Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I used to think it was a quarterlife crisis, but it turns out its a whole life crisis

The Imagine post has taken an interesting direction, with commenter Toots taking a new look at the fantasy issue. Then, Michael emphathizes with my angst-ridden birthday post from a few weeks ago. Read the comments first. I think I see a theme emerging.

I graduated from law school almost ten years ago, and it look me a long time to admit fully to myself that I didn't really like it that much. I did enjoy law school and I did well. With one parent and a sibling practicing law, I just couldn't convince myself that I ought to be doing something else. Plus, I'm actually pretty good at it. So it was easier to simply blame the atmosphere at the law firm I started at, or the type of law I was practicing. But after five years of the most flexible practice imaginable, with work that is about as interesting as it gets in my practice area, it still feels like I'm wearing a shoe that's too small. So for the last ten years, I've been hanging between practicing law on the one hand and nature photography and writing on the other -- never committing fully to one or the other. And this lack of integration had me alternating between valleys of despondence and inertia and then the impotent panic that comes from a sense that one is wasting one's life.

But recently I think I'm seeing things a bit more clearly. The law, like any job, can be a tool (at least the way I'm fortunate enough to practice it) -- and an extremely valuable tool -- to create some semblance of the life I'd like to have. And that's the best way for me to look at it. Inflexible, binary thinking was doing me in. So as soon as I stopped being surprised by the fact that I'm not interested in devoting my entire life to the law, the more it was possible to become exactly how I described myself a few posts ago:

For those who don't know, I'm licensed as an attorney and I use that work to finance my travel, nature photography, and nature seminars, like the one I took this summer on climate change and glacial recession in Glacier National Park, Montana.)


That's my story, which doesn't interest me as much as hearing yours. Toots already told us her story (her? his? Let me know if I have the pronouns wrong, Toots). What's yours? Are you content? Have you created the life you want or is there still more to do? For what it's worth, I think you can be content and still imagine things you'd like to do or rather be doing. I also think one's degree of contentment can change over time.


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I recently joined a networking group for women web developers, and it confirmed what I had suspected: I'm bored by web stuff. Web technology, anyway. I like how it's applied but a programmer I am not... Except, a programmer I am. That's what I get paid to do. So, like you, my job finances the rest of my life. I'm not sure yet if I'm ok with that. I mean, it's ok for now, while my kids are little, but 10 years from now? I don't know.

Trailhead said...


I have another deadline as well. Most of my work is with my dad, who is getting to be of a certain age. He will practice until he no longer can, but of course one can't be sure when that point will arrive. This is a time-limited arrangement for me, and perhaps unconsciously, I've seriously limited my options for a legal career beyond what I'm doing now. I can foresee certain options, but they would demand a great deal of upheaval.

So at some point -- and I think that point is now -- it's going to be time for me to wean myself off the legal career. And I suppose I'm doing that.

Anonymous said...

I am a girl but Not a Girly Girl.

My job does give me 22 paid vacation days a year which has enabled me some time to do my work and travel. I guess another fantasy of mine would be the following.

Every Idea for a story, play, or Comic book, that I ever had was already written! Part of making this dream come true is actually doing the work. Neil Gaiman once said at a book signing. "People often ask me what I need to do to be at the other side of that table, signing autographs. It's simple. Do the work and finish what you've started,"

I literally have two dresser Drawers full of half written stuff. Been published a few times as an illustrator. Would show you guys some web sites but it all has my original name. Also it's taken me years to find a pen name and I am still looking. The biggest part of making my fantasy come true is doing the work, after work.

Trailhead, if you’re an attorney for anything to do with tax laws you are probably one of our clients.

Yes I would love to hear other's fantasies. I guess another one of mine was Marine Biology. I could go swimming with the wales and the little doe eyes seals anyday. In real life I do need to learn how to swim!

Yours Truly


Trailhead said...

Fortunately, Toots, I have nothing to do with tax law! That was my lowest grade in law school.

finish what you've started

So simple, but so true. I guess the big thing can be trying to figure out why we're not finishing things. Sometimes it can be a simple matter of rational prioritization, but other times it's something less helpful.

kris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristy said...

I've toyed with the idea of going to law school, but lawyers are, by and large (or so I'm told), one of the least happy/content/fulfilled of all the professions. Part of that evidently arises from the disjunction between law school and law practice. I heard it said recently that law school rewards perfectionism, but the practice of law rewards marketing/sales skills. Anyway, I know I'd love law school--not sure at all that I'd love practicing law, however.

Trailhead said...

I think practicing law can be good for certain people, under certain circumstances. I have a good friend from my original law firm (who reads this blog occasionally) who likes what she does. I don't get the sense it's her identity, or necessarily what she wants to do for the rest of her life, but it's a good deal for now. I will say that most of the lawyers I know who LOVE what they do are the folks who aren't in the high-paying jobs. They enjoy legal thinking and they have found a way to use it to achieve goals they are interested in. Like my friend who practices with the state on disability issues, or my friends who are law professors.

The weird thing for me that its come down to is that I have a hard time being indoors for the amount of time a devoted legal career requires. Yes, being indoors. Isn't that bizarre? I used to marvel that some folks in my original law firm could go the entire day without ever stepping outside: get into the car in your garage, drive to the office's connected garage, order your lunch in, and go home the same way. I need regular time outside. In fact, what I should have done was stick with my undergraduate biology major and studied wildlife.

Anonymous said...

Hey Trailhead this is Toots,

Maybe a decent laptop with a good battery and you can do your work outside? If you find one of these let me know because my laptop on battery alone works for like an hour. After that I am searching for an outlet. The whole reason why I bought a lap top was so I could sit at the beach and write my story. Then I had to resort to coffee shops where people would bolt in front of me to get a space with a plug! RRRRR! Here I have my masterpiece story that will be made into a movie someday and make me famous (joke) but some lady has to rush for the plug before me so she can sit on her boyfriends lap and pick out bathing suits online! “How about this one honey Ohhh Gosh I’m really doing something important here.” Others just sit there pretentiously and are just so busy being intellectuals that their brains hurt because their physical bodies can’t keep up with their brilliance. Lots of pretentious art snobs in Chi-town. And it really irritates me that being an artist in Chicago is all about the way you dress! It’s all about buying cloths that are really expensive but looks like they came out of a thrift store.

Now my laptop, only 6 months old has died and I had to resort to my Giant Flinstones computer at home. So I work on my story, print it at Staples then take that with me to correct and re-write, re-word better, fill in the story holes, ect. But I must say when I do work on my story it does add more meaning to my life. I mean it may be different for others, They are married, they are wives mothers ect, But what am I? If I were to drop off this planet I’m sure my company wouldn’t shut down. So when I do work on my illustrated story it does give my life meaning. Even if it gets me rejection letters. I can just wallpaper my apartment with them.