I tried to talk myself out of it. To say that the hours and the stress weren’t worth it. But the fact is, I deeply, deeply miss being a litigator. I deeply desire the charge of being in court, of problem-solving with colleagues, of being intellectually challenged by my work, and in an admission that won’t be a surprise to any lawyer reading this site, of being Officially Smart When I Am Proven Right.
These last few months “off” have been great. I have done a ton of writing, and not nearly enough reading. (Is there ever enough?) I have had a lot of time to think about what I want in a workplace, how to best manage my workload so I give good results to clients without losing my mind, and what I want in colleagues. And I have also spent a lot of time being afraid– what if I end up someplace with crazy personalities and bad management? It happens. What if I immediately start stressing out and fall back in to bad mental habits? What if… what if?
When I was working, I would leave my briefcase, totes, and other baggage du jour by the door, so I wouldn’t forget it– I’m not always a morning person, and if I am feeling harried I turn into ForgetfulBLC. My dad bought me this briefcase when I was first starting work as a law clerk. We picked it out together, at a luggage store in Northampton that’s still standing. I haven’t always used it– sometimes the case demanded a pen, a legal pad, and my wallet, and sometimes a trial bag, and this two-gusset leather number doesn’t fit seven redwells, on those challenging seven-redwell days. I’ve got an array of black bags and cases for those different kinds of days, but this briefcase is My Briefcase in a way the after-acquired ones aren’t.
I was emailing with my Dad and listing all my concerns about accepting this offer, and listing the on-the-other-hands. The people seem at ease with one another; their body language says so. They meet your eye with keen and interested looks. And they made me a more-than-fair offer despite what I think was an astonishingly frank discussion of what I didn’t want in a workplace. The work will be challenging, more complex than I’ve been doing recently. And they seem the right size of small and large. Dad and I discussed some of the things I’ve disliked about past work places, and why they were a problem for me. By the third email or so, I’d talked myself into going back to litigation, and out of letting my fears allow me to continue to be a little bored, a bit lonely, and in any event, underpaid. He echoed the same things that the BH has been saying, and which after the fact and unsolicited, my best friend A. has said. In essence, that I should take the job, that I’d done the mental work to avoid past pitfalls, and that I could do it, despite my fears.
I am still going to freelance, but at this point, it won’t be beyond the part-time pace I’ve been doing. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s a potential outlet to prevent me from getting so caught up in work that I think about nothing else. But I’ve also realized that without being busy and without having structure, I’m a bit at loose ends. I need enough “stuff” going on to allow me to flesh out a schedule and counterbalance things. I need the pressure, in order to produce. And really, to feel like who I am, who I can be when I’m firing on all pistons, I need and love that bag, swinging off my shoulder, as I ready for another legal battle, suit as armor and high-heeled lances at the ready.