Kathryn Burmeister Overcoming The Addiction To The Status Quo
by Ari Schonbrun
Kathryn Burmeister Overcoming The Addiction To The Status Quo
Kathryn an accomplished attorney, animal lover, and author of Addiction To The Status Quo. She shares her inspiring journey . Kathryn discusses the many bricks she has faced and how she overcame them. She outlines how she overcame the addiction to the status quo and why it is so important for everyone but especially professionals.
Ari:My name is Ari Schonbrun. I’m your host I have with me a guest today Katherine Burmeister. amazing individual. Kathryn is a native Atlantan who has lived in Woodstock, Georgia, not New York, Woodstock, Georgia. Since she was two years old. She’s an only child and the second in her family to graduate college earning her bachelor’s and law degrees from Mercer University. She’s an animal lover, she rescued a first animal in the sixth grade. Today she is surrounded by other rescues five cats and a dog. She has also ridden horses since she was seven years old. Catherine is served on the board of directors of a hidden Ahimsa House, I hope I pronounced that right Ahimsa House,, a nonprofit that helps domestic violence survivors and their pets get out of abusive situations. She is a member of animal legal defense fund a nonprofit whose mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. And as a member of their pro bono program network. She’s a member of the ACLU and a member of the female Founder Collective a network of businesses led by women that enables and empowers female owned and led businesses to positively impact communities both socially and economically. She is also a member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Catherine started her own law firm in October of 2018 and focuses exclusively on personal injury. She wrote her first book overcoming addiction to the status quo in 2020 and began speaking about self care, business and law. Her passion for helping others is a theme that crosses between our presentations. Catherine has a particular passion for mental health, self improvement and emotional intelligence, which he integrates into our legal practice speaking and writing as well. Kathryn has particular appreciation for cars and is a devotee of Formula One racing. And being a Southerner, she also watches college football religiously. He has eclectic taste in music and art as a as a voracious, voracious reader, and prefers the mountains over the beach. Please help me welcome Kathryn Burmeister. Thank you for having me. So how are you doing? Oh, that’s wonderful. I gotta tell you, you’re certainly an accomplished individual. I mean, second to graduate and your family. Like who was the first?
Kathryn: My grandfather? My mom’s father? He went to Georgetown, so was in the Navy. Yeah.
Ari: Wow. So you became a lawyer, a writer, a speaker, you started your own law firm, like, totally, totally amazing.
Kathryn: Thank, you know, I’m somebody who tends to downplay what I do. And so I really had to get over that hurdle, especially when I decided to put my book out there with my story, and really validate and embrace my story to share with other people. So I appreciate you saying that.
Ari: Yeah. So as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers in bricks, the whispers of those voices telling you what the right thing to do is and represents the good in life. And the bricks represent the bad things we go through in life. And God knows, we all get hit with bricks throughout our lives at some point in time. Now, the reason I asked you to be on the show is because after I read your story, I knew that there were people in my audience who were going through some of the same things that you had gone through, they had been hit with brick after brick, much like what you had gone through. And they needed to hear and to know that they could get through the trials and tribulations, the same way that you did. They needed to know that there are whispers out there that could save them. Now, it appears that the first birth that he was in high school, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Kathryn: Yeah, I am, I really had to overcome the challenge of being an only child, you know, deciding what I want to do. But the it was a soft brick, I guess for lack of a better phrase, really setting my sights on what I want to do in terms of being a lawyer. So I decided that I wanted to go that route and really backtrack and from there set up my path to become a personal injury lawyer over all those years between middle school and high school and all the way out to becoming a lawyer at the end of the day. But I did have to take the LSAT, which is the law school admissions test a couple of times. I didn’t get into the first law schools that I applied to. And then when I graduated law school, I didn’t pass the bar the first time I missed by two points. I didn’t pass the bar the second time I missed by one point And so and they only offer it twice a year, right? So and nobody wants to hire you as a lawyer, you’re not one yet. Nobody wants to hire you as paralegal or legal assistant because they know you’re going to be a lawyer. So finally, I passed the third time, and it was really just the anxiety of the tests that had been holding me back for so long. So that was the biggest hurdle to becoming a lawyer at that point.
Right. But you persevered. I mean, you didn’t, you weren’t gonna let it stop you even I mean, to me, it sounds like you missed by two points. You missed by one point, that’s kind of a crushing blow. You know, and, and but yet, it it this just didn’t stop you. You were driven, you were motivated. And you said, I’m not gonna let this thing beat me?
