Lost Girl of the Week: Candice CookLost Girl of the Week — By Lost Girls on December 28, 2011 at 6:15 am
This week’s lost girl, Candice Cook, a former New York attorney discovered it is okay to break the mold and to venture out in pursuit of your best self. She learned that lesson after a tragic loss, and nearly learned it too late.
As a former private practice attorney who now practices within the new media/technology/start-up/entertainment space my former private practice self was practically glued to my desk in New York and seemed to be cultivating a semi-neurotic obsession with billable hours, bonuses, and take-out.
Although a huge part of me knew there was much more to life than how much I made, bonuses, and briefs a part of me began to identify with the “perks” of my position and had lost sight of the perks of being me.
I loved to travel, particularly alone. I had made my way to Venice, London, Paris, Madrid, Toledo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Xi’ian, Amsterdam, and Oxford by myself. Yet, somehow I found it difficult to make my way around to the most authentic me.
Many things transpired that led me to my career shift, but those circumstances are insignificant and hardly register on my barometer of importance in comparison to the re-evaluation of life itself I was forced to assess after the unexpected and tragic suicide in 2008 of one of my dearest friends. His death came 27 days before my 30th birthday and on the cusp of Thanksgiving and the holidays that would follow. He was gone far too soon and left behind a gaping hole of memories that seemed to almost not exist without him around to validate the experiences.
All of a sudden there was a new normal. He seemingly “had it all” to spectators. A loving family, a plethora of friends, a beautiful home, and a career that was the envy of many. Then he was gone. His former position (which it seemed he had worked a lifetime for) was filled and the business of his professional life went on. It was quite the awakening because I had personally witnessed his dedication and commitment to his career.
He flew back and forth between New York and Atlanta like a maniac for work and then made it home to spend the weekend with his children. He had worked himself (literally) to death and though his friends and family struggled to grapple with his absence in their lives–business carried on. Business does not mourn you. While that seems like such an apparent and obvious fact, I had lost that perspective.
His death snapped me back to reality and my priorities back into focus. My authentic self was waiting for me, but life was short and not promised and my authentic self was not going to wait forever. I had a bucket list of things that I wanted to do and in honor of his memory I made it my business to continue doing excellent work as a practitioner, but also made it my priority to do excellent work as a person. I realized that prioritizing time with family and friends while remaining focused on my career was not a philosophy or practice that was diametrically opposed. I took out my travel bucket list and got to the business of traveling and experiencing life.
In the time since his death, I have done historical tours around Charleston and enjoyed fresh lobster while watching the sunset overlooking the ocean in Martha’s Vineyard. I made my way to the Kentucky Derby with my best friend and her family, and enjoyed fresh Conch at the Conch Shack in Turks & Caicos with my mother and grandmother. I attended the Sundance film festival, had a private dinner prepared by Cat Cora, and learned to ski in the powder-like snow of Utah. I accepted an invitation from the Vice Consul of Barbados and enjoyed the Food, Wine, & Rum Festival while also swimming with wild sea turtles, going on island safaris, seeing a 1000 year old Banyan tree, learning to boogie board, and enjoying tastings with Tom Colicchio and Marcus Samuelsson. I visited friends in D.C., Atlanta, Miami, and Chicago.
I also took my interest and passion in learning new things to Palo Alto, California where I spent some time studying entrepreneurship at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (during that time I also made jaunts to Sonoma, Oakland, and San Francisco). I have learned that despite how “programmed” we may feel it is never too late to break free for there is most certainly a difference between being alive and living.
I recognize that the economy and the stress of the everyday can create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety that can make traveling and exploring new opportunities seem frivolous. Much to the contrary, I have learned that there is nothing frivolous about taking advantage of every blessing (the opportunity to run down a mountain in California, the ability to swim with all of my appendages, the capability to breathe without assistance, the great fortune to see every star in the Caribbean night sky, and to taste every flavor in each new type of food– these are not frivolous actions to those who are unable to do them because their health or physical limitations preclude them from the option).
I have learned through life’s most challenging experiences that resilience, that ability to hold on and keep on even when it feels that life itself is attempting to peel each of your fingers back one by one in an effort to watch you free fall, comes when you welcome it with patience. The patience to see the world not as how you wish it to be, but simply for the beauty that it is first must come when we take the time to nourish our souls by actually stepping away for a moment to see the world.
It is my hope that any future epiphany not have to come with such an expensive and tragic price tag, but I am fortunate for the perspective and hope to have an opportunity to share it.