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Happy 13th Blogiversary to Zen & the Art of Legal Networking!

Tomorrow is officially the 13th “blogiversary” for Zen & the Art of Legal Networking. At times, it’s difficult to believe that I’ve been writing in this corner of the blogosphere for so long and at other times, it’s flown by. This year in particular has been a lot and it’s hard to find the words to share with you all.

Traditionally, I use this post to either reflect on where we’ve been or what I’ve learned and I appreciate the opportunity to do that each year. It’s not often that we’re able to slow down and take a look back.

The past year for me has been sort of a strange one – professionally, we’ve been working incredibly hard and that work has been paying off. We have six new member firms and won Global Law Firm Network of the Year with The Lawyer’s European Awards. We also went up a ranking in Chambers, as well as adding two new regional rankings. We may not have met in person as a group, but we kept our lawyers close and we’re gearing up for our first conference since the pandemic began.

Juxtaposed against that was working through a pandemic, while my beloved basset hound became sick and needed a lot of care before he ultimately passed away. Shortly afterward, my best friend was diagnosed with Stage 3B breast cancer at 36, which I’ve been helping her to manage (sometimes in person in Minnesota, but mostly remotely from NJ). I ran a marathon (in Berlin!) and then found myself dealing with what turned out to be severe anxiety, masking itself as physical symptoms. And this week, we’re all feeling heartsick over the attack on Ukraine, where the ILN has member lawyers and friends. This week, my best friend also was at Mayo Clinic for her double mastectomy, where the surgeon gave me the best news I’ve ever heard, that she has no living cancer left. I could not stop crying.

All of that is to tell you that life happens while we’re working and we work while life happens. So, I don’t want to write a blog post today about the thirteen ways I’ve learned to best network over my history of blogging.

Instead, I want to tell you that when my professional contacts get my “out of office” that I’m working remotely to support my best friend during and after her mastectomy, I get good wishes and prayers for her recovery, from people all over the world, most of whom have never met her and some of whom have never met me.

I want to tell you that maybe the pandemic brought us closer, or maybe people have always been like this, but we’re all sharing our stories more – professionals are telling me of their battles and struggles and triumphs too. They’re giving me space and time and room. We’re all coming first as people.

I want to tell you that my feed on LinkedIn is filled with support for the people of Ukraine and posts from Ukraine, and I am both sad and full of hope. It often feels like we can’t do anything, but we can do something, even if it is just reaching out our hand.

Laura, my best friend, talked about how just before surgery, her surgeon talked to her in pre-op and then reached out to squeeze her hand before she went in. It is these human moments that I think about and that means the most to me.

When I first started working and when I first started blogging, I believed that the line between work and my personal self was a solid black one. There may be some of you who still believe that too. But in truth, we bring our full selves to work every day, whether we’re adept at compartmentalizing or not. My favorite quote is “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” from Anaïs Nin, and so we are affected by everything we have seen and have done and we always bring ourselves with us. I’m grateful that so many of us have given ourselves permission to bring our full selves to work – I believe it makes our workplaces more vibrant, more human, more welcoming.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year that I want to share it’s that. And to hug your loved ones more tightly.