Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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


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Total Black: $65.23
Total Red: $230,820.71

One word.  Probably one of the most frequently uttered.  In any language.  It’s also one of the most powerful, most demanding, and most accusatory words in human language.  Not to mention the most despairing.  It’s the word uttered in utter stupefaction when something unfair happens.  It’s the scream of a mother holding her lifeless child in her hands.  It’s the weeping plea of a jilted lover.  The demanding jab of an inquisitive student.  It’s also one question I haven’t yet asked myself.

Cue Seal, People Asking Why 

A law school colleague posted a note on Facebook about “shifting struggles . . . soul-searching changes,” what he referred to as people in his core circle experiencing the “death of loved ones; embracing religion; rejecting religion; breaches in serious relationships; finding faith; losing faith; changes in career; shifts in family structure; discovering love; wild success; wild failure; committing life to another; dramatically moving from one place to another . . . .  and all in a relatively common time period.”  He wanted to know if others had felt the same way or found others experiencing the same situations and what we make of it?

Clearly I’ve experienced radical changes in a short period of time.  And I know that many others around me have as well.  In many fundamental ways, we’re much different than we were just one year ago.  Have we asked why though?  I haven’t and that sort of stumped me today.  After everything I’ve experienced, I haven’t asked that question.  Why was I laid-off?  Why am I facing such massive amounts of debt?  Why did I having such difficulty finding permanent employment?  Why haven’t I achieved a modicum of success?  By asking why, I don’t mean why not, though that’s the tone my questions take.  Nor do I mean what have I done to deserve this.  Rather I’m asking something a bit more fundamental.  What am I expected to learn here?  Why am I facing these significant life challenges?   Why now?  And why haven’t I asked why?

Obviously I don’t know the answers.  Or at least I can’t say yet.  I can observe that if I hadn’t been laid-off, I wouldn’t have undertaken this project.  I wouldn’t have become a blogger.  I wouldn’t have studied for the Pennsylvania bar exam.  I wouldn’t have experienced the world of the contract attorney.  I can postulate various theories as to why I was one of the associates laid-off by my law firm, but that doesn’t really answer the larger question I’m asking.  I can also put forth many reasons why my debt is so high, many that I’ve already discussed in previous entries.  Yet that too only skirts the larger concern.  If we believe that life is not mere chaos and chance, that there’s some organization to it—whether one calls that God or something else—then we must accept that challenges and obstacles fall into our lap not coincidentally but purposefully.

Asking why is tricky though.  It can open doors or it can close them.  See, asking why can be accusatory; it demands a response.  But asking why can also lead to vital self-discovery.  There’s a reason Maslow put self-actualization at the top of his pyramid, well above basic needs.  Asking why is a luxury many people cannot afford.  When you’re hustling and scrambling to make ends meet, who can afford to sit back and ponder their shortcomings or hidden desires.  Now that things are stabilizing a bit, however, I’ll have to give this question a bit more thought because I’ve avoided it, afraid of what I’d uncover.  I think I’ve avoided asking why out of fear of having to reprimand myself.  But now I think finding whatever answers lie beneath that question is one luxury I should allow myself.  It’s something I’ll have to ponder throughout the next few weeks.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 7, 2009 at 23:55

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