Fu*k Being Normal It Will Kill You
“I know you guys are students and poor, but please give if you can!”
This statement was said at a rally I attended during my undergrad. I remember nothing about the rally or what it was for, but I do remember that comment.
I have never been able to shake the sheer arrogance of that statement.
Being a full-time student felt like the most decadent existence ever.
Because I had been booted out of high school and commenced my undergrad as a “mature” student, I had spent the five years before working in bars, restaurants, and sketchy diners. “Do you want to talk about poor?!” I thought to myself, “Sister, you have no idea . . . “
I remember a friend saying to me (someone who I met at one of those sketchy bars), that the kind of people I hung out with would change. I thought no way, that’ll never happen.
Drug dealers (ed buzz)
Hungry, dry heaves
Lived with a sex worker, could not go home
The kind of people I hung out with did change. In a huge way.
I was the first person in my hugely extended family to go to university. I am the first lawyer.
Even though I live a life I never imagined possible . . . and I am beyond grateful for that. I cannot and will not shake the working-class background I have. Strong work ethic, strong family ties to the Hemmingers who adopted me out of foster care, and there were not a lot of high school graduates. My Mom, a profoundly loving woman, did not read until she was 70 years old. My Dad only went to school until grade 6. His help was needed on the farm.
My background comes out in the way I speak, in the way I present myself, and, of course, all of this was exacerbated by my undiagnosed ADHD. I simply did not know how to BEHAVE as a proper middle-class person.
My background has made it so that my working-class and middle-income clients relate to me. I relate to them. The fact that I did not know how to use a proper dinner fork, or have the right table manners, ended up being a gift. The fact that I had no idea about financial literacy, on the other hand, sucked!
My working-class background has also been an issue, because, well, for one thing, the Law Society of British Columbia does not like me. They have been gunning for me for ages. Almost 7 years ago now, I broke some trust accounting rules. Unlike many of my colleagues, when I was in financial trouble, I did not have a backup of savings or family money to help me out. So, I broke the rules. Despite my apologies, many days of hearings, huge remorse, shame, guilt, terror, and fear, I have also applied to the Supreme Court of British Columbia due to the Law Society’s bias against me. We are waiting on that decision. But the Law Society does not dislike me for the reason of me breaching trust accounting rules alone. I have a very big hunch that they don’t like me because I am not a “normal” lawyer.
“Oh, here is Crazy Val” – guttered. It hit me that perhaps I really do not fit in that well with these people who I thought were my colleagues.
What is not “normal” about you? And isn’t that part of your charm.
Daniel Esenman says in his book, Breaking Normal: ReWild Your Inner Child and Set the Truth Free that not making waves, conforming to what (we think or assume) others expect is often simpler, and making compromises becomes second nature. In reality, everyone is unique, everyone is weird in their way of being, once freed from all judgments. Regaining the strength to assert your difference, with sincerity and vulnerability, will liberate you and push back the limits of what you believe is possible. Will you have the courage to do so?
I am told that even though I run a thriving law practice and have been practicing for 25+ years, I am weird too.
How am I weird and not your typical lawyer? Well, here are some things:
What makes you not normal? Are you a bit WEIRD?! I freaking hope so.
For the love of PETE, don’t tamp down your weirdness
If being a great lawyer is being “normal” then no thank you. But if being a great lawyer is connecting and honoring your clients and their changing families, billing them fairly and transparently, getting great results, and keeping families and their children out of the combat zone, then I am glad you are great at what you do!
Waive your weird flag and be your authentic self.
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