I was never quite cut out for being a large law firm associate. Sure, I was able to fake my way through it with good looks, wit and my renown sense of humility, but I wasn't happy. In fact, I remember sitting through a seminar and listening to the speaker ask the audience, "If you won $40 million in the California lottery tomorrow, would you show up to work on Monday?" I thought, "I'm not showing up Monday or Tuesday or the following July! Heck, I wouldn't even go back to the office to pick up my stuff, including the pictures of my wife and kids. In fact, if I left my actual wife and kids in the office, I'm still not going back! I'll send a limo for them; or maybe not."
It's safe to say that I was jaded. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, my law firm "freed up my future for other opportunities" (their words not mine). And after ten years of reflection (and hundreds of sessions of therapy), I've come to realize that they did this black man the greatest favor since CBS cancelled Good Times. I now have a job that I love more than J.J. loved Big Macs. All I can say is, "Dynomite!"
If you've ever contemplated a career change, or even a life change, what better time than now? What do you have to lose -- your economic security? At this point, it should be clear to everyone that economic security is a utopian fantasy, much like say, world peace, happily ever after or an Obama cabinet member's tax return. So don't let the fact that your bank account is more overdrawn than Jessica Rabbit stop you from pursuing your dream job. Even if you fall hopelessly in debt with no chance of ever being able to repay it, what's the worse they can do to you -- make you CEO of Citibank? In other words, as my broker started saying last fall, "It's money, right? Oh God! Please shoot me!"
Of course, if you're happy practicing law, then by all means, return to the practice when things turn around. However, in the meantime, you should at least seize the opportunity to pursue your other interests (or better yet, to get some). And for once, take the limits off of your dreams. The sky is the limit ... literally!
For example, in the past, you may have always wanted to sky dive. However, you talked yourself out of it because it wasn't the smart thing to do. You had a family depending upon your income for their economic survival. If you were hurt or injured in some way, you would be putting everyone at risk. Well, not anymore! You're probably worth more dead now than you are worth alive (a fact you might want to hide from your spouse). In essence, you're playing with the house's money. Let it ride!
If you want to skydive, do it. If you want to bungee jump, do it. If you want to date on the Internet ... don't be silly! There are limits to what is prudent, even for the unemployed. However, with that one exception, nothing should be off the table.
Take, for instance, one of my biggest fantasies -- being a contestant on the reality TV show, Survivor. Each year, they choose a lawyer to be on the show. He or she never wins, but I can't help but to think, "That could be me who the entire tribe hates and can't wait to vote out!" If you've ever felt the same way, this is your opportunity to finally live your dream.
When you were employed at the big firm, it was out of the question. Could you imagine asking the managing partner for six weeks off so you could participate in a "game show"? You would have had a better chance of getting through airport security wearing an "I Love Osama bin Laden" t-shirt. However, now you can go with the firm's complete blessing. In fact, they might actually pay for one-way airfare if you agree to stop posting hateful comments about the firm on your blog, ThoseSelfishBastards.com.
Best of all, your recent experience of being unemployed should make you the odds-on favorite to win the prize of Sole Survivor and $1 million. While the other contestants are whining about being deprived of luxuries like soap, pillows and food, you'll be whistling Dixie thinking, "No food? What are they talking about? I found a tasty earthworm just two days ago. How often do these wimps expect to eat -- weekly?"
And even if you don't win, you'll have the pride of knowing that you did what most people can only imagine -- you pursued a dream. Or, you can sit around updating your blog every hour about the most recent law firm round of lay-offs. Take your pick!