In my teens and early 20s I was lucky to have a rewarding sporting career in canoe slalom. I learnt some major life lessons as an athlete that have helped me manage tough times in my personal life and made me a more resilient lawyer.
One valuable lesson I rely on is to remember that it is only worth worrying about things that are truly within your control. For example, you can't control the competition, the criteria you're measured against, or the circumstances on the day. But you can control your strategy, attitude, mental and physical condition and work very hard to ensure these are in peak condition when it's time to perform (as an athlete or as a lawyer).
This mindset was put to the test when I 'came out' for the first time. I was a 20-year-old undergraduate at a dinner with an old school mate and his girlfriend. My plan was to calmly drop it into conversation at an opportune moment. The split second after I said those words for the very first time, I was in a mental freefall. I was terrified. I had no idea what I had done, how my friends would react, or whether I would need to bolt and never see anyone again. While it felt like an eternity, without hesitation my mate leapt up with joy and disappeared to grab a bottle of champagne. His natural reaction was to celebrate! My family and most other people were also extremely supportive.
Each coming out moment still invokes a bit of terror in me and I'm never sure how people will react, but my old sporting mindset comes in handy. I can't control the sexuality I was born with, nor the reactions of others, but I can control my strategy and attitude as a lawyer and the example I set for others, especially those who are out, questioning or allies.
I aspired to be an Allens lawyer when I was a student, but if I had not come out years earlier I don't think I would have had the courage, determination or self-confidence to apply for the clerkship that led me here today. Honesty about this part of my life has turned out to be a powerful source of strength, differentiation and pride. [Photo: Zac (right) with his partner Josh.]