August 6, 2005

Arm's Length

Friday, we languished through a 2.5 hour lunch (finished with chocolate souflees) to say goodbye to most of my summer class at firm #2. They are done with their work and taking vacation before they head back to their respective schools. Now there's only three of us left, and the summer is officially winding down.

From a distance, I watched my reaction to the exits of my fellow summers and felt a bit callous. They were nice. I probably should have gotten to know them better. But there's a limited amount of time in the day, and inevitably, they just became the latest goodbye in a long string. These days, I barely have time to maintain relationships with my longstanding friends and family. So, I've taken the easy way out, and didn't even really try to get to know the summers at firm #2. As they left, I felt a slight pang of loss at the fact that I have no idea how cool they are. But that loss is inevitable when there's too much to enjoy.

Next friday, I will follow last week's summers and say my goodbyes at the third job I've left in 7 months. I suspect people will feel the way about my leaving the firm as I do about leaving it. It's unfortunate that another acquaintance has to leave, but that's how the game is played. When the law school fat lady sings, I'll have had 4 paying jobs, an unpaid externship, memberships in half a dozen organizations, and 5 semesters of classes. Each of these experiences has required hellos, adjustments, and goodbyes. And with each one, I've been learning how to be less and less attached. I suspect there's an art to being friendly but not emotionally committed and I'm certain I'm not yet artful. But, I'm learning to appreciate the good people-people I meet and have come to respect their skills as some that I'd like to develop as I mature.

For the last 2.5 years, the only constant has been me and the path I'm trying to pick through the fog of my ever-changing goals. The work keeps changing, the subject matter keeps changing, the environment keeps changing, and the people keep changing. It's been a constant now, that at any point in time, if I look just a few short weeks into the future, I can see a whole new group of people and tasks in my daily life. This is excellent when things are difficult -- you can see relief on the horizon. But it's also difficult when things are excellent, because nothing lasts.

I've still got one more week at firm #2, but I find myself looking forward and thinking that it's primarily a formality. I know how it'll play out: I've got about 20-25 hours of work to do and lunch scheduled for every day with various legal peeps who want to ride the summer associate free lunch train just one last time. I'm already half-way checked out in anticipation of the next big thing that is fall semester.

So, for me, yet another symptom of law school (or perhaps just aging, maturing, whatever the hell you want to call it) is a recognition that I shouldn't rush to put my roots down in a transient environment. Because, I've got goals, and I'm likely to move on. And even if I'm in an environment where my goals don't lead to transience, many of my colleagues do have plans to leave for bigger and better things. I'd rather be happy than sad when great people leave to accomplish great things.

Basically, I'm finding it that in the world of the law, the callousness that is often one of the complaints about lawyers' personalities actually makes my life easier. Sure, I'm dedicated to my career and the quality of the work I do, but more importantly, I want to be happy and enjoy the fruits of investing time in good relationships I can depend on. I have a few great relationships and not enough time to develop new ones on the same level. The law firm, law school, and my legal career in general is not the first place I look for quality relationships. Logically, it just doesn't make sense. I wonder if that will eventually bother me. Regardless, I look forward the day I can be yoda-like in my separation from the law firm drama, while simultaneously engaged enough to appear concerned, interested, and friendly.

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