Lights, cameras, audiences, autographs, ovations, bows - stardom. Then, the light flickers, then dims - sometimes into a dense blackness. Ear splitting applause, gives way to a deafening silence. Neither a bright light, nor crystal in the chandelier-just glass reflecting nothing. Echoes of the praise songs of yesterday ringing in the distance. The names of award winning stars, now rolling inconspicuously at the very bottom of the credits – “girl on bus”, “passerby”.
Over the years, I have seen many starry eyed lawyers waltz through the corridors of AB & David, shedding their glitter. Sometimes they erupted into comets, sometimes they morphed into shadowy figures and sometimes they were simply eclipsed by their own self-doubt and negativity. I have watched Everest climbers rooted on a plateau, unable to climb beyond the impetus which brought them to the mountain ridge. Running a great first lap, then a trot, then a laboured walk, and then paralysed, unable to take the next step, whilst “tortoises” waved at them as they passed them by.
And, if we will all be honest enough to own up to be counted, most of us have a personal story of a time when we were plagued with the fear, that we were losing our lustre. But we dare not own up to this, lest we are branded insecure and weak. So, we sit in self-imposed silence – sharing our thoughts with only ourselves.
A dose of this affliction would give me a life time immunity.
It was November, 2012. My second son, Papa Kofi had been born a few months earlier. It was time to go back to work. And for some inexplicable reason, I was anxious! I had tried to keep up with happenings in the office in between breastfeeds, changing sewer smelly diapers and giving mummy horseback rides. The world had simply whizzed past. I had missed out on being part of some of the major projects that the firm was working on. Back at work, I had a lot of catching up to do. But somehow I just couldn’t keep up. My mental sharpness had given way to a bluntness I could not explain. Possessed by a somewhat mild form of atelophobia, I feverishly checked and double checked everything that I did and just couldn’t get anything done on time. Whilst I watched myself descend into a rut, my colleagues sped past. My tardiness in delivering on tasks was explained away by everyone to the challenges of balancing work and motherhood. Admittedly, it was such a relief to have a face saving “excuse” for the new lacklustre me! It gave me a place of solace where I could act out the damsel in distress unashamedly.
But reveling in this only accelerated my descent. One day the realization hit me, the new me had not just suddenly emerged, I had happened months before. I had taken time off to celebrate where I had arrived in my journey - too much time. I had hit a road block. If yesterday, I was excellent, today I was average. It was a humbling and desperately frightening realization. My light had been flung under a bushel and I hated it! I responded by doing everything to show that I hadn’t lost my verve or my shine.
I worked long hours which meant I was always the last mother to pick up Papa Kofi from Cribs & Sandbox (where thankfully, the fantastic carers gave him the best care ever). I refused to ask for help when I needed it, or receive help even when it was offered. I so needed to swirl my superwoman suit in everybody’s face - show that I could balance it all. But I lost on all sides - as a mother, a lawyer and a colleague. I had spread myself thinly, to brittle breaking point.
One day all this changed for me. I was in the library pouring over some agreements, my face contorted by the stress marauding through my body. My colleague, Ferdinand, walked in and asked if I needed any help. I had my ready answer. “No”. That brief exchange, was my Damascus moment! Suddenly, my mind turned to all my colleagues who stood in for me and picked up my work when I was away, and I felt an overwhelming gratitude. I went to Ferdinand and said “thank you” He looked bewildered! “For what?” he asked. “When I was away, you picked up my work, saw it through with no complaints and I want to say thank you”. Vintage Ferdinand, he made no ceremony of our conversation. For him, it was just all in a day’s work. But this liberated me. How could I have forgotten that I was part of a great and supportive team? But I did – because I was too consumed with the need to prove to myself and everyone else that nothing had changed. This awakening would change my perspective, help me regain my energy and my positive outlook.
With a new burst of life, I was looking forward to embracing a new challenge. The new adventure? Securing the Lexcel accreditation from the Law Society of England & Wales. I immersed myself in it. It was my redemption. The bounce in my step was palpable. And, the best part, - my AB & David family were all buoyed to do whatever was necessary for us to clinch this. By the time we received the Lexcel accreditation in 2013, I was reincarnated. It was exhilarating to be reunited with my old self.
Hitting a plateau can be a very lonely place. Most of us will experience this sometime in our lives no matter how great we have been. Suddenly, even your latent flaws hover over your head like life size inflated dolls. Then, there’s the temptation to believe you have been traded for a new model when your colleagues grow whilst you remain fossilised in your old self. Thankfully, being rooted on a plateau can also be the perfect time for introspection and growth. It is a reminder that you may have outgrown yourself, an opportunity to use the experience as a stepping stone to a new level of YOU. But you can also be caught up in the tragedy of becoming the average Joe or Jane that you will undoubtedly transform into, if you do not stretch yourself.
So, as you enter 2021, have that honest conversation with yourself. Are you in the throes of a great run, reveling in all the adulation of your great sportsmanship? Which rung of the ladder are you on? Are you rooted to a spot? Do you have what it takes to move to the next rung of the ladder? Do you need help and are you asking for it? Or will you simply fade into insignificance.
The plateau you may be at now is your opportunity to stretch yourself and snap into who you need to become for the journey ahead. If you are on a roll right now, your ability to step up, over the plateau, will depend greatly on whether you are prepared and preparing enough for today, and tomorrow.
My prayer for you for 2021 is that you commit to stepping up!
I wish you the best in your growth journey for 2021!