7am on Friday morning I find myself scurrying along in the freeze to the tube. I’d agreed to assist at a coaching conference which meant I had to be there bright and early to greet delegates. The event – super. The early hour – not so good.
Actually to my great surprise the world is quite interesting at that time –quite a few people are going about their business, brightly lit buses lumber along the road and even a few shops are open. As I hurry to the tube in my sheepskin boots I notice a nice looking man getting out of his car – obviously parking to be close to the station. Vaguely I wonder what kind of job he does which means he has to be up and out so early. Judging from his clothes – sensible coat, suit – probably something in the City. There’s something familiar about him and he seems to notice me as well but I’m too wary of the cold to slow my pace.
As we descend in tandem to the welcome warmth of Notting Hill tube, we both suddenly realise that we are old friends. Ridiculous we didn’t recognise each other really. But I am wearing a rather large, woolly bobble hat and kooky round specs as disguise – at least that’s what I tell myself.
Turns out we’re heading in the same direction so we agree to share the journey together. As we chat away catching up on the kids’ lives and the possible merits or demerits of downsizing, I think about how we met more than thirty years ago at law college. I’d just returned from a gap year in Florence and was embarking on my professional exams to become a solicitor. I recall how we stood in the coffee queue at break and giggled together.
A legal career was what I’d chosen – albeit slightly reluctantly. Everyone agreed it was an excellent career choice, steady, professional, well paid and let’s face it, the reasoning went, even if you didn’t actually practise, the training would always come in useful.
But did I actually want to be a solicitor? Quite honestly if you’d asked me that question then, I would probably have struggled to come up with a definitive, yes!
So thirty years on, here we are, my friend still a lawyer, a very successful and fulfilled one at that and I am on my way to a conference for life coaches. In the end I only practised law for four years post qualification and although I managed to contrive to work in film and TV (glamorous!), the nitty gritty of all that detailed legal work never really did it for me.
I contemplate my friend and wonder if I had stayed in the law would the demands of that exacting profession have meant that I would also be going to work at this time most days? Would I be a respected senior partner by now? Wearing a sharply cut suit and high heeled black court shoes? Carrying an expensive, fine leather briefcase full of complex legal documents? Would I be having lunch later that day in a chic restaurant with an important client who greatly valued my opinion?
I have to be honest – I felt a pang. Not the sharp tug of regret exactly but something softer, more wistful – what would things have been like if I’d taken a different road? That’s something I often think about. What if things were different? What if I’d made different decisions? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could – if only briefly – replay our lives to a different script? Like in that film ‘Sliding Doors’.
At Temple my friend disembarks and I get off at Tower Hill. A woman in black, high heels clacks along the frozen pavement. I feel a bit sorry for her – that doesn’t look much fun. I wriggle my warm toes and agree with myself that even if today I was a partner in a law firm I would definitely be wearing cosy boots. And most probably some version of the large bobble hat with round glasses.
And perhaps as I sat down at my desk and applied myself to the minutiae of my latest case, I’d wonder what it would be like to do something I really, really love. Something that brought me intense joy and deep satisfaction – where I’d be using my natural talents, where I felt truly myself. Something for example, oh I don’t know and this might sound silly coming from a successful lawyer, like a life coach?
Or maybe I wouldn’t. I’ll never know. The imponderables of life – how interesting they are…
Do you ever wonder what life would have been like if you had taken a different road? Made different decisions? Or are you one of those people who never looks back, content to move forward with whatever twist or turn life presents to you? Or maybe a mixture of both – I’d love it if you left a comment with your reflections.
And if your work brings great rewards and challenges yet deep down you still yearn to do something different which will bring you intense joy and deep satisfaction, please contact me at and we can start a warm conversation.