Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Dreaded Question or "So, Did You End Up Going to Law School?"

Last night, I had an unexpected run-in with a former co-worker. I was at a volunteer orientation meeting. (Since I plan on going into health care, I am going to volunteer some time at one of the local hospitals.) Afterward, as I was leaving, a woman came up to me and told me she couldn't remember my name, but we had worked together a few years back. I recognized her, but couldn't remember her name either. We re-introduced ourselves and began chatting about what we had been up to. She said, "So, when you left, you were talking about going to law school. Did you ever end up going?"

I felt unprepared, to say the least. My mind had been so preoccupied with this upcoming wedding (where I know I will need to explain my recent career developments to old friends) that I had forgotten I might run into people on the street who would ask about what I was doing with my life since the last time I saw them.

I explained that yes, I had gone to law school, and I did end up practicing for a few years. But it wasn't for me, so I left the law about a month ago. I also told her I planned on going back to school. She smiled and told me everything sounded "great," although she did ask me why I left. I told her I didn't like arguing with people all day, laughed, then changed the subject. I left feeling pleased about how smoothly it went. It was good practice for the upcoming wedding. I figure things will go similarly, except people won't really be interested in what I'm saying. That's the upside to having a group of friends that includes a disproportionate percentage of functioning alcoholics. (Actually, they're all just really fun at weddings.)

When I got home, I checked my email and was greeted by a terrific message from a reader, a former attorney, who had this to say about my insecurity:

"You are decompressing in the same way that an alcoholic - no offense intended at all - has withdrawal symptoms. Of course you care about what others think of this mistake which both you and I made. Nevertheless, I'll bet that fewer people wonder about your career choices than you think.

For those who have the audacity to ask you, here's your answer: 'I didn't like being a lawyer.' 'But you spent so much cash on it?' 'I didn't like being a lawyer.' 'But it took three years!' 'I didn't like being a lawyer.' 'But what about your future?' 'I didn't like being a lawyer.'"

Both of these events last night helped me realize how much my apprehension about explaining my decision is self-manufactured. People have their own lives to worry about, so my decision to change careers really isn't that earth-shattering to anyone else but me. Since it's such a major change for me, though, I am a little fixated on it. Much like an alcoholic fixates on sobriety after getting clean. What it ultimately comes down to, for anyone interested in hearing the real story (at the wedding or elsewhere) is this:

I didn't like being a lawyer.

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