On May 10, it will be the eleventh anniversary of the day that I was sworn into the Florida bar. On August 7, it will be the tenth anniversary of the day I left grad school behind and started working as a lawyer. Since then, it's been a roller-coaster, to say the least.
As some of you know, I am an avid Lost watcher. And I am very very intrigued by the current plot-line where the main characters are featured in an alternate reality, where small changes in their lives lead to entirely different end results. Or, as Desmond famously says, "See you in another life."
(This may also explain why I am so fond of Hot Tub Time Machine. Well, that and the excessive use of hair metal. But I digress . . . .)
Every once in a while, when work gets really really busy and stressful and I reach a point where I've had it UP TO HERE with lawyering (in general) and other lawyers (in particular), I find myself wishing I work in a profession where people tried to be nice and kind and helpful instead of becoming deadlocked in a never-ending competition for the title of "World's Biggest Asshole." In these moments, instead of rushing home to cry, punching someone in the face, or announcing my decision to quit the practice of law and move to the south of France to write poetry, I try to make myself take a time out -- a pause in the action, like in the movies where the main character seems to be moving in slo-mo while all of the blurry surrounding action continues in fast-forward.
In that momentary stillness, I often reflect. I think about my decisions to go to law school, to be a lawyer, to take the job I have -- TWICE! -- to move away from my family, and pretty much every other step along the path that has led me to the place where I am now. And in so doing, I occasionally think about what my "other life" would be.
When I graduated from college and moved my stuff back from Tallahassee to Coral Springs, I was already admitted to law school, to begin six months later. Despite my protestations that I needed a break (i.e. lying out by the pool, extensive sleeping, and voracious reading) my dad told me that there was no way that he would allow me to live in his house for six months without a job.
At that point, my only real work experiences were 1) part time telephone sales for the Tallahassee Democrat and 2) working as an unpaid intern in a government office. So I did what any overqualified-yet-underexperienced unemployed new graduate would do: I applied to one of the many local neighborhood Target stores, thinking that, until school started, being a part-time cashier would be good enough. Target had other plans: they hired me as a management trainee, and, as a result, I spent the next few months working my butt off in retail.
I diligently and quickly learned EVERY SINGLE JOB in that store. I met the trucks in the morning and unloaded them. I painted shelves and changed displays. I learned the inventory system. I opened the store in the morning and closed down the store at night. I even learned how to be a cashier, run security, and serve popcorn at the snack bar. After a few weeks, they gave me a real management job: I ran the seasonal department during what turned out to be the two busiest times: back-to-school and Christmas. I worked a lot of hours and was on my feet pretty much the entire time, but for me, it was relatively mindless menial labor.
Plus the job paid well for 1995. As a nineteen year old with no debt and no real obligations, I was making $10 an hour, plus overtime, and, as long as I remained a full time employee, I qualified for health insurance. I could have stayed in that job and moved up the management ranks. With no student loans and living with my folks, I could have saved money, eventually moved out on my own, and had a completely different existence than the one I've managed to create for myself. At a minimum, I wouldn't be confronted with the endless deadlines and toxic personalities that tend to permeate the legal profession.
When I get all stressed out, I think about this alterna-life, and, some days, when it's real bad, I envy it, more than just a little bit. On the other hand, if I had chosen this path, I would not have gotten to experience the things that I've experienced, made the friends that I've made, or learned the things that I've learned. I'd be me but somehow, not me. And most days, being me is pretty okay.