After ten years of practicing corporate law, I had enough. Not enough of the law per se, but enough of the comments from others. Comments like, “Wow, you’re too pretty to be a lawyer!” and “I have to say, I was shocked that you negotiated that so well. I wasn’t expecting you to be so competent.” And my “favorite” comment from the judge who oversaw my very first trial, who said, “How dare you come in here, all smiles and win the case. Don’t you know who opposing counsel is? He’s been doing this for over twenty years and he didn’t come in to be shown up by the likes of you.”
Did I mention that I practiced law in the 90s? As in, the 1990s not the 1890s.
Tired of being seen as a stereotype instead of as an actual human, I took a leap, let go of my corporate job and ended up on a journey from stay-at-home-mom, to fitness trainer, hypnotherapist, spiritual advisor, author and burlesque dancer.
Burlesque dancer? What? This seemingly odd trajectory not only made perfect sense, but changed my life for the better, allowing me the joy of synthesizing all of my goals and dreams into one fulfilling career, and granting me the certainty of knowing that my passion for truth, justice, and the breaking down of taboos was finally being realized; albeit in ways I had never anticipated.
Truth and Justice for All. Except Women
I went to law school because I wanted to solve people’s problems. I wanted to fight for justice, stand up for what was right and change the world. As a child of the 80s I grew up with the belief that I could, as the song said, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man. I had no doubt that I would be stunningly capable of having it all, and that I would be fairly judged on my merits.
Except that’s not the way it worked. Contrary to what I had been raised to believe, women were not equal to men in the workplace, nor in the world. I was shocked to discover the narrow range of acceptability for womens’ behavior. For instance, I knew that I was supposed to be smart, and not be seen as someone who was relying on my looks. But I soon learned that being too smart was also unacceptable. Whether it was being too young, too pretty, too pregnant, or too emotional, the world – and my place in it – was not what I thought it would be.
Now is a good time for a sidebar: I was never inappropriate in my dress, actions or speech. As a respectful and emotionally intelligent human I played my role well, dressing and acting the part of corporate attorney in accordance with what was expected of me. It’s simply that when one is bound by other people’s perceptions and expectations, one can never truly be seen for who they are.
I still wanted to fight for what was right, just and fair, to give voice to those who had none. But as I felt my own power and voice draining away, I didn’t know how to proceed. So I went within and began with myself. Despite my student loans, I let go of my corporate job, and with it my salary, bonuses, and prestige. Staying home with my children, I was once again dismayed by the ways in which I was perceived. Misjudgment of women truly was everywhere, and I was bound and determined to do something about it. So, I did what attorneys do best: I researched.
Honoring My Intent
As I researched, a series of micro-steps began to appear that shaped my path forward, and each tiny transition that I needed to take, comfortable and clear. Following my life-long passion for fitness and dance, I become a personal trainer and helped women get in shape. Which was great, except that without significant behavioral and mindset shifts, the results were short lived. Which led me back to school to become a certified hypnotherapist. Which led to the study of spirituality, meditation, and ways to manage the human biofield. Which then circled back around to dance and the discovery of burlesque.
A burlesque is an art form that mocks serious works in a ludicrous way, or is satirical in nature. Concealing and revealing the female body is the perfect way to poke fun of the double standard for female nudity and sexuality. Suddenly I saw my career, and the impossible standards to which I was being held as a woman, not as unfair, but as a burlesque! I was not a victim, nor had I ever been. I was the star of my own life and this time I was going to take on the injustices of the world my own way.
With this realization, the heavens opened up and my path became crystal clear. My creativity flourished, I created a five-step modality and wrote a book about it for women like me, who had been disillusioned by life, felt stuck, and didn’t know how to break free. Living my passion and my purpose every day caused my level of satisfaction at work and at home to skyrocket.
Naturally, changing course was hard. But as they say in legal research, if you want to create change, sometimes you’ve got to look a little bit deeper. Sometimes you’ve got to look back at the original intent and see what was really going on. Whether it is the intent of someone writing a contract, case opinion, law or statute, intent matters. It was always my intent to fight for justice. To stand up for what was right and make a difference wherever I was able. Which is exactly what I’m doing now. It’s just that I’m doing it through burlesque and my work with women, as opposed to through the legal system.
What about you? What was your original intent for your life? How might you be able to fulfill that mission today, even if it’s in an entirely different way than you originally envisioned?