Learning To Prioritize Self Over Work With Janelle Christian (TFLP 076)

Janelle Christian skipped the LSAT twice, and only took it on her third go-round because her parents drove her to the testing site.

She says, “My soul was screaming to not be a lawyer, but I still felt like it was what people wanted me to do. It was the right path, it was the prestigious path.”

In this first part of our two-part conversation, Janelle shares about her early career as a lawyer and how she came to learn that she could prioritize herself over her work.  

Meet former lawyer Janelle Christian

Janelle grew up with a sister who has special needs, and from early on internalized the conviction that she didn’t want to add to her parents’ worries.

She pushed herself to be a high-achiever, and distinctly remembers sitting down with her dad to figure out whether her high school goal of being a music teacher could finance the lifestyle she wanted. (It’s couldn’t.)

One of the careers that could? Lawyer.

the messages from law school

Janelle went to Howard for law school, and loved it so much that it made her feel like she had chosen the right path. But she also received a lot of messages that created pressure.

According to Janelle, “Law school became this incubator where all those high-achieving perfectionasitic traits [of mine] got amplified to an unhealthy level.”

Not only that, but Howard put unique pressure on its students by repeating and reinforcing constantly that the worls was watching them with a critical eye.

As at most law schools, it was made clear that the path to success was Biglaw, so that’s where Janelle went.

The pressures of Biglaw

When Janelle got to New York City after law school graduation, she assumed she would be a real estate lawyer there for the rest of her life. But she soon realized that the inhumane lifestyle required of Biglaw associates was corroding her soul.

She made a move to the D.C. office of her firm, which only made things worse. More isolated than before, she found herself drinking heavily, which led her to reach out for therapy for the first time in her life. And she began to transform her thinking around what her life “had” to look like.

In this episode, Janelle also shares:

  • Why she thinks there’s no reason she should have ended up in her 30s wondering what she wants to do with her life.
  • The pressure of generational messages and how each generation should be better off than the last.
  • The role of uspoken expectations and how they drove her decisions.
  • Why she never considered that there was an option to walk away.
  • How her first pivot felt like failure.
  • Feeling an immense longing to participate in her life.
  • Why it’s so important to realize that you have the opportunity to choose.
  • How wanting to buy a house started her down a different career path.
  • Using the career coach provided by her firm and finding it legitimately helpful.
  • Going on what she considered to be practice interviews at firms in her hometown of Atlanta, and being blown away by the fact that she met people who prioritized themselves above their work.
  • Realizing that a commitment to excellence didn’t require sacrificing everything in her life on the altar of work.

Next week, tune in to hear all about how Janelle built a six-figure side business and left Biglaw!

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