You read that right: I’m leaving my job as a lawyer and moving to Bali.
If it weren’t for the fact that I have remarkably supportive parents, I’d say that I am currently making a decision that would send any parent into panic. Quitting a prestigious and secure career? Putting aside a graduate degree & professional license? Moving to the other side of the planet with only a semblance of a “plan?”
It’s probably not what any parent envisions for his or her child (but thank you, my wonderful parents, for never ceasing to support and believe in me, and for withholding your panic until after we hang up the phone). And, in all honesty, it’s probably not how any child envisions his or her own life when looking forward filled with hopes and dreams of a much more linear "path" in life. It definitely wasn’t how I envisioned mine. But life requires us to adapt along the way.
Law school made sense to me when I decided to apply in 2012.
I took a year off after graduating college to dip my toes in a profession (psychology) I thought I might want to pursue (I ultimately didn’t) and get my bearings at the young age of 20.
During that year I studied for the law school admissions exam, but refused to commit to actually taking the LSAT. I took the LSAT, but refused to commit to actually applying for school. I applied for school, but refused to commit to actually enrolling. And the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a 1L torts class in my new home of Washington, D.C. Life’s funny like that.
I guess I thought law school would give me the most options for the future, regardless of what career I chose to pursue. It would surely be useful whether I decided to practice law, explore international development, work in human rights, or walk down any of the other endlessly forked paths I could have imagined at the time.
And, the truth is, I loved law school. It’s possible I didn’t invest as much energy as my peers during those three years, because to my core, I was never entirely set on being a lawyer. So I was able to simply enjoy learning new ways of thinking, new topics of law, new methods of research & writing for three years. I didn't get too burdened by reading and memorizing cases, prepping for job searches, or pulling all-nighters studying for exams. And honestly, I think it was this approach that allowed me to excel the way in did during those three years.
So I did well in exams and, during the summer before my second year, landed a job at one of the best white-shoe big law firms in the country. It would be waiting for me when I graduated (photos by Anna Meyer Photo) in 2016, along with a hefty salary, a lock-step annual bonus, and an office with my name on the outside overlooking the National Portrait Gallery in downtown Washington, D.C.
Of course it “made sense.”
But I’ve never desired a life that made sense. To the contrary, I’ve always gravitated toward the unconventional, the spontaneous, the risky, the (arguably) unreasonable. I’ve desired to live a life led by a wild and sometimes unpredictable God, who gave me an adventurous and passionate spirit. I’ve desired to experience life fully — the highs and the lows and everything in between — ready to feel and ready to learn and ready to be changed by it all.
So a career that “made sense” without much in the way of "vision" or "passion" probably wasn’t going to cut it. At least not for long.
Over the year and a half that I’ve practiced antitrust and white collar law, I’ve never been able to fully silence these other stirrings. Stirrings for far away places; stirrings for creative outlets; stirrings for adventure. And while I was lucky enough to be able to tamper these stirrings a bit with vacations and fun side projects, my wanderlust-creative persona ultimately only got louder and much more demanding.
I remember sitting with a particular employee of a corporate client that had hired my firm for a major international deal, somehow getting onto the topic of career and passions. Funny, really, to be talking about this with a client who has hired you to be the best lawyer you can be despite any conflicting “passions” you might have. But nonetheless, our conversation culminated in a simple chart that he drew on a torn page from a legal pad: a chart that allowed me to visualize a balance between passions, talents, and economic survival that would ideally be achieved in my career. That chart stayed stuck in my mind and stuck to my office bulletin board ever since.
I realized over time that although I may have looked successful from the world’s perspective, I could never be truly successful so long as I denied the attributes that made me so distinctively me, simply in favor of a prestigious and secure financial future. According to the chart, my white-shoe law firm job wasn't meeting the mark. Eventually, despite investing three years of work and finances into my legal education, and despite the image I had established as a successful attorney with a promising career ahead, I had to face reality. This Big Law Firm life was not a fit.
So, why Bali?
Well my guess is if you ever visit Bali, that question will answer itself for you. However, in case that’s not on the table for you for a few more years (but please go to Bali one day), I’ll try to explain.
I first visited Bali in November of 2017 for a retreat with We Are Travel Girls. This was shortly after I launched my blog as a separate entity from my Instagram account, and it was right when I began to really investigate a career move. During those couple of weeks, I fell in love with Bali — the endlessly diverse landscape, the adventure waiting around every traffic-jammed corner, the food (some of the best I’ve had in the world), and the creative inspiration that seeps through the Indonesian earth into the cafes/temples/beaches/co-working spaces/etc. and infects almost everyone who steps foot onto the island.
I saw myself living in Bali the instant I arrived. I missed Bali the moment I got on the plane to leave. I told anyone who’d ask that I’d move to Bali in a heartbeat, if the opportunity arose.
Well, now the opportunity has arisen.
What’s the plan?
At the end of April I will be leaving my law firm job, and at the beginning of June I will be getting on a plane headed toward Bali with no return ticket. I’ll be spending my island days freelance writing, soaking in those creative Bali juices, working on a very exciting project to share with you (stay tuned!), and learning from some of the most talented and inspiring minds out there. (If you or someone you know would like to work with me, please don’t hesitate to reach out!).
Of course, I’ll also be documenting and sharing it all with you through my Instagram and blog, and taking the opportunity to explore & eat my way through more of one of my favorite parts of the world: Southeast Asia.
I've found that in life, rarely are big decisions all that permanent. I have no idea how long I'll be in Bali, and it's of course possible that after clearing my mind a bit I'll chose to revisit the legal world and find a different path there. I may eventually move back to the United States and I certainly intend to come visit Washington, D.C. again. But who knows? If there's anything I've learned about life thus far, it's that it's predictable unpredictable and my "plans" should only ever be held loosely.
I'm anticipating the day when I can post a full update on my life in Bali, telling you all the ways things worked out, all the opportunities that were opened by my move, and how this leap of faith was one of the best risks I've ever taken. It's possible that I could instead be met with more obstacles & closed doors than I'm met with opportunities. Only time will tell. But regardless of how this pans out, I know I'll always be grateful that I tried.
I don't want to live my life wondering "what if."
I hope you’ll join me in this next, most exciting (albeit terrifying) journey in life. You can do so by following me on Instagram, subscribing to my blog, sending me encouraging messages (always appreciated, you guys are the best!), and praying fervently for me. Maybe you’ll even find yourself in Bali and we’ll get to cross paths — who knows.
And maybe you’ll join me in this journey by making some changes yourself. This may not mean packing up your law degree, quitting your job, downsizing to a suitcase, and moving to Bali. But whatever it is for you, I hope you continue to invest in and pursue your dreams, gifts, and passions, stepping more into the person that God created you to be. It’s in that place that we all can truly thrive.
It's much safer to dream than it is to pursue your dreams and risk failing at them. I get that. But if we're honest, that is merely resigning ourselves to the certainty that we'll never realize our dreams, which has much worse odds than taking the risk of failure that also offers us the possibility of success. Don't let yourself arrive at the end of life wondering what could have been if only you took that risk and tried.
To all who have shown unfailing support, have continued to follow this crazy journey of mine, and who have promised to come visit, teremakasi.
And to all of you, please promise yourself you’ll wake up in Bali one day.
My current comfort:
Light up the way of Your heart
Move me like You do the mountains
Move me like You do the wind
And I’ll chase Your voice through the dark
Fix my eyes on the unexpected
In the wonder of Your shadow step
So take another step
. . .
And I won’t be afraid
In every way, You never fail
So have Your way, here God
And I’ll sing Your praise
Fix my heart to Yours
Ready for the unexpected
Ready for what You’ll do next