When I was younger, my father kept encouraging me to go to law school. He ran his own multi-million-dollar business, and wanted his own in-house legal counsel.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to read law. I truly admired my father. I wanted to make him proud of me, and I wanted to work with him.
Unfortunately, my first semester in, and I already hated it. It wasn’t the right fit for someone of my personality. I timidly told my father that I wanted to drop out. Needless to say, he was angry and disappointed at my choice.
To cut a long story short, I eventually decided not to quit. I convinced myself to get through the grind, for the reward.
In my third year or so, I started dating someone of the same gender. I told my parents, and they flipped the hell out. They wrote me off as a beneficiary to any inheritance, and my father told me that he would not allow someone who identified as anything remotely LGBT to work in the family business.
It was crushing.
But I continued anyway; I felt it was a little too late to drop out. After graduation, I passed my Bar exams, and eventually got called to the Bar.
At a Crossroads after Law School
I didn’t do very well at all. My GPA was nothing to brag about. Between feuding with my parents, and trying to suppress my hate for law school, I didn’t leave myself with very much time for studying.
While I couldn’t make it into the big firms, I had a few offers from tiny ones. My career path was simple. Join a tiny firm in the beginning. Work, and gain some experience. With that experience, apply for the large firms. Work, gain more experience, and keep climbing the ladder.
It was what everyone else was doing.
It was what everyone else told me to do.
It was what I thought I had to do.
But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was miserable enough in law school; my internships at law firms felt like pure agony. And now I had to do it for another 15-20 years before I made partner?
The thought alone was unbearable.
After months of applications to non-legal firms (and hundreds of rejections), I eventually settled for my current company. While the pay isn’t incredibly handsome, I get free time to do things that truly matter to me.
And I haven’t looked back since.
My Decision Behind Giving Up the Money
When people think about lawyers, they think about how awesome their lives would be to make as much money as lawyers do. They think about how cool it’ll be to win court cases and live their lives like an episode of Suits.
What they don’t see, are the bloody long hours that lawyers put into their careers. The years of blood, sweat and tears before making partner. The 90% of law school graduates who slip through the cracks and never actually make it to partner.
People see only the good stuff, the awesome stuff, blissfully unaware of the pain that comes with the pleasure.
So, people question me. ‘Why the hell would you give up such a lucrative career after going through years of law school and exams? You must be barking mad!’
But they weren’t the ones who slogged through years of law school and exams. They weren’t the ones who suffered from sleep deprivation as a result of 4-hour nights, for weeks at a time. They weren’t the ones who had to endure the brutal back-stabbing from wannabe-lawyers who didn’t seem to have a shred of kindness in them.
And those years slowly chipped away at my sanity. I graduated law school a broken, depressed individual who suffered from insomnia and massive anxiety attacks.
It’s been 2 years since I graduated, and I haven’t even fully recovered. I still have trouble sleeping. I still have anxiety.
What would 20 years at a law firm have done to me?
Ultimately, all I wanted, was to be happy. To be passionate about what I was doing. To live a life I was proud of.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that with law school. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t passionate about the law. And while I was certainly eager to make my father proud of me, he chose to take everything away instead.
The choice was then, a simple one. I took whatever was left of my health and sanity, and left the legal world behind for good.
Why sell my soul at a law firm, in an endless pursuit of money? For the guarantee that I would be happy 20 years in the future, with a nice car and a fancy house?
Why force myself to be miserable for the next 20 years of my life, so that I can enjoy the following 20 years splurging on luxurious crap?
Why chase money to be happy, when I can choose to be happy with what I have, right here, right now?
While we may be statistically likely to live to 70 or even 80, we are never guaranteed all those years. We’re not even guaranteed to live out the next year. This is the harsh reality.
What if a car runs you over? Or your plane fell out of the sky? Or a giant asteroid decimated your entire city?
If I had chosen to chase after money, I would watch the incoming asteroid from my office cubicle, my life flashing before my very eyes, the last thought running through my mind being ‘why the hell didn’t I live a life I could be proud of?’
I would be obliterated in a microsecond, without having been passionate about the work I had done. Without living a life true to myself. Without having done anything but merely participated in the endless pursuit of wealth and material crap.
No way I was going to let that happen.
I don’t know how long I’m going to live for. Maybe I’ll be gone when I’m 55. Maybe, 45. Maybe, even, 35. I’m terrified that I’ll spend my last precious days on Earth wondering just what went wrong.
The very least I could do for myself is to live a life that I want. To fill my days with people I love. To spend my time pursuing things that I’m truly passionate about. To make a mark on this planet, as tiny as it may be.
Even if I may not make as much money as the next person. