Who is making your choices?

Recent discussion regarding a proactive approach to being a paralegal with minimum stress led me to think of Ivan Ilyich, a Tolstoy character who was dying. The passage brought to mind is:

‘But what was this? What for? It cannot be! It cannot be that life has been so senseless, so loathsome? And if it really was so loathsome and senseless, then why dies, and die in agony? There’s something wrong.’

‘Can it be I have not lived as one ought?’ suddenly came into his head. ‘But how not so, when I’ve done everyting as it should be done?’ he said, and at once dismissed this only solution of alll the enigma of life and death as something utterly out of the question.’

But however much he pondered, he could not find an answer. And whenever the idea struck him, as it often did, that it all came of his never having lived as he ought,m the thought of all the correctness of his life and dismissed this strange idea.

Certainly, as explained by Chere Estrin, it is important that you be in charge of your career, but also of your life. The enigma, of course, lies in the difficulty of making the “right” choices. One can indeed plan for happiness. But “what is happiness” is not the entire question. Rather the question is “What is happiness for me?” Ivan based his choices on what “ought” to be done and struggled with himself as to whether he has lived as he ought to have lived.

Making such decisions seems to be a theme on the internet recently. In a discussion on the Paralegal Today discussion forum regarding which specialty to choose, Kelly Corbin, a paralegal in Texas, gave this advice:

Tamika,

Follow your heart. Do what you love and the money will follow. I believe it is especially important when you are starting out in your career that you pick an area that you are passionate about. The legal field can be a very stressful and demanding place. You may be expected to work overtime, etc. and you want to make sure that you like what you are doing or you will quickly burn out. If you are passionate about what you are doing, you will work harder than if you just take a position in a specific area because the starting salary is higher. When you are passionate and working hard, that dedication will pay off in the future. You can study other areas of law to see if there is something else out there that will give you the monetary satisfaction that you desire, but no paycheck can substitute for the feeling of a day’s work well done and a client helped by the services that you perform (whether plaintiff, defendant, human or corporation).

I have worked for pennies, dedicated my life, given up personal plans, missed anniversary dinners and on and on, but at the end of the day (or several years as it were), I built a resume and a reputation that allowed me to go exactly where I wanted and be paid more than adequately for my work. My attorneys know that I am dedicated to the cause. They know that if I won the lottery tomorrow, not only would I not quit my job, I would actually do it for free!

You don’t get there overnight. You must prove yourself in this field. So, my advice is follow your heart. If this all sounds corny or cliche, then follow the paycheck. But believe it or not, the old adage is true . . . . .Money can’t buy happiness! And in my experience, if you follow the money and not your heart, you’ll just be spending that extra cash on therapy, stress management or doctor visits for your depression/exhaustion!

Those are my thoughts.

Kelly echoes Joseph Campbell, a life-long student and teacher of the human spirit and mythology who said, “I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

But even this is not always easy. As Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor points out in her newest newsletter, the grass can sometimes be deceptively greener on the other side of the hill. See her article “A Paralegal’s Struggle: Does a New Job Equal a New and Better Life? or Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side of the Fence?” And also follow the journey of Melissa at Paralegalese as she moves from a one attorney firm in a small town to a major firm in Memphis.

But following your bliss is indeed a good road to follow. Check out this from ABA Journal.comem>:

At one time, Nat Hussey spent part of his time in a courtroom, but now he works in a boat off the coast of Maine trapping lobsters the old-fashioned way, rowing to his traps and pulling them in by hand.

An Associated Press profile of Hussey says he started lobstering this summer as part of a “zero-carbon lobster harvesting project.”

“Other lobstermen roar about,” the AP story says, “pulling traps with power winches, their engines growling and radios blaring rock ‘n’ roll and country music. Hussey works in solitude, waves lapping gently against his boat, a bell buoy clanging gently in the background.”

On his blog, Outpost Matinicus, Hussey describes himself as a “musician, lawyer, dad, fisherman, meanderer.” AP says he was formerly a trial lawyer, and then held down an office job with the Maine Department of Corrections. He still does a little legal work, along with carpentry and odd jobs, to bring in some extra cash.

In a blog post Thursday, Hussey notes a neighbor has already left for a permanent home. “Here the sweet weather, warm water, garden growth all stretch out far past Labor Day,” he writes. “Yet so many departures and a lot less traffic change the atmosphere prematurely away from the summer parade.

“This is secret summer.”

And this post from another Paralegal Today discussion forum:

 a post on the Paralegal Today listserv thread discussing raises:

I recv’d an 18% raise last year but ended up quitting earlier this summer because it was dirty $$. Lots of questionable illegal and unethical things going on in that office. I just took on a new job at considerably less per hour, but good, solid attorneys whom I can trust. The new job is worth every penny.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this E. B. White quote from today’s post on Mississippi 12 Chancery Court judge’s blog:

“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”  —  E. B. White

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