Life is all about compromises. When we pursue one activity, it’s at the expense of another. When we mix in certain circles, we may have to show one side of us and hide another.

Gillian Woon, the 135th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, knows this only too well.

Gillian is a very successful IP lawyer, so she’s got the corporate side of life nailed. But there’s a creative side that is undernourished.

When Gillian was younger, she was forced to ditch her budding theatre career, because work and children left no time for acting. She took up the cello a few years ago, but wishes she had more time to practise.

Gillian is smart and self-assured – but, like most of us, had moments of self-doubt earlier in her career. Partly, that was due to her age; and partly because, having grown up in Singapore, she initially felt like an outsider. 

Even if Gillian no longer feels the pressure to conform, she sees it in others, in her role with the Asian Australian Lawyers Association. Sometimes, young, foreign-born lawyers will ask her what persona they need to adopt to fit in.

Wouldn’t life be easier if we could do everything we loved and show our true selves?