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What Now?

I don’t know if this message was meant for me or whether it was just included in the signature block of the person who sent me the email, but nonetheless it read:

“Think BIG! There are unseen forces ready to support your dreams.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

I don’t know what the career analog of being transgendered is, but whatever it is, I’m it. My job and my profession don’t really match who I am inside – a creative, witty, profane, arrogant, neurotic, fun woman of letters. For years I’ve tried to make myself fit into the legal profession, to keep myself attached to at the periphery, to tell myself that it’s not that I don’t like the practice of law, it’s just that I haven’t found the right practice area for me. That if I had gotten a position with the NAACP LDF or some similarly intriguing cutting-edge legal organization always fighting the good fight, I’d somehow fit into this profession.

That’s like Elton John thinking, “If only I could find the right woman, I’d be straight.” Yeah, right.

Maybe it’s because I’m closer to fifty than to forty and having a mid-life crisis that I’m thinking longer and harder about the time I have left on this planet and how I want to use it. I’m not absolutely sure I want to spend it making money as a lawyer.

There’s no shortage of things I would want to do or be if money were no object: President of Spelman College, published author, event planner (I actually enjoyed planning my wedding – call me weird), charter school operator, professor of education or African American studies (notwithstanding my lack of a Ph.D), high school civics teacher, filmmaker, owner of my own PR firm, talk show host (Are you reading this, Oprah?), maybe even politics. If I were younger, maybe I would throw myself whole-heartedly into music and aspire to be more than proficient with the instruments I learned to play. I guess what I’ve tired of as a lawyer is constantly having to defend myself – my opinions on what the law is, on legal strategies to be taken, on brief writing, you name it. I rarely get the opportunity to just say, “This is how it should be” and have people fall in line. I’m constantly having to defend myself. Sometimes you get tired of fighting.

Are there other professions where you don’t have to do the equivalent of a mathematical proof justifying your work and opinions to your colleagues? I just don’t know if I want to be arguing over brief writing and legal opinions when I’m in my fifties. Somehow, I don’t think so.

So the encouragement to think big couldn’t have come at a better time, even in these recessionary times.

I scour More magazine seeking examples of women who’ve done 180 degree career changes and still paid the bills. I pour over just about every article in O Magazine about “living your best life” and re-invention. It’s not the dreaming I have problems with; it’s focusing on those dreams and making them come true that I’m having problems with.

And let’s not forget – once you’re married, you don’t have the luxury of making revenue-altering decisions without the advice and, perhaps even, the consent of your spouse. BMNB supports me in just about every wacky thing I do or could imagine doing (bartending school? Yep, he supported it.), but I don’t know how long he’d be happy if he had to pick up the financial slack in our marriage caused by my pursuing my big dream or dreams. But hey, if it ain’t tested, it ain’t really a marriage, right?

I guess I’m just trying to figure out what to do and how to do it now that I’m closer to death than to childhood. And to have faith that those unforeseen forces are indeed standing at the ready to support me.

Any suggestions?


Anonymous said…
You would be a great Spelman College president. I am an alum.
I'm good at knowing how to set up a bar and at knowing what certain basic drinks include. What I'm bad at is pouring a shot without measuring, which, I was told, was a crucial skill since most bartenders don't have time to measure and can't afford to get it wrong. I've had a rotator cuff injury that makes it difficult for me to hold a bottle of liquor in one hand and pour exactly one ounce -- a perfect shot. I was told that bartenders who overpour get fired, and bartenders who underpour give the bar a bad reputation as being stingy with the liquor.

Thanks for the kind words re Spelman. My grandmother attended Spelman but had to drop out, to support her family I believe. I have a copy of her application from about 1917 -- it said, "Lazy girls need not apply." I've always wanted to write a book with that title. And I've always held the institution in the highest esteem.

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