After a week or more of mild depression and deep soul searching, I have decided to get off my butt and really figure out what I’m doing with my life. This post is about that process and what I have realized at the end of it. What I’m about to say is very specific to me and my journey. However, I am posting it here because I think others might relate to it too and if so, maybe it’ll help you toward your own discovery. Maybe it’ll just help you to not feel alone in your struggle. Either way, here’s my story:
The beginning – I had a life plan. It was a perfectly good plan, a long term plan, a plan that I had worked toward for years. Like many a runaway bride, I discovered that when long term plans actually begin to come to fruition, it is absolutely terrifying. I felt as if I’d finally reached the top of the high dive only to go “holy crap! I’m at the top of the high dive!” That’s about the point when everything got kind of jibbly.
May – July 2011: I graduated law school to discover I was terrified both of becoming lawyer and of not becoming lawyer. I sent out resumes and I studied for the bar and all the while I was thinking, “I’m no lawyer. I’m not like all those people I graduated with. I have no experience. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m OLD! I’m too old not to have any experience and not to know what I’m doing. If I do manage to land an attorney job, I’m going to make a fool of myself and everyone will be disappointed in me.” Silently I doubted, worried, studied, and tried to keep a happy face.
July 2011: I honestly think I subconsciously sabotaged myself on the bar exam. I studied and I tried but I also worried, panicked, underestimated, and overestimated. In short I did what I did and it wasn’t enough or it wasn’t right or it was both or more than both. Regardless of what it was, I failed. Unfortunately I wouldn’t know that I failed until the end of October.
There’s some overlap in time coming up, so bear with me.
August – October 2011 – Because I knew deep down that I had failed the bar, I think I sabotaged my job search a bit. Not intentionally, I just didn’t have my heart in it because it felt like a lost cause. I applied for attorney jobs not really feeling like I was qualified and not having a real sense of what I brought to the table. I still felt like I had no clue how to be an attorney. I desperately wanted to be working full time but felt like if I got a job as an attorney I’d be revealed as a fraud. “How did I ever make it through law school?” I’d wonder. “I have no idea what I’m doing!”
August – November 2011 – I took my mind off my inadequacy by fundraising and training for the 3-Day for the Cure. It was a welcome distraction and key to maintaining some little bit of self-esteem. This is why, when my fundraisers were disappointing I was absolutely devastated. At that point in my life, I really needed to be good at something and to feel good about something I was doing.
September 2011 – January 2012 – I was working 2 temp jobs. One was extremely easy but cut into my day terribly, making it very difficult to accomplish much else. The other was working part time for an attorney.
This job really went a long way toward getting me on my feet, but it has been a rough road. In the beginning I felt sheer panic when I was called in to get a job. I would work and work on memos and briefs while feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. I was certain with every assignment I turned in that I’d be called out as a fraud. I only billed for about half the hours I worked because I was fairly certain it should be taking me half as long to complete the work. I stressed over assignments to the point that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I found myself procrastinating. I hated, and I mean absolutely loathed, doing the assignments I was given. I decided that I didn’t want to be an attorney. I hated doing attorney work and that there was no way I could keep doing it forever. Of course I couldn’t say this out loud. All those people who had rooted for me and supported me would be so disappointed. All the people who had been proud of me would stop being proud. I couldn’t have that. So, I plugged along and kept working for the attorney.
November 2011 – yesterday – I spent my time sending out resumes for jobs I didn’t want in a field I had spent years working to get out of. I told myself and others that if I could just get working somewhere, I could figure out how to be an attorney down the road. I just needed to get a job doing something familiar at a company with a legal department and then I could transfer. That way, I could prove myself first and hopefully people wouldn’t think too badly of me if I fumbled at being an attorney when the time came. This was a plan, but it didn’t feel like a good plan. It didn’t feel like my plan to become a lawyer had felt. Basically it felt empty and I felt empty working toward it.
The other sort of back-burner plan I’d had for some time was to adjunct teach business law, paralegal, pre-law, criminal justice or something like that while studying to retake the bar. Then I could continue teaching in the evenings to supplement my income. That would make solo practice less scary if I was ultimately forced to go that route. The problem was, since I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing as a lawyer, I didn’t think I could teach law either. I didn’t want to be that teacher who doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. Because of my law insecurities, I felt too insecure to apply for teaching jobs. I got leads, I looked at postings, and I chickened out. The sad thing is, this plan always seemed like the better plan. It was more on track with where I wanted to be and was definitely more in line with my interests than going back into logistics. I was afraid to fail though and I was letting my fear of failure hold me back.
February 2012 – In the past week I have cranked out 4 assignments for the attorney I work for. They were really easy. I had a good idea what the law was going into them from other assignments I’d done . I didn’t stress over them. I slept. I finally realized that I haven’t had that sense of loathing and dread when I do legal work for quite some time. The attorney I work for has consistently stated that he is happy with my work, not only to me but to others. He has even moved me from being a sort of freelance employee who picks up a check when I complete an assignment to actually being on his payroll. I’ve even stopped shaving time off of my hours logs. Basically, competence and confidence sneaked up on me while I was busy being distracted by my fear. I’ve realized that I do want to be an attorney and also, I really do want to teach. I’ve known all along what my game plan was, I was just too afraid to execute it. I was too afraid I’d fail.
That brings me to now. I have requested transcripts from all of the schools I’ve attended and begun looking into which colleges and universities are hiring. I have looked up the deadline to apply to take the bar again in July and have begun talking to Andy about where we’ll get the money for the application. I have started working on my study plan and thinking about which of my friends and family I can go to for advice about teaching, developing lesson plans, and choosing textbooks. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I’m on track again. Heck, I’m even eating healthy again and making a point to be more active. I think, no, I hope this time I’ve got this.
I’m still afraid. I still know there are no attorney jobs to be had and I have little experience. This time however, I’m gaining experience as I go. I’m doing legal work and if I land a teaching job, that will help, rather than hinder, my post bar exam job search. For the first time in a very long time, I actually feel pretty good about where I’m going and what I’m doing. It’s a good feeling. I guess I didn’t stray so far from the path after all.