Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Whatsername

with 10 comments

Total Black: $1,019.46
Total Red: $229,268.63

Last night I saw American Idiot on Broadway.  It left me cascading through memories of my twenties and the person I was back then.  And I don’t know now if Twentysomething-Joe would even recognize Thirtysomething-Joe. 

The show was so much more than just another musical.  The set was phenomenal and the energy of the actors exploded from the stage.  At first, I was apprehensive.  Funny how you get like that with age, huh?  I watched with pursed lips as punked-out performers flipped and flopped all over.  Literally, because as the curtains were drawn back, we see one performer upside-down on wires hanging near the rafters. I anticipated a hefty serving of puerile commentary on life in America post-September 11th, the type of quasi-criticism only the comfortable and privileged concoct.  Let’s face it, those who truly can speak of our hypermaterialism, ever-increasing impatience, or our mass-produced mentality—well, they don’t tend to write plays or poetry or sing songs.  They scratch out their meager existence day-to-day just trying to make ends meet.  So I grab a handful of salt whenever caustic criticism about life today comes at me from the musings of millionaires.  But as the show unfolded, it really began to strike a chord.  And a chord I haven’t heard in quite a while too.

The show tells the story of three friends desperate to shake the dust of their small town lives and move to the city.  But only two friends get away.  Before one can escape, he learns his girlfriend is pregnant and chooses her over them.  Of course, he regrets it daily and it ruins both their lives.  The other two guys do get out and off to the big city.  But after a bit, one guy joins the army and is sent to Iraq.  The other discovers heroin and loses himself to it.

The show is a story about the suffocation of the suburbs.  The near-panicked frenzy to escape before you become just another carbon copy of your parents.  The temporary alleviation offered by drugs and alcohol.  I remember those feelings of claustrophobia and invincibility.  Summer nights drinking beer out by railroad tracks.  Or off in the woods by a fire.  Or visiting too many convenient stores.   Life was measured by parties and chronicled by random misadventures at those parties.  “Remember the time at Eric’s place when Tom . . . . ”  or “Remember when Libby tripped off the porch and . . . .”  Hours we whiled away in someone’s apartment, or basement, getting drunk . . . or high—or both.  Planning our lives.  Mapping our dreams.  One would become a writer.  Another a singer.  A few guys would form a band.  Seemed always someone had a guitar to strum along as time crept by.  But when it came time to leave for the night and each pocketed his dream away again till the next weekend when the beer made us brave enough to bring them out again.  Our biggest worries back then were not getting pulled over by the police while driving home under the influence of something and waking up on time the next morning for a job.  And if we did get fired, it didn’t amount to much.  Just the hassle of having to find a new job.  Work was a bridge to get us from one weekend to the next.

But then things changed.  A couple broke up.  One of us moved away.  Another spiraled down too far into drugs.  No one became a writer.  Or a singer.  No band was ever formed.  I split with the guy I had been dating—multiple times actually.  It was he who dragged me to all those parties and ripped me from my shell.  Eventually he moved away too.  When the song Whatsername played, I was nearly moved to tears thinking back on all those days and that same guy—My Whatsisname.  First love.

What startled me tonight was how irritated I was when the show started.  I suspect the contract attorney who had suggested seeing the show and accompanied me was just as irritated.  I don’t think he was able shake his smugness though.  Perhaps the Wild Turkey I drank before the show helped take the edge off.  The story American Idiot weaves together is truly classic Americana: three friends struggling with this compulsion to do something unique with their lives.  But then life takes over: one ends up a baby daddy, the other a junkie, the third a vet.  The only thread missing was the friend who escaped suburbia by getting educated.

What does any of this have to do with my debt?  A lot really.  I’m in this place because I abandoned Youth in pursuit of Adulthood.  I moved off toward the Land of Grown Up and Settled Down.  Became an adult.  But what do we leave behind when we “grow up”?  Who do we forget along the way?  What dreams to do trade in for “secure” or “settled”?  We marvel at the innocence of youth yet we’re so quick to abandon it.  What’s so wrong with just living and working?  I look down my nose at those friends I had back then who haven’t changed in ten years.  But then I can’t recall the last time I sat back, beer in hand, under the stars, and dreamed about the future.  Instead, it’s been a hardscrabble existence since I left Twentysomething-Joe behind.  At age 23.  I won’t blame law school as so many blogs out there do.  That’s a cop-out.  I loved law school and I’m proud to be a lawyer.  And had I had enough foresight I might have saved some of my short-lived six-figure salary.  But who could foresee this calamity we’ve fallen into.  I’m content enough with where I’m at.  But tonight brought crashing home the life I left behind.  I know I made the choice to pursue something else, something different, something that would elevate me above those peers I had back then.  I got out by getting educated.  And whenever I’ve met any of them since, I feel the chasm between us.  We really can’t even communicate any longer.  Like we speak different languages.  They’ve pretty much stayed the same; I haven’t.  But my transition has cost me nearly every friend I ever had.

Remember.  Whatever.  But it does seem like forever ago.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

April 12, 2010 at 23:59

10 Responses

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  1. And I’m the sure the check is in the mail too. Is there even a point in following this blog anymore?

