The football season for my team, the New York Giants, ended on Sunday. But it really ended when we were unprepared for an onside kick with 7.5 minutes to go in a critical Eagles/Giants game on December 19. We never recovered – restarted – since then.
Despite suffering a bad cold I made it to the New Meadowlands Stadium on that fateful day, hoping to witness my G-Men defeat their arch nemesis. Instead, I was stunned by the Giants’ soul-crushing collapse unfolding rapidly and incomprehensibly before my eyes in the final minutes of the game.
During the first 52.5 minutes of the game, I felt the euphoria of victory building in my body. With a 31-10 lead, we looked invincible with the NFC East division title — and thus a playoff berth — firmly in hand. Then, after that onside kick, everything changed. We ended up losing 31-38 as the Eagles staged one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the NFL.
A Chinese idiom loosely translated as “even a cooked duck can fly away” comes to mind. Momentum is a funny thing.
As much as I hate the Eagles – Michael Vick the dog-killer and DeSean Jackson the pompous ass – I have to admit that I was impressed by their perseverance. After trailing by three touchdowns with only 7.5 minutes to go, most teams – most people – would simply give up. Not only did the Eagles not quit, they squeezed out four touchdowns with ferocity.
I was even more impressed by a 13-year old kid sitting next to me. We had two extra tickets which we sold to two brothers named Max and Spencer. Unlike his older brother, Spencer is a rabid Eagles fan. He came to the game donning a full-on Philly get-up including a plastic eagle-shaped hat. (Click here to see a picture of Spencer).
As you can imagine, the poor kid was picked on by the Giants crowd. A drunk Giants fan sitting behind Spencer even told him to f– himself before Max stepped in to put a stop to such profanity (which made me wish I had an older brother like Max). Despite being taunted for the Eagles’ poor performance for most of the first 52.5 minutes, Spencer cheered futilely but undeterred for his team. I felt bad for him. I thought to myself: “granted, the kid is foolish trying to incite the wrath of Giants fans, but he’s got some loyalty and courage for a 13-year old, certainly more than I could say for my 34-year old self.”
Spencer got his revenge at the end. He was beaming with pride jumping up and down as the pompous ass (i.e. DeSean Jackson) waltzed into the end zone as the final seconds of the game ticked away. In that moment, Spencer earned bragging rights over his older brother for the rest of the NFL season.
So how did this experience help me get over my malaise as alluded in my previous post?
I was counting on the Giants’ win over the Eagles to be a momentum changer and lift me out of the rut I fell into when I got sick. Instead, my throat became more raw from all the fruitless cheering, my cold worsened from weathering the below-freezing temperature at the outdoor stadium, and my rut deepened with the humiliating loss.
As much as the game plummeted me into a deeper slump, the lessons learned from the Eagles — and from Spencer — also helped to lift me out of it.
Before I got sick, I had been exploring various career options. I thought about becoming a relationship coach/adviser and took a coaching class at NYU. Despite the poor teaching and the lack of substance in the class, I was still enthusiastic about the prospect of being a coach. I thought about becoming a mediator since I have always found conflicts fascinating. So I got certified in November and started my 12-week apprenticeship. I thought about buying and running an existing business or starting my own company focusing on my interests in animals.
As I examined these options while sick, fear and doubts crept up. Note to self: thinking about the future when physically down is akin to shopping for cupcakes when famished – not a good idea.
Would I have the same earning power? What if my earning power had peaked as a BigLaw lawyer? What would other people think of my options? None of the choices – a coach, mediator, small business owner, among other ideas – seemed as prestigious. And I would probably need more training to become a top-notch coach or mediator, a far cry from being the overnight success I unrealistically envisioned. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that mastery takes times, but it was disheartening to admit and think about the long road ahead.
For the first time since quitting BigLaw, I wondered whether I should have stayed? After all, I loved the adrenaline rush of deal-making and the closure of completing transactions.
Yes, memory can sometimes be an unfair romanticizer or demonizer. Good thing I can refer to this blog and its real-time record of my thoughts. I also re-read a two-part post I wrote over a month ago for a third-party blog about my perspective on what it takes for weary associates to quit BigLaw and chart their own paths. (The posts didn’t end up getting published. I will post them here over the next couple of days.)
Reading my own words reminded me that I had – and have – no desire for the life I left behind. I have no regret at leaving BigLaw. Not knowing the next step doesn’t mean my former status quo was the right choice.
Change – overcoming inertia – is difficult. Will I have enough force to be a momentum changer? I know I will face many challenges when I start my own thing. Will I have enough perseverance to not give up? Can I be like Spencer trusting my own belief and not be perturbed by what others may think?