Absolutely, it’s, um, it was it was really crushing. I distinctly remember getting those results, especially the second time, and being in my kitchen with my husband, and just literally crumbling to the floor, because I was just so exhausted. And I’ve had anxiety and depression, since I would say about high school. So that’s been the backdrop the entire time. And it’s managed, but you know, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And it doesn’t exist, right. So it’s, it was rearing its head a lot of anxiety, especially when I was studying for the bar exam. And I was fighting that and I was fighting myself and the exam at the same time. So finally, I had to shift how I was managing it and be a little more aggressive in it. And that ended up being what worked the best for me at the end of the day.
Ari: Wow. Okay, so tell us now your first job, if the passing the bar, what was that, like?
Kathryn: A lot of promises were made. And they weren’t kept, which I understand things change, unfortunately, it was something I had invested myself in for a while. And I really felt like I could grow and be a part of this firm, and the partner ended up just not delivering on that at all. I was told after Christmas, I was a luxury he could not afford and I didn’t know how to take that. I mean, like, what do you say to that? And yeah, I distinctly remember him saying, Oh, it’ll be okay. I was like, Are you gonna pay my mortgage? Yeah, I know what it’s talking about. But I recovered, and I sat about looking for another personal injury job. So in personal injury, there’s the plaintiff side representing the individuals. And then there’s the defense side, which is working for the insurance companies, and I desperately did not want to go on to the defense insurance side. So but holding out for that job was was a little tough. So finally, about February, let’s say after Christmas, I was like, oh, February, I found my dream job. It was really talking about the whispers. But the really happenstance whispers, in this case, I have been going to a rotary meeting locally, and I don’t want to go that night for the meeting. Let’s just go you know, get it together, go. So I show up. And a woman who was just visiting came and she was another lawyer, and I got talking to her about my circumstances. And oh, I know a firm that’s looking for an associate. So really great, send me their information. And so I applied is a great situation. The partner that was running it had been doing it for 30 years, had two associates close to my age. And he really taught us by letting us do it. He didn’t keep us under his thumb, like a lot of senior partners tend to do. So I started there, and it’s a great experience. It was really the dream job. Very collaborative, just a great place to grow. And then about a year and a half later, August of the next year, it it took a huge left turn. The senior associate had just become partner for about a month. And then a month went by and the founding partner committed suicide. He he had been stealing from clients for eight years. And God, he now obviously, none of us had any idea. He’s somebody who would give you the shirt off of his back. So it wasn’t like, Oh, he’s a really shady, evil person. So that’s not entirely surprised. No, he no clue, like just completely wouldn’t even seen it coming or be possible. And so we really all had to obviously do a lot of shifting in the in in the moment. So the senior associate, now partner, myself and one paralegal went off to do our own thing. And we had all the cases from the firm. So that was 70 some odd cases for two of us. And he was dealing with the fallout from everything with the old law firm. I was running all the cases, and my one paralegal is helping me and that’s a lot as a lot of work for one attorney and one paralegal to be doing.
Ari: I don’t I mean, how did you manage that? I mean, that it’s crazy.
Kathryn: I didn’t we didn’t manage it. Well, and I mean, we managed the work, we got it done, but in terms of a healthy mindset, or you know, self care, it just wasn’t there. We were just in you know, operating on adrenaline for that entire year, and being somebody who’s been very in touch with my own mental health even before this, thank God. But especially during this piece of my life and wanting to help other people, I started to kind of absorb everybody else’s feelings too. And that started away on me, understandably, for you know, so much of that year, and it just was constant. every waking minute, every day, I distinctly remember feeling like I had a vise in my chest like it was just pushing and pulling every waking minute. So it was a long year, to say the least. But yeah, we finally got to the point where I had an idea that things obviously needed to shift my my now partner, he just wasn’t in it. Because mentally wasn’t in the game, didn’t really want to be a part of the firm, but his name was on the door. So I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Because I’ve never one my own business, never won my own law firm. But at that point, I really just figured I couldn’t see myself working for somebody again, after having the rug kind of jerked out from underneath me a few times in a row. So I, I hit a point where I had a day where it just all came came crashing down, I actually had to call my husband home from work. And because I was so concerned about where I was mentally, and my mental health was managed, actively managed at that point, but I think it just been so much for so long, and so intense that nobody would have gotten away without having some sort of experience like that. But that’s when I hit my rock bottom. And
Ari:really, what was that? What What year was that?
