I always sort of just assumed that the day I found out I passed the bar exam would be one of the best days of my life. I was seriously wrong. That day, for me, was completely miserable. My husband and I were fighting and my life was in shambles—or at least it was in my overly dramatic mind. And now here was the day I had been anticipating for months with a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement, obviously, because it meant I didn’t need to take the bar exam again. And dread because I had been using this day as a crutch. It made me feel less horrified about not having a job because “in this economy I’m sure employers are just waiting until the bar results are in so that they don’t have to gamble that one of their lawyers can’t actually practice.” That was my excuse anyway.
Now I had to put up or shut up. I re-energized my lack-luster job search and sent out, quite literally, hundreds of resumes. I sent resumes to companies seeking part-time attorneys who would barely get paid. I applied for non-profit positions, and those with the government. I wasn’t looking for glory or to get rich, I just wanted to finally work. And when that yielded a net gain of 2 interviews I lowered my standards. I applied for legal assistant jobs and paralegal positions. Still nothing.
And I’ll put this out there not to brag but to explain how utterly confused I was by all this. I’m smart. I graduated college at 20, got my Master’s Degree and J.D. together in 3 years and still managed to graduate 7th in my law school class. I was on the Law Review and had a legal article published. I worked for both the government and a top private firm during my time in school. How was it that nobody was interested in giving me a shot? Had I not proved that I could rock anything I set my mind to?
I should also say that I never thought I was going to wind up getting a Big Law offer and jetting off to New York making a $160,000 salary as a first year associate. All I wanted was to land a modest job and live frugally for a few years on my husband’s pay so that we could work on paying off my student loans. That was the entire dream, mild as it may be. My whole life I had made the “right” decisions like that. I only went on one spring break trip during college, I saved money, I worked up to 50 hours a week and just generally stayed on the path to becoming a boring, stable adult.
So here I was failing completely and being totally lost. I had never known myself as anything but smart. I wasn’t creative: I didn’t write outside of academia, I had never painted or drawn, and had no interest in music outside of enjoying listening to it. I felt like I was flailing and I had for sure lost all sight of my place in the world.
My husband, God bless him, was helpless. He just started suggesting things for me to do: “Take a cooking class, join a club, finish decorating the house you started and left half done.” At first I spent my time angry, thinking he was patronizing me, and being upset at myself for not cultivating any real hobbies earlier in my life that could get me through this time. Then I got out of bed one day, probably at like noon, and just decided to try something. I painted our sofa table. And it turned out awesome. And I loved it and did so much more. I made our headboard and decorated with found and created art. All these things that I never thought in a million years I would be good at. It turns out when I get out of my own head and preconceived notions of who I am, I am creative, I’m more than I ever thought.
My husband encouraged me to keep going and see where this road takes me, this path that’s more risk than right, so I decided to take a leap of faith and start something totally new. I’m starting a shop where I can sell some of the things I make and find. I joined a book club. And after telling the CGG Girls my story I was invited here to share and join this amazing community. It’s super scary and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen or where I’ll end up, but if I fail this time it’s totally on my terms, and I can’t really ask for anymore than that.
Brandi is a lawyer in Denver who spends very little time actually lawyering. She can usually be found working for free at a non-profit, hiking up mountains, or bossing her husband around because he made the mistake of asking her for help with his business one time. She’s horribly technologically inept (unless people still use AIM in which case she’s a genius) and takes one bite out of every donut instead of finishing a single donut in its entirety, which is probably a metaphor for something but she hasn’t figured out what it is yet. You can read more from Brandi on her blog, Randi Nickle.