Today is officially the first day of my retirement from law firm life. I’ve been struggling against this decision for a long time but I had a eureka moment several weeks ago when, after yet another all-nighter for yet another deal crisis, I realized that working kind of sucks. Yes, it’s stimulating and challenging and provides money to buy things you want and all that, but it can suck the life force out of you in a way that makes you question, “Why the hell am I doing this?” Especially when I don’t have to? Of course I would continue working if my family’s sustenance depended on it, but it doesn’t. I used to tell people that I would keep working even if I won the lottery because I’ve invested so much time and effort into my career, I genuinely care about developing and honing my professional skills, and I take pride in my earning capacity. Now that my husband’s earning capacity has dwarfed my own, my lottery hypotheticals have flown out the window. I’ve won the husband lottery and I’ll be damned if I don’t take advantage of it. Having the option to not work is a luxury, and I’m not going to let a few awkward conversations about what I do for a living get in the way of me fulfilling my destiny as a trophy wife. “Ummm, I used to be a partner at a law firm but now I make dinner for my family and occasionally blog.” Sure it sounds a little funny but I’ve reached the point in my life where I just don’t care. I don’t care about being a lawyer enough to continue making the sacrifices that it entails. It’s not easy to let go, but it’s time. After paying my dues as a law firm drudge, making partner, taking a yearlong sabbatical, returning to work, slogging through another year and then finally realizing that working is bullshit, my ten year legal career (13 years if you count my stint as a paralegal) is coming to a premature but not untimely end. I kept wanting and trying to hold on as long as I could, to keep doing what I was trained and expected to do until I couldn’t take it anymore. But why? What was I trying to prove, and to whom? What good would it do anyone if I clung to an incredibly stressful, demanding job at the risk of losing my sanity or my health?
Being a lawyer reminds me of childbirth. For the birth of both of my kids I was convinced that if I held off on receiving an epidural for as long as possible, if I could endure the maximum amount of pain, that would somehow make me a better, stronger person, a better mother. After enduring over 50 hours of labor to produce two children, I am a huge fan of the epidural. Hour upon excruciating hour of mind-numbing pain convinced me that contractions were a bullshit way to pass the time and in the end, the epidural couldn’t come fast enough. I was determined to be a lawyer the way I was determined to give birth naturally, without drugs. I hung on for dear life. And when I finally decided that there were other ways I could be living my life, retirement couldn’t come fast enough. Proving I could suffer in no way enhanced my experience of motherhood. Working myself to death doesn’t prove anything except that I’m wasting the short life that I have, my even shorter marriage, and my children’s fleeting childhood, which will be over before I know it.
There is a certain pride in being able to say that I accomplished what I set out to do. All I’d ever wanted to be was a transactional attorney, ever since I moved to San Francisco to become a corporate paralegal at the tail end of the internet start-up bubble, went to law school, and entered the ranks of powerless associates who dreamed of one day being able to call the shots. I became a deal lawyer, a really good one, just like I’d always wanted, and made partner as soon as I was eligible. But I don’t need to continue being one for a few more decades simply because it seems more respectable or prestigious to do so. That I’m opting to retire after a 10 year career instead of a 40 year career doesn’t diminish the fact that I achieved my goal. It’s time to move on to the next one, whatever that may be.