On paper, I never should have been there. But somehow, I was. Surrounded by other law students-turned summer associates at one of the top 25 law firms in the United States. That summer in San Francisco a decade ago absolutely changed my life.
I graduated from high school in a town without a single stoplight and went to college in a place where we literally left our doors unlocked 24-7. So when I hopped a plane and moved into my furnished apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay, it was a big freaking deal. I didn’t know a soul. Didn’t really know how I would survive without a car. Should have been scared to death. But I did it anyway.
That summer, I realized I was capable of doing big things. That I could do legal work on par with the best students in the country. That I could navigate the bus system in a major US city. That I really could do after my crazy dreams, no matter how outlandish they seemed.
I met some amazing people. Several of whom I am still in touch with today. I remember our first day sitting in a conference room and going around the table introducing ourselves by name, law school, and what exotic location we planned to go to for our bar trip. I didn’t even know people took bar trips! But hearing these people just like me talk about plans to go to Europe and Fiji and Australia really opened my eyes. And I credit that conversation that one day with the fact I have now been to 11 countries around the world, because I realized I could go!
I learned to get over my fear of being not enough–not sophisticated enough or smart enough or good enough–by ordering lunches at fancy restaurants. Many times, I didn’t have a dang clue what the menu items were. Ceviche? Gnocchi? Was chicken fried steak really not an option? So, I adopted a system. I always ordered the thing that looked closest to grilled chicken. And it seemed to work out well.
I took up running, a hobby that has served me well, both physically and mentally, for the last decade. Each morning or afternoon I would lace up my shoes and run along North Beach or the Wharf, enjoying every smell and sight along the way. Particularly enjoyable was my frequent detour through the chocolate shop at Ghiradelli Square for their daily chocolate sample. It was the end of summer when I ran the Progressive Marathon portion of the San Francisco Marathon and knew I would run the half there some day, a goal I accomplished 4 years later.
I had experiences that I still look back on and smile because it felt like a movie. Riding the trolley to work every day, weekends in Napa, biking the Golden Gate Bridge, getting notifications when my favorite bakery had fresh cookies (good thing I took up running!), cocktails at a rooftop bar in LA, drinking the best margarita with limes pulled right off a tree, watching Bay to Breakers and the Escape from Alcatraz triathalon. There are times when I need to relax that I close my eyes and remember one night in that apartment of mine with the window open, and I swear I can still feel and smell the cold air blowing off the Bay.
That summer that began 10 years ago this week changed me in the best ways. And although when it was all said and done, I chose not to return after law school to work at that amazing law firm despite the opportunity to do so, I could not be more grateful for the chance they took on me. My life would not be the same without the experiences they gave me that summer. I am forever grateful.