Most paths are filled with lumps and bumps, and searching for an alternative legal career is no exception. Despite that unswerving fact of human existence, we long, since Old Testament times and before, for smooth, easy paths. If we just had an easier way to go, we could accomplish so much, we think. “If the path to an alternative legal career just weren’t so hard to figure out,” you might be thinking, “I’d quit my law job today, take the holidays off, and find that bright shiny amazing job in January.”
It usually isn’t the fact that there are lumps and bumps in the path that are the issue. Surmounting problems is actually the juice that powers us as human beings. As Brene Brown talks about, human beings are wired for struggle. The problem isn’t the struggle, it’s our perception of it.
Apropos of difficult paths, a friend handed me an old Dear Abby column last week that contained a great quote from Robert Fulgham, author and minister:
One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire–then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference.
Most of what we see as insurmountable problems in finding an alternative legal career are nothing more than inconveniences.
- It’s incovenient to take a pay cut–but if you still have a roof over your head and food on the table, that’s all it is. You can actually live without 5 pairs of shoes for each season, Imelda.
- It’s inconvenient to challenge the expectations of your parents, your spouse, your friends, or yourself to live in alignment with your soul’s needs–but you’ll still be alive after you do. And happier in that life.
- It’s inconvenient to learn completely new job skills at age 35, or to revamp your attitudes so that they’re healthier and serve you better–but your life will be richer and more fulfilling if you smash those lumps.
As you walk the often-terrifying path of leaving law, you might cut out a picture of a bowl of oatmeal (or grits if you’re a Southerner) and stick it near your computer. When you start to hyperventilate about whether or not your resume is good enough, or that you don’t know how you’re going to get that job you really want, or that you are never going to get out of law, look at the picture. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself that it’s just a lump in your bowl. It’s just inconvenient, and you can deal with that.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys in surviving a miserable job, and finding—and thriving in—a new and exciting one, despite the lumps. She offers discounted sample coaching sessions. Try one–they’re an hour that can change your life! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule yours today.