Kathryn: That was 27 2018 2018. So
Ari:it’s about three years ago. Yeah, rock bottom. So, I mean, that must have been, you know, I talked to people and I always asked about that, you know, did you ever get to that point where you said, you know, I give up? I’m not doing this anymore. I’m giving up on my dreams. I don’t care, you know, and but you don’t I mean, you go through that phase. All right. I know, I went through that phase many, many years ago, as well. And you go through that phase, and you just don’t know how you’re going to, you know, how you’re going to cope, how you’re going to get up the next morning. And then you make that decision that like, No, I’m not going to let this beat me. Okay, I’m going to get up, I’m gonna conquer, I’m gonna do what I need to do is that kind of how it happened.
Kathryn: I’d like to say it was that eloquent in my mind. But it really wasn’t, it was just as if somebody had flipped a switch. That’s the best way to describe it. I was, like I said, a really dark place that afternoon, that evening. And then the next day, I just all of a sudden had this clarity that I knew all this was too much. I knew I wanted a healthier, you know, environment to work in, I knew I couldn’t keep pulling people along. I didn’t want to be there. I knew all these things, right? But actually acting on them and believing that you are comfortable in the idea of setting boundaries and really changed your life, you know, drastically compared to what I had been doing. It’s scary, even if it’s for the better, it’s all scary, right? So, but I woke up and all of a sudden was just comfortable with it. I just had so at peace with the idea that like, Okay, I’m gonna open my own law firm. I’m walking away from this, I have literally done everything I can to make this work. And kind of damn everybody else that thinks it’s not the right thing. And that’s a big thing for me, because I’ve always been a people pleaser, in many respects, I think it’s part of being an only child and being around adults for so long. So Young, that was just kind of how I operated. And I want things to succeed so badly, because of what we’d gone through that it was really disappointing to me to step away from it. But after a certain point, you just have to recognize what is and what isn’t about a situation.
Ari:Right, right. It’s, you know, a lot of times people want to do something, and it’s always for whatever reason, every time and it’s even usually your your closest friends or relatives and you know, you say, you know, I got this great idea, I’m gonna do this and what do they usually say they go, you won’t just go out get a job, just you know, you can’t do that, you know, it’s not too hard. It’s not, you know, just you really should go, you know, and they’re the naysayers and you know, I love my family, and I love my friends. Okay, but when it comes time to make decisions like that, I don’t really talk to them because most of the time that you go to the people that have made it that have done it, okay, and you say, hey, you’ve I want to be where you’re at, what do I need to do and take the advice from them? And that’s kind of sounds like what what you said to heck with everybody else, okay. I don’t care what you’re saying. I’m going to do this.
Kathryn: It really was and prior to that I had been meeting with a number of female attorneys in Atlanta different practice areas and I started a lunch group and it was very again fortuitous that we had become friends. They Had all left their practices where they were originally because of something tumultuous happening to them. And that’s what the catalyst for why they started their own practice. They were so much happier because of it. And I speak to it about in my book, because it’s just amazing how much we went through the same things were a little bit separated by age, but just fascinating that that’s really what was the straw that broke the camel’s back for all of us. And so I had that, in the back of my mind, I knew people that could do it, and had were encouraging me, like you said, and then my husband, who’s been my biggest advocate, of course, when it comes down to brass tacks, you have to look at finances, how we’re going to run the home, things like that as a team. And he was concerned, you know, he was concerned about the cost and investment of opening my own practice. And he said, Well, why don’t you just go work for somebody for a little longer, I was like, nobody is going to help me do this. It’s such a, you know, right keeps their cards close to their chest, I don’t know what I’m doing. Now, having run this past practice, I’m not going to learn, right. And it really was the best time to do it. Because I had cases I was able to split amicably for my path. You know, my new partner had a full caseload, and I figured, what’s the worst that happens? I go get another job. And if you’d ask me a week before that, you know, that rock bottom, if I would have done that, I was terrified, terrified of walking away and failing, in my opinion, and it wouldn’t be a failure, you know, it’d be a learning lesson at that point if it didn’t work out. But yeah, it’s really as amazing. I think he’s do like he said, have to talk to the bright people who are on that same path, and you can think about something, but until you go through it, you don’t have a full appreciation as much for what challenges come to you like that?
