Monday, March 25, 2013

Being Frank

So I was talking with a friend. And we talked about work. Somehow the topic crept ever so slowly to the red zone--salary. Without blinking, she very candidly blurted out how much she made.

This friend has a BA with half of her credit hours earned at a community college. She did not to go graduate school. During high school, while I was working every Saturday and Sunday to bolster my college applications and get some work experience, she was playing and partying. While I have three years of being a lawyer under my belt, she has maybe a full year of experience holding a full time job. Unlike me, she did not spend nearly a full mortgage on lawschool tuition.

And yet, here we are. Ten years later. Making nearly the same amount. GUH!

I try to avoid comparing myself to other people and I definitely try to avoid talking about money and finances and salary with anyone. But a little piece of me wanted to scream in frustration. The path that led me to the present was a rough path full of hard work, smart choices, sacrifice of time, and sacrifice of money. Where did all that "responsibility" get me? In the same exact place as those people who never really cared.

Before you say it, I will say it for you: money is not the measure of success. Yep I know that. Trust me, I know that. I say it every day a medical bill arrives in the mail. I say it every time my tuition payment is deducted from my bank account. I say it every time I have $100 to stretch for gas and food for the last week of the month. Money isn't everything. There is also balance. And family. And loving what you do. And being challenged and stimulated. And having room to grow.

While I made the decision recently to make keep more balance in my life (less billable hours for less paycheck), life has been far from rosy. Even though I took a 75% position, the honesty is that it takes 100% to do my job. That's the beast of litigation. While I still have flexibility (working from home twice a week is pretty awesome), I do have alot of the stress that I was trying to avoid. AND when I do try to reign in my stress and my time spent working, it somehow just makes me feel guilty. And yet, I would be feeling guilty about not being with the kids if it were the other way around. I guess, if I had to choose, I'd rather feel guilty about missing work than about missing the kids.

I have to say that I love my job. I absolutely love litigation. Everyday it is challenging and new and exciting and scary. But sometimes I feel like I could have coasted through life a little (or a lot) more and have ended up in the same place. That might not be entirely true. It might be entirely false. But it sure feels that way sometimes. Those are usually the times that I scoure craigslist for random job openings and romanticize about being a donut maker or personal trainer or having some mind-numbing desk job that pays the same as my lawyer job. But the grass is always greener, right?

I need to end this post now because the conservative in me is screaming "Shut up! You got exaclty what you paid for. You don't get a bailout for the choices you make. Be happy you have a job and can provide for your family. And, besides, your boss totally buys you beer!"

So, the take-away (aside from the fact that I am a whiny person) is this: I would never discourage anyone from going to law school but law students need to know what to expect. They need to know what they are buying when they fork over $100+K for tuition and books. When you make the big decision to go to lawschool, you may be sacrificing 1/3 of your income for the next 20 (or more) years to pay back your student loas.

Yeah. Big commitment. And you can't divorce your student loans.

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