"Know that you must see each moment for what it is: an opportunity to be seized."
Patricia Timmons-Goodson is an associate justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina, a position she has held since 2006. She is the first African-American woman to sit and the third woman elected to serve on North Carolina’s highest court. Timmons-Goodson has held a number of leadership positions within the American Bar Association and her alma mater, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Law.
I wish I had known the wisdom of the paradox expressed by author Gretchen Rubin and others: “The days are long, but the years are short.”
What does that mean? It means that though we live in the moment, before we know it, those moments add up—and as we look back, we realize that in those moments, we forged our actions. From those actions, we forged our identities and our callings. And from our callings, we forged our lives and destinies.
Serving as a justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina, I am at the pinnacle of my legal career. I did not appreciate that time would move so swiftly. Know that you must see each moment for what it is: an opportunity to be seized.
In that light, I wish I had known that instead of learning the content of the course syllabus, I was laying the foundation for my legal career. Learn as much as the professor knows. While the class syllabus earns you a good grade, you must learn and experience more. You are building your foundation in the law, and one day you will be called upon to use this foundation to resolve problems and issues affecting real people. The knowledge you acquire, or fail to acquire, while building your foundation in the law has real consequences.
Finally, I wish I had known that many were not only cheering for me, but were willing to contribute to my success. I should have sought out those legal professionals during law school who said, “Give me a call. If I can help you, let me know.” I recognized later that a follow-up contact to these generous invitations was a good idea. Great mentoring relationships often arise from such meetings. As you reflect on the experiences and stories shared by members of the bar, meaningful lessons are taught.
The days are long, but the years are short. Be bold; make your days count!