Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Purpose

with 2 comments

Total Black: $83.81
Total Red: $228,811.79

My day started at 7am when I was woken by my mother calling.  I haven’t been able to speak with her much lately because of the hours I’ve been pulling.  I’m also not much of a telephone person these days.  Once you and a friend or family member fall out of touch for a bit, it always seems like it’s going to require a long telephone conversation to catch back up.  So more time passes.  I mentioned this back in Never Been Further Apart.  Perhaps I need to be the one to start telephoning people.  I am good about texting though.  And to that end I created a monster in my mother.  I told her I’d send her a text message when I returned to New York.  She’s the type who invents every scenario of disaster until you’ve informed her you’ve safely arrived.  Well, in turn, my sister taught her how to text message back.  Now she’s enjoying it to the fullest and texting fairly often.  And teaching other older ladies too.  (If your moms all start texting you unexpectedly, it might be all my fault.)

At any rate, my mother called and woke me at 7am.  I actually suggested that she call me early in the morning because I knew I’d need an extra alarm, so to speak, to help get me out of bed and off to the contract attorney position early.  I’ve been short on sleep this past week.  Today I got in to the contract attorney position by 8:30am and worked until about 9:30am when I left for a 10am position at New World Stages.  I walked to work and to the theatre from work.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from my apartment to the temp agency’s site in the East 40s near Grand Central Station.  It takes another 15-20 minutes to walk from there—around all the tourists—to New World Stages on 49th between 8th and 9th Avenues.  Today, once my 10am shift ended, I hiked back over to the temp agency and worked until 4:45pm and left once again for the theatre; I had shifts at 5pm, 6pm, and 7pm.

Part of the 7pm shift had me ushering for Avenue Q.  It’s interesting that even though I’ve seen the show at least thirty times now, certain shows, or certain audiences, brings something else out in the show.  It just demonstrates the excellent writing and performing that makes the show so great.  Tonight the song “Purpose” caught my ear, as it were.  The number occurs early in the musical and sets the backdrop to pretty much the entire show.  A young college graduate, Princeton, makes his way to Avenue Q in Manhattan, looking to find someplace affordable to live.  Soon after finding a place on Avenue Q (no, there isn’t a real Avenue Q in Manhattan in case anyone wondered), Princeton receives a telephone call from his new job informing him that they’re downsizing and have to lay him off.  He asks: “But how can I be laid off when I haven’t even started working yet?”  I laugh every time I hear that line, thinking of all the lawyers and law school graduates out there who got laid-off before they even stepped through the door of their law firms.  Typically the audience doesn’t get the irony of that line.  At any rate, Princeton decides to keep his chin up and realizes that maybe getting laid-off is for the best because this way he can find his purpose in life.  Maybe he’s not meant to work at desk pushing papers.  Enter the song.

Tonight, for the first time, the show got me wondering about my purpose.  Back in Why? I skirted the edges a bit, but I wasn’t focused there on my purpose and I certainly haven’t thought much about it lately.  I guess makin’ that money has been keeping me too busy.  But tonight Princeton’s plight caught me by surprise.  I certainly didn’t set out in life to become a temporary attorney.  I’m fine with it for a year or so.  Builds character a bit to see how the “other half” lives.  But of late, I haven’t thought much about where to next.  I have most definitely given much thought to the idea of a purpose to one’s life.  Studying philosophy pretty much forces it upon you.  But it’s been a while since I stepped back from the day-to-day and thought about it.  Why am I here?  What have I been put here to do?  I am a unique person.  Despite all the mathematical variables and combinations of genes and experiences and features—there will be no duplicate of me ever again.  That fact alone must give one pause.  So I accept that there must be something more to this existence than merely going through the motions.  But that said, finding one’s purpose is not easy.

For a few years now, I’ve said I want to be a judge later in life.  I still do, I suppose.  One of my philosophy professors, however, was quick to catch me on that point and always cautioned me against it.  See, I wanted to be a judge because I wanted to use the law to put philosophy into action, and by using philosophy, and the study of the proper way to govern—politics with a capital P; Aristotelian, not Democrat versus Republican sort of politics—I could help achieve positive social change for many people.  Back when I was a child, I believed I wanted to be an actor.  My dream was comprised of two aspects: selfish and selfless.  Selfishly speaking, I have an existential foreboding of the idea that we’re really just ants crawling on the face of some rocky planet.  The thought that I will pass on and not be known, and will not have made a difference to the world, has bothered me since I was a young boy.  I can’t explain why but I’ve been driven to seek fame and fortune since a child because of a fear being unknown.  A few years back I photocopied a poem by Emily Dickinson for a friend of mine.  The poem contrasts my friend’s outlook on life with mine.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

-by Emily Dickinson

One isn’t enough for me.  It is for her.  I respect her for that.  And she me.  But the George Bailey approach, in that his life meant something because he made a difference to a few folks who inhabited his circle—that’s not enough for me.

But there’s also where the selfless aspect plays in.  I wanted to become an actor both because it was a fairly surefire way to net a lot of money and allow me a certain lifestyle, but more importantly, it would also provide an avenue to affect positive social change.  I recall watching two actors, perhaps Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, on the Montell Williams Show, years ago, talking about the suffering circus animals endure and it drove home the power that fame brings with it.  Think of the positive social change George Clooney has brought about in shedding light on Darfur.  Or Bono and AIDS in Africa.  The Haitian crisis currently in the news has been overrun with celebrities singing Haitians out of their suffering.  So really I viewed acting as a means to another end: making a difference in the world on a large scale.

Once I realized that, however, I soon understood that acting wasn’t the only way to achieve that.  The same thread, however, has been woven throughout all of the various manifestations my paths have taken: finding a way to help achieve positive social change on a large scale.  That’s certainly why I joined the United States Peace Corps.  And being an actor would help me achieve that goal.  Being a judge might as well.  It’s best I can think of for what my purpose here is.  And it’s something I’ve felt for as long as I’ve known there to be a me inside me.

During the song Purpose, a few of the other residents on Avenue Q, poke their heads out of the windows of the buildings on stage, a la Sesame Street, and share their purposes with the audience.  One character, Brian, says that his purpose in life is to make people laugh and make money doing it.  He had shared at the beginning of the show that he had always wanted to be a comedian.  In a similar vein, I suppose I’ve always wanted to help affect positive social change on a large scale and make a name for myself along the way.

Funny, isn’t it, that I started a blog.  And without even thinking of my purpose.  Hopefully some of the silent majority out there are being helped by my posts.

2 Responses

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  1. It’s George Clooney.

    anon

    January 25, 2010 at 09:04

  2. You’re right. Thanks man. Must be those pesky cold germs messin with my head still.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 25, 2010 at 09:26


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