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Things you learn for yourself

It's coming up on eight years. It's hard to believe.

I graduated law school in the class of 2000 (that was either ominous or exciting, depending on your perspective). I sat for the Kentucky bar exam in late July. Like cattle, all of us are herded into the testing room. For two full days, the old air conditioning roars, pens frantically scratch across paper, and, like humidity, stress permeates the air.

Then I wait two months. My life hangs in the balance. I have spent three years of your life and a small fortune to get to the point where everything hangs on another standardized test.

The day comes. They post the list of passers online by their test number (it's graded anonymously). I hit refresh on my Internet browser every other minute. Then, finally, it's there. I passed.

In two more weeks, I don my best suit and drive to the state capital. A judge from the Kentucky Supreme Court swears us in in groups of fifty. I raise my right hand and repeat something like this:

I do solemnly (swear or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.

We all had a good laugh about the duel part. Then it was time to go to work, to begin our "real lives."

And I hated it.

I hated practicing law. I hated feeling like a glorified janitor, cleaning up the mistakes of people I neither liked or respected. I was a tool to help them get out of a jam, to get more money in their pocket, to make them better off. I was underpaid and working too many hours. I had to hurry up and wait. I had a Friday when I had nothing to do until 4 pm. Then an emergency flared and I was there half the night and all the next day.

There were those few moments when I felt like I genuinely helped people. I helped non-profit organizations keep going. I helped people in bad situations come out from under extraordinary painful circumstances. And those days I could go home feeling good.

But they were not enough. I was a cranky, miserable person who drank too much. rosepurr knew me then and she has said that she wouldn't have even dated me, let alone marry me, because of who I was then.

I spent a lot of time and money on my education. I spent three more years completely miserable. But I refused to live my life that way.

So I went back to school. Another standardized test to get me in. Then a little over a year later, I was a librarian.

I often tell people that my worst day as a librarian is better than my best day as a lawyer. It's true. I'm much happier. I help people everyday and feel much more satisfied.

I work at a law school. This is the hard part. Everyday I see law students, many of whom, like me, went to law school as a default. What else am I going to do? Many of them will be great lawyers. Many of them come from a family tradition of becoming lawyers. Many of them will be very successful.

And many of them will be completely miserable for much of their work lives.

I sometimes teach classes on doing legal research. I stand up and lecture about how to do my old job, the one I hated, the one that kept me miserable and alone. Sometimes I want to pound my fist against the podium and yell, "DON'T." Go find something else, anything else. I should care about these students being the best damn lawyers they can possibly be, but I just want to urge them to do something else.

But I can't dissuade them outright like that. It's not my role. If they ask me about becoming a librarian, then I tell them. Sometimes I make sarcastic remarks about practicing. They have to learn for themselves. If someone told me when I was in law school, I wouldn't have listened anyway. It's ironic, though. If you step back while you're in law school, you realize you're surrounded by people - librarians, professors - who have likely abandoned the practice of law. Those that you see practicing - the ones in the library in the middle of the night, the paunchy, pale practitioners who come in to speak about something - are not people who you want to be around. It should tell you something, but you're distracted - by the student loans, the grades, the pressure, the workload.

But I try to be a role model. I try to live life by my own terms. I use my legal education everyday. I don't have the outward prestige, people don't look up to me the way they did when I wore a suit and tie to work, but I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning. And, when I do, I smile.

[Posted for Week 2 of LJ Idol - I Don’t Care About Apathy: What I "Should" Care About – But Don’t]


( 52 comments — Leave a comment )
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Oct. 2nd, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
This is great. I'm glad you are now doing what you want to do. There is no use spending as much time as we do in a job absolutely hating it. I've often wanted to go to law school but then I look around and I don't think I'd be happy. Nice job!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks, and thanks for reading.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
I still keep thinking about getting that degree in library science. A little over a year, eh?
Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
Just a little. A full year (which includes the summer) and a semester. I started in August and graduated in December of the following year. And I took my sweet time. Some people finish even sooner.

Plus with your background, you could probably work at an art library or at a gallery or museum. You'd be awesome. :)
(no subject) - starfallz - Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thndrstd - Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)


Except I still wear a suit (no tie, it'd be all wierd for me to be in a tie), hose, heels, makeup, etc. every single day of my work life.

Sometimes I like what I do, but I rarely like what I do. I desperately wish I could find a way out, but the pressures, plus the loans and the collapsing economy, make that hard to impossible now.

I love my profession; I hate my job; I abhor 90% of my coworkers.

Obviously, your post really hit home. Congrats on escaping.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found it so personally relevant. Good luck.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Love the honesty and optimism of this post. Very nicely written and very well done.

Oct. 2nd, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you and thanks for reading.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
So glad you found a job you're now happy with!

It's very soul-crushing to do something everyday that you hate.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
Indeed it is. I see the slumped shoulders and dark eyes and beaten expressions of those people everyday.

Thanks for reading.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
Great, great post. I'm so glad you signed up for this.
Oct. 5th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm glad to be in it. It's been great so far.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
This post? Brilliant. It makes me happy. Then again, I really like librarians...
Oct. 5th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
YAY, librarians! Thanks for reading and enjoying and commenting.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you found a job that you like!

My dad is a lawyer and my sister is a new JD just waiting for the results of the bar. He seems to like his work; she seems to just be doing it because she couldn't figure out what else to do, and it makes me sad to watch her.
Oct. 5th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
I hope your sister finds her own path. Perhaps it will be the law. Perhaps not.

Thanks for reading.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
I can empathise with this. My first degree was business, & I already knew that I hated it before I even graduated. I actually considered going into librarianship myself, but my career change has taken me into midwifery instead. You wrote about it well.
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you and thanks for reading.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
Really great post.
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're doing work you love. To me, that's super important.

You did a nice job with this.
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful post! Well written and honest!
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Oct. 4th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
Good for you, having the courage to know when you're not happy, and take steps to make it better. I too am not using my expensive degree.... and I'm happier for it.
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
Glad you found your path, too. Thanks for reading.
Oct. 4th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
Fantastic entry. I enjoyed it. That is awesome you found what you love.
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
Oct. 4th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
Loved this post. I have a friend in law school right now and another who's a paralegal (well, they're both working paralegals actually) and they love the field and what they get to do every day. I come from a family of librarians!
Oct. 5th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading.
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( 52 comments — Leave a comment )


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