Starting Over – A Story of Professional Armageddon and Rebirth.
“I’m back, baby!” – George Costanza
I’ve risen from the ashes of a career in law to discover work with passion and meaning. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? I guess it is, kind of. As I entered into my tenth year of law practice, my entire life seemed to be crumbling in ruins around me. I had long ago surpassed the 10,000 hours required to become proficient in my field. The excitement of being in court had worn off, and all that seemed to remain was the daily struggle of fighting with other lawyers, often times just for the sake of fighting. I was not fulfilled and I was asking myself, “What is it all for?” In the meantime, at home things were no better. I had put work ahead of just about everything else, even my relationships with my wife and children. And those too began to crumble. In a matter of a few months, I found myself living alone in an apartment down the street from my family, mindlessly taking the train into Boston everyday for another day of jousting. Something (everything) had to change. And change I did.
I quit practicing law, went back to school and became a licensed therapist. In the meantime, I stabilized, bettered and created new relationships and got my personal life in order. Though summed up in a couple of lines here, it was a long and often painful process, but one that was ultimately enlightening and fulfilling. There was a lot of asking questions, searching for answers, and lots of therapy. To put it plainly, I had to put in the kind of work on myself that I had always only reserved for my career. This was not something I ever thought I would have to do, and I certainly didn’t want to do it at first. Indeed, I had always thought that work on my career was work on myself. At some point during the process, however, I moved from trying to figure out what went wrong to what I needed to do to be right for me. As I became learned about the human mind and its emotional systems, I began to understand things about myself in a different way. I learned that I had been driven to succeed, not for myself, but by my need to please others. This ultimately left me feeling empty even when I achieved success because it was never for me. That was but one part of what was going on within my personal internal dynamic.
This process of discovery led me to the here and now where I finally feel like I am doing what I want to be doing, with whom I want, and for reasons that make sense to me. This led me to Boston Professionals Counseling, LLC, my therapy practice that addresses the unique needs of lawyers and professionals. When I was going through my own existential crisis, I looked around and the resources were few. The stigma associated with mental health was, and still is, great. There was no way that I would seek help because that would be admitting weakness. It was counter all of my training, my instincts for survival, not to mention being personally humiliating. I could handle it. Just stuff it and move onto the next thing. Put out the next fire. No problem here; denial in action. I pretty much had myself convinced. But people around me knew better. When I finally allowed the truth in, I was greeted only by the damage I had done in my avoidance. I had more to fix, not less.
Now, I want to make it easier for people to reach out and get help. I am aware of the concerns that plague good people badly in need of it but afraid to ask. I am aware of the stigma. I am aware of the perceived danger of going to therapy – not just that there is something wrong with me (that is bad enough), but that I might be crazy. Or worse, that my boss or colleagues will think that. I am aware that a positive reputation is a fragile and hard-won thing that must be carefully managed and is easily damaged. I am aware of all these things and have ways to handle them in a discreet and effective way.
I am also aware that we are often so tightly wound that the idea of pulling on the thread threatens to unravel the entire ball of yarn. But sometimes we have to unravel the ball. It is usually the best way to discover what lies within, at the core of things. And that is where to begin to look for answers to longstanding questions. Boston Professionals Counseling will help people do just that.
I’d love to hear from you. What sort of things do you think lawyers need to work on? Are there particular areas that are more problematic than others?