Walking With My Shadows
By Mary Lu Everett
Walking alone on a warm summer evening, I was struggling to decide whether or not to accept a job opportunity.
The job offered was with a mid-sized San Francisco law firm. Much would be expected of me there, in terms of both time and commitment. Also, I would be dealing a with more competition, more pressure, more firm politics. Currently, I was an equal partner with one other attorney in Oakland. My time was somewhat flexible, the office and staff more within my control. Working for the new firm would be more challenging, but the financial opportunities were greater.
As a single parent raising three children, I was worried about having less time to spend with them, especially with my youngest daughter who was just a toddler. If I worked in San Francisco my commute would be much longer than my comfortable twenty-minute drive to Oakland and I would be further away from home if an emergency arose. But I also worried about the future and was not confident that I could rely on my children’s father for consistent financial support.
As I walked along weighing the pros and cons, the sky became darker and the moon rose brightening my path. Looking down, I soon became conscious of my shadow. It was long and stretched out. I felt like a little girl getting a glimpse of what it would be like to be taller. As I headed back and reached the corner where I needed to turn to go home, I suddenly saw that I had two shadows. The shadow pointing west towards San Francisco was tall. My second shadow was much shorter and smaller and veered towards home. I became fascinated with this second persona- I hopped; I twirled; I took fast steps forward, slow steps back, watching my shadows move with me.
Was this a sign? if I took the job in San Francisco would I be “growing up”, stretching myself, becoming a larger, more worldly person? If I stayed closer to home would my life eventually revolve only around my children? Would I grow smaller as they grew taller leaving me behind? Or was this smaller shadow my “inner child” made manifest- a fearful and helpless child that I should acknowledge and reassure but not let hold me back? As I kept walking and musing the smaller shadow waxed and waned with the direction of my path. The larger shadow followed along. Mid-block, the small one shadow disappeared altogether.
When I reached my street I stopped and looked back down to the comer where I had turned. There was one bright street light at that corner that I had never really noticed or thought about before. I ran back down and stood directly under it, the small shadow reappeared immediately. I realized that the distant bright moon was creating the long shadow and the closer street lamp was adding the second shorter one. I laughed at this discovery, but my decision was already made.
Some people consult the stars when making big decisions. I confronted my shadows.