Just breathe

Dec. 30, 2022

President’s Message By Erica L. Laughlin

You may not know that Lawyers Journal articles need to be submitted about a month in advance of their publication. I can’t help but think of the whirlwind about to occur between the time I write this article and the time it’s published. I will have celebrated the eighth and sixth birthdays of my two little girls with an obnoxiously large party; I’ll have tried valiantly to attend upwards of 12 ACBA holiday parties; my own firm’s holiday party; and my daughter’s school Christmas pageant.

I’ll have volunteered as a lunch lady at my other daughter’s school (mass respect to all lunch ladies out there); I’ll have attended numerous holiday get-togethers with colleagues, friends and family; I’ll have gotten up in the middle of the night on countless occasions in a deep panic to go move the Elf before morning; I’ll have paid far too much for express shipping for my late ordered holiday cards; I’ll have comprised countless lists of people I want to properly thank with thoughtful gifts; I’ll have exhausted hours online and in stores trying to find the perfect gifts; I’ll have binge watched every Hallmark movie ever made; I’ll have celebrated Christmas, which also happens to be my mom’s birthday; I’ll have moments of sadness missing my dad at the holidays and on what would have been his birthday; I’ll have tried to be attentive to clients’ end of year needs and firm end of year collections; and I will likely have survived on Coca-Cola, cheese-cubes, champagne and a really hard working eye-cream to hide the bags. 

Can you smell the anxiety?! If I’m being honest, thoughts of to-do lists keep me up at night, yet I want to be grateful for the chaos. I am blessed with having countless affairs to attend. I will try to remind myself that for the last 2.5 years the world has been closed off, holidays cancelled, and we lost the ability to celebrate with one another. When I’m dangling from a ladder trying to make our Elf zip-line across the living room at 2 a.m., I will tell myself that this time in my life with young children who so whole-heartedly believe in holiday magic is fleeting. Instead of griping about the cost of postage I’ll try to tell myself I’m fortunate that I have family, friends and colleagues to send cards to. Instead of stressing about gifts, I need to remember that anyone receiving a gift is someone who so very much deserves some thanks and recognition for the role they play in my life.

When I feel an emptiness and cry, I will remember that there are countless others who also miss their loved ones. When I get my tenth papercut from wrapping paper, and the kids are up late hopped up on Christmas cookies, and I have to get up early to deal with a contentious piece of litigation, and realize no one has showered or done homework, and laundry is piled to the ceiling, and the cat puked on the carpet, and my husband’s out of town, and I need 44 non-edible Pinterest worthy gift bags to send to school for the kids’ school holiday parties, and are you kidding me it’s garbage night…I will try to breathe and think of the countless other folks who are right there with me or who have been there at one time or another. 

By the time you read this you’ll have made it through, and I hope the madness was overshadowed by happiness, joy and laughter. As I think forward to what will unfold before this article is published I also think back to how we got here. It’s been a wild unprecedented year! We’ve unmasked, we’ve touched doorknobs, we’ve returned to the office in some capacity, we’re navigating a hybrid world. We’ve seen tragedy and unrest, inflation and more political ads than we care to think about. We’ve seen Roe v. Wade overturned. We lost Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer. Duquesne University Thomas R. Kline School of Law received its largest donation in history. The ACBA launched and graduated the first cohort of the ALLY Initiative program; we’ve adopted and begun implementation of a strategic plan; and our Executive Director, our Association, and our Young Lawyers Division earned national awards and recognitions. Mayor Ed Gainey issued an official proclamation declaring 2022-2023 as the year of women governance at the ACBA recognizing the historic achievement of having four women holding the Association’s highest elected offices. We attended Bench-Bar! We brought back in-person events that have been on hold for over two years. We are looking to the future. 

As we think forward, reflect back and set our resolutions for the new year, remember to afford yourself a little grace and breathe. Perhaps my resolution will be to take my own advice. I wish you much health and prosperity as we ring in 2023. This is the year of engagement and I can’t wait to be part of it with you.