Welcome to my first self-indulgent post as a blogger and excuse me while I bask in the glory of your undivided attention.
“To be a useful person has always seemed to me something particularly horrible,”
It’s eerie how we can seal our fate at such a young age. I am tempted to blame my tragic, albeit short-lived, legal destiny on one run-on sentence from a deceptively innocuous entry in my Hello Kitty diary:
“I guess I should be a lawyer or writer cuz I always have to write what I’m feeling or I don’t feel whole and I like to argue my point of view.”
I find it both terribly romantic and ridiculously unfair to blame my childhood self for spending eight years of my life pursuing a field of study that never could satisfy me. At the age of fourteen, I clearly had no understanding of what the practice of law entailed. I simply knew that I was opinionated and liked to convince people to believe what I believed. Unfortunately for me, with one stroke of a pen (and with that smug feline Hello Kitty looking on in approval) I had planted the seed that would ultimately germinate into a misguided belief that I could indulge my passion for writing through the practice of law.
What started off as a mere hunch that law may be my most suited career path, slowly evolved into a strong conviction. In my high school English classes, I embraced the majority of what I read, but found particularly attractive the stories with characters who fought for what they believed in. I was inspired by the determined ingenuity of Shakespeare’s Portia. I revered Lee’s Atticus Finch for his goodness and his dogged pursuit of justice in the face of evil. The strong feelings these characters stirred up in me led me to believe that I wanted to become an attorney. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it wasn’t so much the substantive issue of the law that enthralled me, but the carefully crafted words in which these stories were delivered. (Of course, the fight against injustice still appeals to me now as it did then. But I have been sobered by the realization that the vast majority of lawyers advocate clients and issues that are MUCH less romantic).
During my three years of law school, I felt, at best, indifferent, at worst, miserable. Of all my classes, the one I dreaded the most was legal research and writing. I hated all the rules and parameters that were placed on my writing. My happiest moments in law school came from writing for the school newsletter, Legalese. It felt so comfortably familiar and so honest writing about topics that had not been forced down my throat by a legal research and writing professor.
For five long years after I graduated from law school, I practiced law at both government agencies and with private firms. The years had not changed my stance and my unhappiness with my chosen profession. I tried to comfort myself by telling myself I had chosen a practical profession, that my skills would be useful to people. But is that what I wanted for myself? To be useful? Or did I want to alter the course of my destiny and allow my talents and interests to guide me this time around?
Yes, if I had poked a bit more at my youthful conclusion that my love of writing and speaking my mind meant that I should be a lawyer, I would have discovered that it was the art and poetry of the words themselves that lured me. I adored the art of how an idea or thought could be communicated much more than the actual substance of the communication. Even a closer reading of my simple, nonchalant diary entry would have given me insight as to how I truly felt. At the age of fourteen, I had clearly differentiated between my fancy for arguing and my need to write. From a young age, I was conscious of the fact that the simple act of writing down my thoughts made me feel "whole". No matter how sad I felt, no matter what evil things I had done, and no matter how frustratingly mundane the world appeared to be, channeling those feelings into words on paper somehow always gave me such a strong sense of peace.
So, lest I bore you, that is it for now. But don't worry, if you know me (and chances are you do if you are reading this blog out of the gazillion other blogs out there), you know that there is a happy ending to this much abbreviated story. I sit here at the computer, with my cup of tea, free from the practice of any useful or practical profession. And I have never been happier.
“Everyone in his heart of hearts agrees with Baudelaire: ‘To be a useful person has always seemed to me something particularly horrible,’ for, subjectively, to be useful means to be doing not what one wants to do, but what someone else insists on one’s doing.”
- WH Auden