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Don’t fear your fork in the road

Don't fear your fork in the road

Law school was a funny time for me. As I look back, it really happened almost by accident. A series of events that seemed unconnected and random at the time, but as I reflect, I noticed it was all allowed to happen so that I could face a longstanding fear I had.

Although I have always been pretty Type A, I have always had a hard time dealing with the things that bother me the most. I keep meaning to get to them and they are right there on my to do list, but my fear of public speaking has haunted me for as long as I can remember.

If anyone had told me back then that I would be in a courtroom one day, I would have said you cannot pay me enough to open my mouth and have words come out that make sense in front of people. I was always anxious of even the mere thought of public speaking. I can remember plotting to get out of going to school when I had book reports due in the third grade. The anticipation, sweating, and heart racing just at the thought of having to speak was overwhelming. I would do anything to avoid facing it, and as the years went by in school, I just got better at selecting classes where I would have very limited to no opportunity to talk. I was planning to get my masters in psychology after college, something I thought I was much better suited to (listening), and I got a job at a law firm to help pay for grad school.

There is no bigger lesson you can learn than constantly being aware of the perceptions and eventually limitations we place on ourselves.

Paradoxically, I ended up at John Marshall Law School, not Adler. I wish I could tell you I knew what I was doing, but I can’t. I have been practicing for almost eight years now, and I have had to confront my phobia. Kind of like everyday. There is no substitute or amount of therapy that would have prepared me for doing it than actually forcing myself to do it. And, no, I have most definitely not become an amazing speaker, I talk too fast, and with my hands, I am soft-spoken and try to limit my words. I have learned to accept that is who I am. But I am constantly striving to improve just a little any way I can, and I would have never been able to get to this place had I not stepped outside of my plan, outside of my self-imposed limitations, had I not accepted the path to law school.

One of the many lessons I hope to share with you is that you never know where life is going to take you. Use everyday as an opportunity to challenge yourself, to explore who you think you are. To challenge what others think you are and have told you your entire life. There is no bigger lesson you can learn than constantly being aware of the perceptions and eventually limitations we place on ourselves. Be open to everything and anything the world throws at you. Only by veering off your road map and stepping out of what you think you should be doing, what classes you think you should like, what jobs to apply for, will you truly begin to experience what law school, and ultimately life, has to offer. Why not be open?

Fear keeps us rooted and small. Confronting it by doing things you never thought you could do only makes us stronger and enables us to continue growing as human beings. Besides, life hardly ever goes according to “plan.”

So the next time you start to convince yourself not to participate in something because of fear, or because it’s not something you think you will be interested in, just go for it. You never know what you might find out about yourself.

Karen Munoz Karen Munoz is a personal injury attorney at Dolan Law. She represents victims of negligence and crime. She is a contributor to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. A lifelong Chicagoan, Karen also teaches yoga at Village Yoga.