Dear E. Jean--
From the outside I have it all. A handsome husband who is a big-shot lawyer at a prestigious international firm, bringing in the big bucks. I’m a lawyer too, at a less prestigious, but nonetheless great firm. We are building our first house, a big, brick Colonial McMansion in the tony suburbs of a big city. We have nice clothes, jewelry and cars. We donate our time and money for worthy causes, have great friends and family. BUT . . . . . I feel totally worthless.
The material things never defined me, so I derive little satisfaction from them. I hate being a lawyer. I feel stuck by the house and my profession, and, at times, my marriage. My husband refuses to leave the state, and all I want to do is pack up and move somewhere else, for a new perspective or god knows what. Sometimes I feel the only thing I have done right is married a great man and treated my dog well. Good things, but sad.
Is this just a bad case of wanderlust or the typical crisis late-twentysomethings go through?
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NOW, NOW, My Young Trollop: Of all the letters I receive, the #1 career complaint is from women who are attorneys. Why? It happens like this:
- You are brilliant
- You graduate from college
- You frown. An Angelina Jolie frown -- your eyebrows crash into your cheek bones
- Question: WHAT should you do with your life?
- Some dingbat answers: “Dude, why not go to law school?”
- Having nothing better to do, you go to law school
- You graduate . . . again!
- You do not particularly want to be a lawyer, but your parents say, “Hey! Take the bar. We spent thousands putting you through school, the least you could do is take the damn bar.”
- You take the bar
- Unfortunately, you pass
- “Great! Great!” cry your parents, “You passed the bar! Fantastic! Now, hunny. You know it would be just terrible to waste all that time, wouldn’t it? Why don’t you just see if you like being a lawyer.”
- You get a job as a lawyer with some dried-up, boring, snotty, hideously desiccated, old white shoe firm
- And. You. Fakking. HATE. It.
No wonder you feel stuck and “worthless.” I’m amazed you haven’t duc-taped yourself to the barco lounger and refused to budge from the house. It’s time to do what you want to do.
You were already half-way to being a freed woman merely because you value what is to be valued: A good man and a great dog. (Not necessarily in that order.)
With your charm, your alertness, your savage skills, there is pretty much no limit to what you can achieve -- especially with the big city near by. Hundreds of wonderful organizations need a lawyer who is clever, motivated, and wants to reach deep down inside herself and find what she has to give to the world.
The Innocence Project (a national organization dedicated to freeing wrongly convicted people.)
Kiva.org (a stunning organization that lets people “lend small amounts of money to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.)
If your husband doesn’t mind (and he sounds like an excellent chap) pulling in the lion share, go work somewhere you will LURVE working. You won’t make much dough, but you will feel alive and happy inside that big brick house.
P.S. And, please, darling. Build something that doesn’t look like the Burger King lives there.