My life didn’t start the way some people thought it was supposed to, and I soon adopted this view of the world, too. My parents had owned an auto parts store and were struggling financially, whether or not my mother knew. My dad was in denial about the failing (or possibly failed) business, and he tried to drink and spend his problems away. The bills were mounting and filling the spaces where he hid them. Eventually, they closed the business, and his former father-in-law gave him a job, only to become a victim of my father’s embezzlement.
I was approximately 18 months old when the police came in the middle of the night, looking for Daddy. I was too young to have any memory of it (or of him in our home), but my sisters were not as fortunate. My oldest sister, who was given the female version of his name, lost her status as Daddy’s Little Girl that night, and my mom was left with all his debt and lies. We couldn’t eat those, of course, and with the help of family members, neighbors, the church parishioners, and the government, she managed to keep our house and meet our basic needs.
My sisters resented me at times, blaming me for Daddy leaving. They said he didn’t want another child, and he really wanted a boy, if there was going to be another. (My mother later corrected this narrative, stating he wanted all of us.) I became a Tomboy and tried not to be much trouble. But that didn’t stop me from being a target for their pain or for one’s abuse—until I met the girl who has been my friend for the past 36 years and who gave me a bit of confidence to stand up for myself.
Similarly, The Law Studio did not begin as I expected. I came to the New York City area for my first job interview after law school. On 9/11. At 9 AM. Fortunately, the interview was on Long Island, and I decided at the last minute to stay closer to the interview site, instead of downtown.
My cousin had driven up from Louisville with me to share the driving and see LI, and I’m not sure I would have handled the situation well without her here. We stayed an extra night since the bridges and tunnels were closed. Then, we drove to her sister’s house in New Jersey and back to Kentucky, where my mom questioned my desire to return to the Big Apple. Somewhat to her dismay, I knew I was needed and vowed to return. Whether I got a job right away or volunteered to help the families of victims, I knew where I needed to be.
I ended up getting that job and commuted from Northwestern NJ to LI every day for the first two months I was here. Seven hours, round trip, if I made all of the connections. But it gave me purpose and hope. Plus, I really didn’t know what else to do. The world was not the same.
Eventually, I went to a small litigation firm in the Wall Street District, where I began managing the workers’ compensation practice group—on my second day at the firm and as a licensed attorney. I was trying cases to a verdict within three months and kept the fast and furious pace of litigation for another year. Health insurance was canceled. An occasional paycheck bounced. Attorneys and other staff members came and went. But I was determined to save the sinking ship. Then, my aunt died. She was my mother’s last living sibling and substituted for the grandmother I never knew. When I returned from her funeral, my boss bragged to me that he had landed a new client while I was gone. It was the prospect who I had been courting for months, and he called for me on the day of the funeral, apparently with his decision to retain the firm.
Perhaps I should have given my boss the benefit of the doubt and asked him if he intended to compensate me in any way for helping to bring in the new account. But his arrogance suggested to me that he had no intention of giving me a dime beyond my salary. I decided life was too short, and my plan to work six years in NYC to build my resume for eventual self-employment became the spontaneous opening of The Law Studio.
I had no plan, but I had skills and experience. And probably enough naivete and courage to take the chances, much as I had throughout my life, not necessarily on a regular basis, but often enough to know:
1. I could trust myself.
2. Nothing is permanent, even when we want it to be.
3. I didn’t really “know” anything, and I was fooling myself by thinking I did.
In short, I saw that the odds of me creating the life I wanted were similar, whether I stayed at a struggling firm, where I didn’t feel fairly treated or started my own. Likewise, I learned to carefully choose who I spend my time, energy, and money on (personally and professionally). It doesn’t mean I have to burn (or blow up) bridges. I’m deeply grateful for all of the love and support I got from my family, and I acknowledge that I might not have the business I have if I had not gotten the experience I did at my prior firm. People have hurt me at times (including intentionally), but they have also helped me. God and the universe have dealt me some difficult hands to play. Yet it is the friction and conflict that helped me grow and grow stronger.
I forgive the world for having conflicts. I trust it and myself to handle and learn from them, if not create something even better than I had planned. How about you? Can you forgive the world and see your own awesomeness?
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM). She is also creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards), and Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In (Finalist, 2013 Pitch Competition).