Unidentified Flying Objects
by Carla N. Archie
Struggling to find a topic to write about this month, it hit me… literally! I was on the interstate, driving to a 7:15 a.m. meeting, pleased with myself because I was ahead of schedule. The sun was shining, the radio was blaring, the traffic was light, and all was well with the world. Then, completely out of nowhere, an unidentified flying object, commonly known as a UFO, came crashing through my window. It wasn’t the spaceship version of a UFO. Perhaps it was a rock, but I really don’t know. It happened so quickly. Whatever it was shattered my window. Glass flew everywhere. I screamed and slammed on brakes. A thousand things ran through my mind--- did I run over something, did someone fire a gunshot into my window, did another car kick up a rock? With broken glass strewn across the front seats, wind whipping through the gaping hole in my window, and the radio still blaring, I quickly assessed the options--- do I pull over, do I call the police, do I contact my insurance company, or do I just keep going? I didn’t want to be late for my meeting, so I opted to keep going.
As I continued down the interstate, slightly shaken, it occurred to me--- life is full of UFOs, hurled at us when we least expect it. As the Nationwide Insurance® commercials emphasize, “Life comes at you fast!” It also occurred to me that, while we may not be aware of the UFO’s source, or fully appreciate the damage or risk of further harm, we are forced to make quick decisions about whether to pull over, call for help, or keep going.
The same is true in the practice of law. We are trained “air traffic controllers,” uniquely skilled at fielding incoming UFOs, evaluating risk, and guiding issues toward a safe resolution. Our clients depend on us to do those things. Our family, friends, and neighbors need us to leverage our skills and help develop a thriving community.
In the process of counseling clients and serving our community, we are called upon to decide whether to pull over and reassess our strategy. These checkpoints are essential, especially when navigating long-term projects. It is helpful to assess whether we are still on the right path. Is the destination still a desirable location? Are there lane changes, new traffic patterns, or construction barriers up ahead? Are there less congested, alternate routes?
Sometimes we may also need to call for help, which is an equally important decision point. Ask a partner, a mentor, or learned member of the bar whether they have seen this UFO before, and solicit their advice on how to navigate the challenge.
In the process of serving clients and others, we also have to remember to take care of ourselves. Unexpected life events happen--- illness, divorce/break up, the loss of a job, or death of a loved one. When those things happen, consider pulling over temporarily and calling for help. That option may vary in depth and scope. You may decide to pull over to the side of the road, i.e. go for a long walk/run, take a day off, or engage in your favorite pastime activity. Or you may decide to pull off on the nearest exit and take a more extended break, i.e. a quick weekend trip to the beach or to the mountains to clear your head. Whatever you decide, remember that part of staying sharp, productive lawyers and dedicated public servants means taking care of yourself.
When a UFO hit my car window, I chose to keep going. I was unharmed, my car was still drivable, and my meeting attendance was very important. Scary as the incident may have been, I was able to muster the courage to push forward. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the will to keep moving in spite of fear. And if we do not need to pull over or need to call for help, then pushing forward is the right thing to do. Pushing forward means keeping our eye on the big picture. Pushing forward means harnessing our divine power. Pushing forward means moving one step closer to our destination, our goal. In my case, I made it to my destination on time; and with a relatively painless repair bill, my car is back on the road.
I hope to see you along the way at a future Bar event and hear how you’ve fielded or helped someone else field an unidentified flying object.