Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm Officially "Single & Off the Fast Track"


The Wall Street Journal recently had a great article titled “Single and Off the Fast Track – It’s Not Just Working Parents Who Step Back to Reclaim a Life.”  It can be found here.  It chronicles the rise of late twenty-thirty-somethings like Anne Marie Bowler, who worked slavish hours at a Wall Street law firm and while single and childless, decided to quit her fast-track job in order to just have a life.  The article highlights the struggles of single professionals in highly demanding careers – such as single-handedly trying to and failing to manage non-work duties – and the oxymoron that faces us all:  how on earth are we supposed to date, meet the “One” so that as a team we can better advance our careers and personal lives, when all we do is work?

To compound the stress and isolation, I echo the comments of 29-year-old Melissa Anderson found in the article:  married friends, especially those with children, seem to believe that their single professional friends are having a blast a la Sex and the City and refuse to extend any genuine empathy towards them.  I’ve faced that isolation numerous times, even though I know my married friends sincerely care about me.

Well, I’ve decided to join these upstarts and quit my job and never work for a law firm again.  I graduated college, went straight into a PhD program (which I quit after one year after I realized all I could do with a PhD in English Literature is teach) then straight to law school, then right onto an associateship at a huge law firm.  I’ve been running the rat-race ever since.  I am through with the 80-100 hour work weeks, the endless all-nighters, the guilty one-week quasi-vacations per year (the whole time checking my BlackBerry and working evenings taking care of emergencies that always arise in litigation), consistently working at least one weekend day, daily late-night hours, the stress and toll on my body, friendships and dating life.  Not to mention my life was dictated by the billable hour.  At the end of the day, I ask myself, what for?  All of these sacrifices are not making this world a better place.  All I’m doing is helping rich corporations get richer.  While its general counsel is vacationing in St. Bart’s, I’m sacrificing my vacation – and my interpersonal relationships –  to analyze the details of a joint venture agreement.

This is my work profile picture. I look Very Serious 
& on the threshold of anger.   No more!

I gave my notice a few weeks ago and I’m going walkabout to France.  I have no plans beyond that.  I chose France because it’s beautiful and I have a place to stay – my dad’s cousin is currently the Korean ambassador to France – and I like the idea of finding myself in a country where I don’t know the language.  The female partners at my law firm were so excited when I told them my plans.  They said they wished they had done the same thing at my age (but they all have children now and a few of them are the primary wage earners of their families) which made me smile because for a while, I thought I was too old to have a quarter-life crisis and too young to have a mid-life crisis.

I am terrified but exhilarated at the same time.  I’ve known for a long time, deep in my heart, that I was extremely unhappy with my job but I had the golden handcuffs and security.  After our firm’s fiscal year ended, however, I knew that if I did not make a huge dramatic step and just take a chance at a change, 3, 5, 10 years would go by and my life would be just as miserable but exponentially worse due to the lost opportunities.  I kept reminding myself, “if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”  For big gains, we have to take big chances.  And our lives are worth it.

I will be detailing my journey as to my next steps on this blog, and I hope you will join me and find it inspiring.   Life is short…have fun and be happy.

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