Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

When I Grow Up

with 2 comments

Total Black: $187.65
Total Red: $228,153.42

Good news: total black went up.  Bad news: total red went up too.  Getting there though.  Just the climb is starting to ache a bit.

One of the organizations I’m involved with, the New York Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society, had it’s annual planning meeting tonight.  Just before the meeting, I got to talking with a woman I met at the same meeting last year.  She is also unemployed.  After the meeting I got to talking with someone I hadn’t met before.  She is employed.  The first woman and I spoke about our frustration with our job searches.  She chronicled all the reasons why she shouldn’t take temporary positions, including no opportunity for skill development.  Catch though she’s not developing anything by doing nothing.  The second woman and I spoke about of frustrations about not working in an area we’re passionate about.  As we spoke, she shared her frustrations with her meaningless law firm work and expressed ambivalence about another job offer that she received.  Funny.  Only just now did I get the irony in her talking with someone who’s out of work about the frustrations in determining whether to take a different job or keep the one she has.  But I suppose it’s not fair to reduce her confusion to a quip.  The position the second woman is debating is overseas, in India where she comes from.  And the advantage, she explained, is that her family is fairly well-known and that would significantly enhance her career.  Doors would open for her.  But law school debt could block her way.  And she struggles with swapping one corporate position for another, and possibly giving up any chance to “make a difference” like you can in America.  She joked that she needed to find a rich husband so she could work for Amnesty International and not worry about how much she’d earn.  It seems a sign of the times that we all could talk at length about our career angst.  A fairly typical conversation too.  The irony that we have careers to gripe about does not escape me.

If you travel back in time and ask Little Me what I wanted to be, “a lawyer” wouldn’t be among his responses.  In fact, I didn’t set down the lawyer path until well after college.  Actually, not until after I finished my tour in the United States Peace Corps.  And, truth be told, I came to the law through philosophy.  Like many doe-eyed youths, I too wanted to help heal the world and make it a better place.  But I knew enough to know that being stuffed into an ivory tower wouldn’t accomplish that goal.  So I concluded that one way to put philosophy into action was as a lawyer.  Not exactly true.

A few nights ago I received the first comment to my blog.  The commenter noted her appreciation for my entries and shared how she felt somewhat similarly.  She described it as a delayed adolescent rebellion / pre-mid-life crisis.  Interesting.  In reply I noted how different a thirty year-old in 2009 seems when compared with a thirty year-old in 1969, for example.  By thirty, my father had been married for a few years.  By thirty-three, he was a father.  I can’t find an appropriate word that fully captures this feeling of wonder and amazement, of distance, of difference, that I get when I think about how changed things are now.  At thirty-three I’m still borrowing money from my mother.  That is embarrassing.  Not the debt.  But that I need my mom to subsidize me.  And it gets me thinking about where I’m at and what I want to be when I grow up.

So many of us spend the bulk of our lives, nose to the grindstone, toiling away day after day.  For what?  To pay bills?  I think of the book Hope For the Flowers by Trina Paulus.  “There must be more to life than just eating and getting bigger.  It’s getting dull.”  So many of us feel that way.  Why?  From whence this terminal dissatisfaction.  Is it just the pains of growing into a new era?  I definitely do not want to spend the next thirty years at that grindstone, browning my nose, just to pay bills.  In a sense I think it would be an insult to how hard my parents worked if I ended up with the same life they tried to ensure I wouldn’t have.

America is one of the richest countries in the world.  We help each other all the time—except when it comes to money.  Things change when money enters the scene.  But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.  Gets me to thinking that there could be another solution.  So many whine about shipping aid overseas when we have needy people here at home.  What about domestic microcredit?  If I’m my brother’s keeper, don’t I have a duty to help him in his time of need?  An idea is starting to take shape.  I’ll be sure to let you know when it forms.

2 Responses

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  1. Hey “average joe,”

    So I have to admit the concept of “delayed adolescent rebellion/pre-mid-life crisis” is not all mine. I got the idea while watching an episode of ER. Its the one where Neela, a young doctor on the show, has to choose where to do her residency. She gets accepted into this top notch program at Michigan U. But after a couple hours there she instinctively knows that’s not where she wants to be…

    Like Neela, we are all constantly bombarded with choices. And even though I do fear the possibility of living the type of life my parents sacrificed so much for me not to have, I am choosing not to let those thoughts cripple me. Instead I will remember not to live my life grinding and toiling for an unknown purpose because there is more to life then eating and getting bigger and working all the time…

    and your absolutely right, I am my brother’s keeper. The real question then becomes, how extensive is your duty to your brother?


    August 29, 2009 at 20:46

  2. That is one of life’s primary questions. If you accept that no man is an island unto himself, and that we all need each other to get by, then what’s my duty to others, and their duty to me? Isn’t that really at the heart of the health care debate? Isn’t that really the core difference between Democrats and Republicans? Democrats claim to be their brother’s keeper. Republicans claim got helps those who help themselves.

    Truth is probably somewhere in the middle, no?

    Laid-off Lawyer

    August 30, 2009 at 11:13

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