The kindest way to describe the last five years (if years need someone to be kind to them; I’ll err on the side of cautiousness) is challenging.
Pardon me if I get a little dramatic and maudlin on you, but I am just so tired, you see. It brings out the dramatic and maudlin in me.
Maybe I’ll wish I hadn’t written this in a few days (I am starting to doubt myself only a few sentences in, typical), but maybe if I write it I’ll feel better about letting go, moving forward (maybe I’ll also be less likely to chicken out).
You see, last week I gave notice. Notice on being a lawyer ever again I think, although who knows.
I saw my five-year anniversary as a practicing attorney looming before me and realized I couldn’t do it any more. I am so tired of fighting: fighting with my opposing counsel, fighting to prevent my clients’ expectations from usurping my personal life, fighting over things that will likely only turn out to matter if somebody turns out to be an asshole or a cheat (these things are important, but man, are they depressing to consider day in and day out). And I’m so tired of being tired: tired from waking up at 5 am to finish something for clients on East Coast time, tired from staying late to finish something someone could have told me they needed two weeks ago, tired from waking up at 3:30 am because I can’t stop thinking about what I have to do today and what I forgot to do yesterday and what needs to be done by Friday and what I can’t forget to do or else I will probably be sued for malpractice.
The decision was a tortured and torturous one. It’s hard not to see this as a personal failure. Law firms view those who leave the law as not quite up to snuff, unable to hack it, and some of that rubbed off. It’s hard for some of my friends and family, and certainly for the other attorneys I’ve worked for and with to understand — why would you leave a profession you excel at? Why would you give up the money, the cache of being a lawyer? And for me, there is the matter of having paid $120,000 to join a profession that makes me miserable. What kind of an idiot does that?
Well, this kind of an idiot does, I guess. And while I have threatened, many, many times (sometimes right here, in fact), to quit and become an artisanal cheesemaker, it’s only in the last few months I started taking myself seriously, thinking maybe it was time to let go of the fear that I would have to acknowledge I made a mistake, or that some people might think I was a wuss or crazy, and instead just acknowledge that being a lawyer (at least how I’ve seen in practiced) was incompatible with my desire to maintain a certain level of joy in my life.
So finally, last week, I let it go. Goodbye, idea of self held for the last 5 years! Goodbye, image of self others have of me by virtue of my profession!
I have no idea what I’ll do next exactly. I mean, I have some ideas, I’ve got some irons in the fire. But I don’t have a clear path laid in front of me any more. It’s scary as hell.
In my optimistic moments (have you ever left your profession? EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER, dude), I get really excited about the future and what I can make of my life, how I can take my skills from being a lawyer and my previous web career and do! something! FANTASTIC! About how since I won’t be so tired from my job any more I will be able to do things like exercise! blog! bake pies! write a novel (I actually have no desire to write a novel)! handmake all my Christmas presents! actually send out Christmas cards! PICKLE EVERY FRUIT AND VEGETABLE KNOWN TO MAN!
Even in my less optimistic moments, I know I’ll do something. I have to. I’ve got bills to pay and two cats to feed.
And finally knowing what I won’t be doing is a relief. A scary, exciting, scary, exciting relief.