To be honest, I expected to have feelings more associated with the death. I expected fear, and yes, some grief. Instead, I felt feelings I associate more with birth (like joy, and relief -- although I suppose that feeling could accompany either transition). There was a little fear as I walked into the office of the Director of Attorney HR, and again as I walked in to speak with one of the co-chairs of my department, a woman I have a lot of respect for. I have spent weeks agonizing with Kathy over the right way to say what I wanted to say, the way to spin it that would burn the fewest bridges and maintain these relationships, in case I change my mind and want to come back. In the end, what won out was the simple truth. I simply told them the Plan.
Step 1. A few weeks ago, I found out that my firm was offering a sabbatical program of sorts to all associates. For one year, I can quit and receive a fixed percentage of my salary and the firm will pay my COBRA premiums. That means I will have health insurance, hooray! At the end of the year, though, I am not guaranteed a spot back at the firm. To me, this basically looks like glorified severance. But that's okay. Today, I took it. I doubt that I will want to come back at the end of my year anyway, because...
Step 2. I am going to spend the year preparing and applying for grad school. Yes, more school. Apparently 4 years of college and 3 years of law school were just not enough for me. I am going to apply for either a masters or a PhD program (I have not decided which yet) in English. That will probably not come as much of a surprise to anyone who reads this, but actually was somewhat of a surprise to people at work, who know me as the mathy one. What am I going to study in particular? This is a detail I have not yet precisely worked out. For now, I am talking to some people in the field, gathering information, and trying to put the rest of the Plan in place.
Step 3. Get a job. Ideally, I would love to have a job teaching college-level English. That is where I started when I was thinking about what to do if I took the year of free money and health insurance -- how to get a job teaching college-level English. But those jobs are fiercely competitive and highly sought-after. Will I get one? I don't know. I do know that my odds of finding a job (any job!) that I love increase dramatically when I study something I love. So for now, the focus is on getting into a program that will serve as a basis for me to find that job. A program that, hopefully, will require me to read a lot of books.
My last day as a Biglaw associate will be March 31, 2011. So, two and a half months before my 30th birthday, I find myself soon-to-be unemployed, unmarried, and with student loan debt roughly equivalent to the average American mortgage. And, for now, happy with the choices I have made.