Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the associate interview, and Walden

Today I have my "associate interview."  I had planned to write the first half of the post now, before my "interview," and the second half afterward.  But the first half seemed like a stand-alone post.  We'll see if I'm similarly inspired later.

(Photo of Walden Pond)

The "associate interview" is actually my review.  I think that calling it an "interview" is supposed to make us less concerned about getting fired.  Last night, I slept 4 hours.  I worked until midnight and worried until 2, then woke up at 6.  I had a nap from 6:30-7, so I suppose the grand total was 4.5 hours, but still, not much.  What I was worried about was not getting fired, however, but the fact that I do not like a single project I am working on right now (other than my pro bono stuff).  It's all the same type of work, and all stuff I find boring.  And hard.  Boring alone is one thing, because you can turn on music, sit with a friend, and still get the work done.  Hard alone is also fine, because you can dig into it and focus.  But boring and hard together? 

I have not spoken up about my dissatisfaction with the work I have been given to the powers that be.  When asked, I would say that I think it's futile.  The people in charge don't care if I think this work is boring and hard.  They don't care if I am getting pigeonholed in an area of law I don't want to practice.  So what is the point of bringing it up?  Besides, the partners giving me these projects are not going to be at my review.  I absolutely hate feeling like my own life, my own career, is out of my hands, but it is.  In my experience. 

In response to a rant about a frustrating encounter involving a particular partner, a work friend of mine once told me that my goal should not be trying to have any partner hear me.  It should be focusing on saying what it is that I need to say to get back to my own office as soon as possible.  Before I started writing this post this morning, I was thinking that she may be right about this in the context of the associate interview.  So my plan was to nod, smile, and say what I need to so that I could get back to my own office, finish my boring and hard work, and go do something else.  That may still be the route I take. 

But when I sat down to write this, for some reason, I started looking up Henry David Thoreau quotes that I haven't read since 12th grade English.  Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience, wrote that "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them."  Before that, in Walden, he wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."  I also came across this one: "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." 

Perhaps the associate interview is not the place to practice civil disobedience.  Perhaps saying "I don't like this work" is not really standing up to live.  I do know this, though.  Not saying "I don't like this work" is certainly not standing up to live.  Whether I have the courage to do it is another question all together.  I think perhaps, if I am honest, at the root of my reluctance to speak up it is not really that it is futile (although I have become rather resigned to the fact that it likely is).  Rather, I suspect that the real issue is that I am afraid that I am already too resigned, to quietly desperate, to actually do it.  I am afraid that it has been beaten out of me already.  That I can't. 

But now that I have articulated it, I suppose I have to at least try.  Sometimes, when you write things down, and are honest, they seem silly.  I mean really, it's not like they are going to fire me because I say, "Uh, I know I have to do the work you give me, but this particular area is not really where my interest lies."  So then, while I try to figure out what I really want to do, maybe I'll be slightly less miserable, slightly less desperate.  Or maybe it will be futile, and I'll be right where I am, but I'll have the satisfaction of having been right!  And if they do fire me for saying that I don't like what they're giving me to work on, woo hoo!  I have the opportunity to go try something else, which is really what I want to do anyway.  So then.  I guess it's time to try to stand up and live a little.

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