Your Past Becomes Your Present

Personal characteristics begin at an early age and become embedded as you grow. There are many instances where what you do as a younger person will be back to either haunt or benefit your present. How you treat people, how you are perceived as being, or how you actually demonstrate or verbally act out may very well be back for you to deal with and re-think in your future.

What will you do when you walk in to your interview, you know the one you’ve been wanting for weeks, and the person sitting behind the desk is someone you knew back in High School? How did you treat that person then? It’s been a long time, do you think they remember you? Is this going to affect your interview positively or negatively?

As a High School Junior I became part of the Work Program at school. This is where you worked throughout the summer between your Junior and Senior school year and then went to school part-time and worked the rest of the school day. I was lucky enough to get a job as a Receptionist at a Law Office near my home. Everyone was so old and stuffy and it was difficult to fit in. I was lucky enough to be taught that you do not quit before you try every way you can to succeed. My self discipline kept me going back to work every day.

I eventually felt like I fit in and never missed a day of work during the summer. I did, however, take my one hour lunch and get to the beach where all my friends were, sit there and make it back to the office. I was a seventeen year old until I stepped into the office. I disciplined myself to do my best and make it work. My relationships with the lawyers and staff became strong and I was asked to stay on when I graduated.

Shortly after I graduated, though, I found another job and stepped away from that law office. I acquired beneficial personal skills and characteristics that eventually, and not knowing at that time, would get me through more than a job. Perseverance was the most valuable of these characteristics. I married, had two children, and was diagnosed, at age 24, with Multiple Sclerosis. As a determined person I decided that I had MS but it did not have me. I went back to college and after six years graduated with a BA in Marketing and Public Relations.

This was the scariest part of persevering through the ups and down of having MS. I was now walking with a cane. I was sure I was going to be labeled as defective every time I walked in for an interview. I was always asked back for a second interview but quickly realized that was to protect the business. I went on an interview at a downtown professional legal association and when I entered the elevator to get to the correct floor, I encountered my first blast from the past. The name-sake lawyer, one who the firm in my past was named after, was in the elevator. We immediately recognized each other, asked the appropriate questions for our quick reunion, and waited for the correct floor. To my surprise we both got off on the same floor and walked in to the same office. The lawyer was greeted by name and I sat down ready for my interview. I asked the Receptionist if the lawyer worked there and she responded, “Mr. Smith is the President of this association”. I interviewed and was offered the job. Did I do a better job of interviewing, was the job and I a great match, or did my brief encounter with my past benefit me?

I worked for the legal association for nine years. Each summer there was a legal convention that I attended in my professional capacity. Each year I was greatly surprised by the individual lawyers who came up to me because they recognized me from 15+ years ago. I would ask myself, “What if I didn’t do a good job when I was seventeen and the lawyers and staff couldn’t wait until my school year was finished? What If they saw me now and avoided me so they did not have to pretend it was nice to see me? Many of them were now Judges and I called them by their first name, instead of Judge Smith, it was okay with them.

My last contact with someone from that neighborhood law office was when I needed some legal advice to resolve an issue I became involved in. I did not know where to turn. I looked in the local phone book and, to my surprise, found a lawyer I had worked with back then. I called him up and when I said my name he instantly remembered me and told me to come to his courtroom. I did not know he was recently voted in as a Judge. When I entered his courtroom he recessed the trial and called me back to his Chambers. He and I happened to have the best relationship when I was seventeen and he did everything in his power to help me now.

When we are young many of us do not think about our future. You are concerned with what is in the present and what is happening on the weekend. Without knowing how important it was my self discipline and perseverance gave me a reputation for life with those I worked with. I often think how different these situations would have been if I left a bad impression of myself at that neighborhood law office. I am glad I do not ever need to know.

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