usually not much for cartoon movies, but I used my god-daughter Parker as an excuse to see it because the lyrics and music were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  But the movie ended up resonating with me.  Moana has to leave the comfort and safety of her island for the unknown in order to do what she is made to do.  (And if I ever take one of those silly “which Disney princess are you” quizzes, she’d BETTER be it.)

When I watched the movie I felt as though the song could’ve been written for me–it expressed perfectly how I was drawn to the ocean.  I thought I’d probably use it when I set sail across the world, but upon reflecting on this post, it seemed truly perfect for my exodus from my legal career.  “If I go there’s just no telling how far I go.”  For me, more importantly,  unless I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.  As I stare out into the unknown and prepare to take the leap, I won’t know where I’ll land unless my feet leave the ground.  I can’t know how far I can go in this world unless I actually go.  Unless I leave my comfortable career and embark on something new.  Unless I leave my island and set out toward worlds unknown.

And so I go.

There’s a moon in the sky and the wind is behind me
Soon I’ll know how far I’ll go

-“How Far I’ll Go (Reprise)” from Moana, lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

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