In the past few weeks, I have picked up some additional freelance work. I love that I am making a bit of extra money, and I especially love that the work doesn't require a law degree. There's just something strangely satisfying about getting paid for work involving no legal skills.
It's been almost one year since I left my job. And the longer I am out of the workforce, the more I am realizing that I may never be a lawyer again.
I don't know what I thought when I quit. I guess part of me always assumed I would go back to a law firm after this little break at home with the kids - as if I was on another leave of absence, or maternity leave. I even found myself researching law firms which did in fact have sabbatical programs for women (Skadden's Sidebar program being one of them), and casually mentioning it to my former supervisors, as if they would form a special program just for me. Ha!
But now, one year out, the idea of going back to a law firm, or even being a practicing lawyer again, is scary as hell to me. When you're in it, you accept it, because it's your life. But having the opportunity to step away - I get anxiety just thinking about it. The pressure, the hours, the politics. I just don't have the energy or the passion for it anymore, and I don't think I ever will again.
So maybe my law career really is over.
It's a shame really, because I was a good lawyer. But what made me a good lawyer wasn't my love of the profession. It was my work ethic. It was my responsiveness. It was my need to excel at whatever I did and my fear of disappointing others.
The fact is, for me, so much about being a lawyer was the pride in it. The feeling that I was successful at something. The title to throw around at cocktail parties. Some people go to law school because they really want to be lawyers. But most people are just success driven overachievers who don't know what else to do. They have energy and intellect, but little passion, courage, or drive. They use their pedigree as a measure of success. I fell into this latter category.
But over the past year, I have really redefined my notion of success. It no longer depends so much on the standards of others - the things that you would put on a resume or discuss in an interview. Instead, my success hinges on my own sense of freedom.
I felt so trapped when I was working as an attorney, for a variety of reasons, some of my own making. But now I am fashioning a life for myself where I call the shots. I hang out with my kids. I see friends. I write this blog under no deadlines. I take the occasional class, I meet interesting people, and I read books. And slowly but surely, I'm starting to make money again, without the the aid of law school career services. Nothing like the money I was making a year ago, but money that feels so much more mine. And I'm so proud of that.
In my first post on this blog, I wrote about how I dreaded going to work functions with my husband, because I was scared of someone asking what I did for a living. Now I don't feel that way at all. In fact, I feel like I have a lot to say. About being a mom, about blogging, about connecting with so many other women who have taken my same path. And you know what? I find that people are interested, and some are even (gasp!) envious.
I don't rest my laurels on a title anymore. And if that's not success, what is?