Ari:Wow. Yeah. Let me ask you this. If you had to do it all over again, what would be the one thing that you would do differently?
Kathryn: I don’t know that I would have done anything differently. And I, I say that not because I didn’t make mistakes, but because if I my knee jerk reaction was to say get out early, earlier in this situation of that last year, you know, not hold on as long trying to salvage something. But I think it took that long for me to figure out one, that this wasn’t gonna work, too. I proved to myself that I could do it. And I needed that time, I needed that time to come to terms with it, I need that time to show myself that I was capable. So getting out earlier really would have probably just meant me going and working for somebody else. But that’s, that’s really, you know, I don’t think I would have changed anything, I would never wish this on my worst enemy. It’s all that lines up. And it really was like a fortunate fall. Everything happening. That’s what I call is a fortunate fall.
Ari:Yeah. So I went on your website, can can you tell us a little bit about your mission and your vision?
Kathryn: Yeah, so my goal really is to help other professionals, I think everybody can benefit from self care. But of course, my message and my experience is also very tailored, I think, to professionals, but help them overcome the idea that they have to live their life a certain way. And that goes from the personal life to the professional life. We are so as a society, so obsessed with what other people think and what we should be or what we shouldn’t be. And those are the shoulds, right, or that idea of not enough. And it manifests itself in different ways for everybody. But I think it manifests itself so drastically for professionals. Because we are very top of our careers and top of our professions a lot of times so zero sum professions is typically where I target lawyers, doctors, executives, nurses, and athletes. So if you’re not winning, you’re losing tight mentalities in your profession, you know, if you’re not, in my case, winning cases, you’re losing cases, if you’re not saving lives, as a doctor, you’re letting people die. I mean, just very extreme dichotomies. And that’s just that’s inherently false. Life is not about just winning or losing or surviving or not surviving. So helping people realize that they can embrace the idea of overcoming addiction to the status quo is what I call it, because we are so tied to that what other people think, Well, we think of ourselves. Because the idea of this life to me, regardless of what you believe after is living the best version of yourself, which I believe leads to true happiness, because happiness is different from everybody. But the same concept, I still think is the foundation of happiness, which is the best version of yourself. And the only way to be the best version of yourself is to let go of everything holding you back, which is external forces and yourself often. Time is yourself at that point,
Ari:Correct. Correct. It’s not you know, it’s not what happens to you in life. It’s how you react to the things What happened to you in life?
Kathryn: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ari:Wow, that’s great. So the name of your book again,
Kathryn: overcoming addiction to the status quo.
Ari:Okay, and where can they where can the audience find that?
Kathryn: Yeah, that’s on Amazon. It’s on Books a Million. Or you can go to my website and it will link you there as well. And your website is Catherine F. burmeister.com. I’m sure you’ll put spell my name so I won’t have to spell it out for you. But yeah.
Ari:Okay, that’s awesome. And before we go, do you have any like words of wisdom. Some of you, you might want to leave with our audience before you go. words of encouragement.
Kathryn: Absolutely. Don’t let yourself get get to such a dark place or such an overwhelmed place before you start looking for help. You don’t have to have a formal diagnosis of anxiety or depression to start taking control of your sense of being overwhelmed or setting boundaries in your life. Everybody benefits from mental health awareness and actively and proactively taking care of themselves that way. So don’t don’t let any perceptions or status quo out there about what mental health is or isn’t hold you back from making your life better day to day.
Ari: In other words, don’t worry about a stigma or anything like that. Just do what you need to do. All right, at the end of the day, you’re going to do what’s best for you. And, unfortunately, unfortunately, a lot of the people that we come across, they really don’t have your best interests at heart. You know, they may sound well meaning but sometimes it’s just you know, it’s just the wrong type of advice. And I think again, listening like us, let let like, like the name of the show is the whispers listening to those whispers that are telling you, hey, you need to get help, or you need to do this or you need to do that. Those are the whispers you needed to go to that rotary right? You didn’t want to go, but you weren’t. But the whispers were telling you. No, you need to go. Okay. And it was obviously for the good. Great, Catherine. Thanks so much for sharing your story with your story with my audience. You know, I’m sure you’ve touched the hearts of many of my audience. Good luck going forward. Keep up the good work. You’ve been listening to whispers in Brixton. I’m your host Irish showman. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.