I’m posting here because after two months solid (more? I lost track of time) of writing major briefs for four different cases, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to write for myself.
The odd development during these past two months is that the more I felt disconnected from being introspective–and, frankly, from thinking and focusing on my life outside of work (and what I would like it to be)–the less resistant I became. As a result, I’ve been killing it at work lately. I can’t imagine losing a single one of the arguments I’ve been working on, even though it’s entirely possible (and even probable)–courts are fickle, the facts are not great in a couple of those cases, and ability alone isn’t enough to ensure a win.
This is part of what I fear about work, though–that it will take me over, separate me from myself, cause me to put my “real” dreams on hold (as I have already, for years).
Sometimes I think, though, about people who have left the profession. My sister told me about a woman who left a big firm — and a big salary — to become a salesperson, working for herself. Every day she’d brag on Facebook about how she didn’t have to be a lawyer anymore; no more 9-5 for her. She was free, living the dream. She’d post pictures by the pool midday. She also believed in what she was selling–it was changing people’s lives, she claimed.
My sister heard a few weeks later that this woman had been in extensive talks with the big firm, to go back. All those posts? Fake. She was struggling to make ends meet, and it was defeating her.
I’ve heard a lot of stories like that.
Let’s face it, lawyering is a solid way to make a good salary, for life. If you truly hate it, then it isn’t worth the price, but–isn’t that kind of attitude — “I hate it” — a choice?
What’s the truth? What’s the truth, for me?
This past week felt especially satisfying. I felt like I was contributing value, giving my clients the best possible shot they could have to get the result they wanted. They also kept calling me throughout, often opting to speak to me instead of my boss, because I was knowledgeable, clear, straightforward, credible. I’m not a young girl wearing a suit anymore and punctuating my sentences with “um”; I’m the real deal. My one client was crippled with nerves about his case until he read my argument. Yes, he told me with relief, that’s exactly how I want to tell my story–you captured it exactly. I feel confident we are going to win. I could tell he was less worried about the outcome than he was about his story being lost. Once he saw it there on paper, a living, breathing thing that could not be misunderstood, he could rest easy.
If I can have satisfying days like that, and make a good living doing it, what is so distressing? What is there to hate?
The answer is, nothing. I have been committed, for some reason, to being unhappy with my profession. Why? I’m good at it. Sometimes it’s annoying, but more and more often lately I feel engaged. I come home and tell Jimmy stories about my cases. I feel valuable. I’m keeping my commitments these days, more often than not.
The tightening (and yes, I do mean an actual sensation of tightening) in my belly reminds me that something else is different, too. I’m pregnant (with twins).
That has had many impacts on me, but in this moment, two stand out.
The first is, it’s hard to sing. Trust me, I’ve had visions of singing to my belly every morning, but singing is a highly physical exercise. It engages the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the lungs, the throat, the mouth, the nasal cavities. Through the nausea and then the bulging in my abdomen (along with the rearrangement of my internal organs), I haven’t much felt like it. Odder still, I haven’t much felt like listening to music, either. Odder still, instead of picking up my guitar in an empty moment, I’ve picked up a brief, to rework an argument or massage the language some more–to serve my client, yes, but also, for fun. For FUN.
The second impact is I cannot continue to allow myself to earn below my capacity. For a while, that was fine. It was just me. I was suffering from burnout and needed a break from corporate life. I was suffering from boredom and stagnation and needed a change of pace. Based on that, I could justify the pay cut from the big firm to the small one–I didn’t really need or even want the big firm salary, not for what it was costing me, and at the small firm I still would make a good income.
Now I’ve got two babies growing inside me, and being in a “holding pattern” professionally isn’t good enough anymore. Coasting isn’t good enough. Being comfortable isn’t good enough. It’s high time to raise my standards. My ability exceeds what I’m up to right now, it exceeds what I’m earning right now, and in the end, sailing through easy workdays rather than pushing myself to seize growth and opportunity makes me more than a little miserable. It’s like dragging around a dead weight every day.
I’ve been listening to Jim Rohn. Sometimes the same talk, again and again. He’s dead, he’s been dead, but damn if his stuff from 1981 isn’t just as poignant (for me) today as I imagine it was for folks back then. One of the things he said that stuck with me was something along the lines of excelling wherever you are is the only way to get to where you want to be. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of years fighting my own talent and drive, keeping it contained, actively avoiding excelling. It has actually required a fair amount of effort, and commitment, and energy. It makes no sense.
The strange thing is (or maybe not), I don’t think I could break out of this pattern just for me. Even after all this self-development work, I still hold the belief that I don’t deserve the fruits of my own talent.
But my babies do. My family does. They will be the reason. Is it wrong, that that’s the case? Or is that just how things need to be for me to be my best? Is that how things are supposed to be for me? Does it matter?
I’m happier excelling than I am watching the days slip by. I’m inspired to excel for the first time in a long time only because of my babies and my family, rather than because of a desire for personal accolades or other personal gains (which historically have been poor motivators for me, for better or worse).
I feel as if I shouldn’t question it, but just ride it out–I’ve been starved for motivation for so long that the best thing I can do is run with it.