In my past life as a litigation lawyer, I was based in London for two and a half years. I was newly qualified at the time, at the stage of my career where I really had to prove myself, which meant long hours, very little free time and plenty of stress.
The role of a litigator is to be a professional conflict maker. Non-stop arguing albeit in a very civilised way. It’s not a healthy career in the slightest, my friends, and it made for an angsty Sam, as my work bled over into my personal life. Even at this early point in my career, I knew I couldn’t go on forever. I was on track to become a very bitter woman.
One day, while sat at my desk, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and a quiet voice whisper “Are you Samantha?” I turned around and found myself face-to-face with a girl who would change my life forever. Grace had finally arrived.
Grace was a paralegal who had just joined the firm and she´d been allocated the desk across from me. It was my job to show her the ropes. Little did I know that she would teach me so much more.
Grace settled in immediately and we got on like a house on fire. She was an absolute breath of fresh in the office. She was happy for one thing, always with a smile on her face.
There was something about Grace’s calm and serene personality that had a very soothing effect on me. I’d pop my head up from whatever file of negativity I was dealing with to find myself staring into the face of grace itself. Even in my worst moments of absolute stress, she had the ability to calm me down just by her mere presence.
Grace was kind without being a pushover, poised under stress, and I never once heard her say a bad word about anyone. Indeed, she taught me to see the negative behaviours of other people as a reflection of themselves. “Remember, Samantha, those people have to be themselves every day. Imagine feeling that way. We should feel sorry for them instead.” I had to agree.
She seemed to glide through life like a swan, while I felt like one of those salmon; constantly making a mad dash up the river to mate and always against the tide.
She was a very generous person. Biscuits would magically appear next to my cup of English tea, little messages reminding me to breathe on tough days,cupcakes if I lost a case, and a big smile and congratulations if I won.
When I slipped on the staircase at home one day, breaking my foot in three places, she really went the distance. After one week resting at home, I was desperate to get back to work and Grace stepped up again. She wouldn´t hear of me taking a cab to and from work and insisted on collecting and dropping me off at home every day. She was kindness itself.
Yet, she wasn´t a pushover. She would stand her ground and politely speak her truth if someone pushed her boundaries. She wouldn’t be taken advantage of at all. She just had a different way of dealing with things that were completely at odds with most lawyers in my office and her approach really worked.
She didn’t need to be so kind to me, just in case you are wondering. I was a small fish in a big pond at the beginning of my career. I had no power or sway.
And, so, over the six months we worked together, side-by-side, I would find myself saying “I want to be like you, Grace, when I grow up.” “One day, Samantha, you’ll escape all of this and then you can be grace, too.” She was right about this, as well. I couldn´t be a litigation lawyer and live gracefully, that’s for sure.
Many years later, after finally leaving my legal career behind and the negativity that went with it, I began the process of shedding the layers and negative habits of a lawyer. We can choose to become bitter or get better. I truly believe that we all have the capacity to change. We can choose the qualities we want to embody and the values we want to embrace. During this time, Grace popped into my head and I remembered that, once, I wanted to be like Grace.
She was Grace by name and Grace by nature, my friends. She was living proof of the qualities that I wanted to embody.
Have I become Grace in nature? I try every day – my version of grace is a little different, but I do practice the lessons she taught me, albeit in a slightly different way. Living in grace really does make for a much happier and healthy Sam.
For this reason, Grace really did change my world forever. She was Grace by name, Grace by nature and I will never forget her.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2019. All Rights Reserved