    Anonymous

    April 13, 2010 at 18:42

  2. I love the sanctimonious indignation. The entitlement. If you’ve been following from the beginning—or near it—you’ll know that I’m fairly consistent in updating my posts. I do have bouts where I fall behind. But I catch up sooner or later. Only three posts of late to be updated. So just chill. And go read from the beginning if you haven’t followed from then. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Older Entries” link and go back to August and catch up. That’ll keep you busy till I get caught up myself.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    April 14, 2010 at 05:12

  3. Loses. Loses! Gah!

    Anon

    April 14, 2010 at 09:13

  4. You know—I caught it, but then wondered if you were still out there, so I left it. 😛

    Fixed now. But at least I’m now enough to look out for it.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    April 14, 2010 at 09:21

  5. and i suppose you want a refund too?! you’re a typical selfish drive-by-hater. it’s a damn tough task keeping up a daily blog with original content when your life is as busy as LOL’s is. he’s not writing it for you.

    STFU

    April 14, 2010 at 13:42

  6. This post really rang true with me, I can tell it came straight from the heart, thank you for expressing it so eloquently. I really understand what you mean, I’ve been trying for so long to hit the nail on the head about what it is thats really bothering me, its adulthood, making choices for a “career” moving away, settling down losing people, the lonliness of trying to make it on one’s own. I too was desperate to get away, some people live in the same place all their lives and have people they know and a support structure around them, Gosh its been a very long time since I had that. Since leaving law school its been a scrabble.

    What is so wrong with just living and working as you say. Nothing, so why do we feel we must always strive to do “better”?

    Dreamer

    April 14, 2010 at 15:41

  7. Your comment came through as I was listening to “Jesus of Suburbia” from the same album. Had to get it from iTunes.

    I really don’t know why it is that we feel so unfulfilled. And given the amount of obesity, prescription psychotropic medication, and gambling—to name a few—clearly something’s amiss. Maybe it’s terminal wanderlust. A sense of restlessness we can’t cope with. Going “back home” does make me happy. Until I’m there too long. I just felt that I couldn’t stay. Even a few prior posts convey that sentiment: flash-forwards of a possible future, just me and my mother, growing old together. That certainly wasn’t the compulsion that drove me away ten years ago, but it does give me pause now.

    Feels like for our parents’ generation, it just wasn’t this way. People became doctors and lawyers, but others also picked up their dad’s trade or got a job with mom’s factory. Somewhere along the way we came to see that as no longer enough. Much of the antics and experiences I mentioned above happened while in college. Quite a few of the crew I ran with didn’t go to college—or dropped out somewhere along the way.

    The oddest thing about it all—some of those buddies from our youth are better people than we’ll ever be. And better friends than we’ll ever find as “adults.” Recently when I visited my mother, I happened to be back home when my closest friend from childhood let me know her grandfather had passed. We haven’t seen each other in years. A quasi-platonic whatsername, I suppose. I didn’t stay; work awaited. So my mother attended the viewing in my stead. My childhood friend sent me a message to thank me that my mom attended. She said she and her whole family were elated at the opportunity to tell my mother how much they love me. Only a few days later her uncle was killed in a motorcycle accident. Walking to work the next morning, I thought about heading back for the funeral, but put it out of my mind. Odd that I’d attend his funeral when I hadn’t stayed for her grandfather’s, whom I knew better, right? That’s when it struck me all of a sudden. Her grandfather had saved my life one cold, crisp December night. Too long to explain what had happened, but had he not be available to aid me, I wouldn’t be here today.

    And I couldn’t miss a day of work to pay my respects? What happens to us? Perhaps while putting that white collar on bleaches our souls a bit. I regret not staying one more day to attend his viewing. To him, to her, and even to myself. Lesson learned, unfortunately, too late.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    April 14, 2010 at 16:05

  8. Harsh words LOL . . . I’ll keep Thucydides to myself next time. 😉

    “And better friends than we’ll ever find as “adults.””

    skip

    April 15, 2010 at 08:46

  9. I blame the TV. Seriously, would it have ever have occurred to me to become a lawyer if it were not for the TV? No probably not.

    Staying where I grew up was not an option for me as far as I was concerned, it filled me with horror that I might spend out my time in that place living the same life my parents lived which somehow seemed full of desperation, lack of money and deep unhappiness. Fear propelled me.

    Its bloody hard. You probably dont see it so much in NYC (i would think that there are quite a few out of towners in NYC) but where I am now a lot of people seem to have been born there, brought up there and now work there, they have mates and families around them. I scratch my head because i cant fathom how you can go through life as a professional and stay in the same place!? A lot of my unhappiness of this profession is that one has to move where the work is, and as you and I know there is no stability anymore, no jobs for life and so one tends to keep having to move every few years. There is little chance to build anything, life tends to be a bit nomadic.

    What kind of a life is that?

    Dreamer

    April 15, 2010 at 09:38

  10. I’m always happy to be disproved. 🙂

    But know that I count myself in with that group of “adults.” Prior comment about attending the viewing demonstrate that.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    April 15, 2010 at 19:46


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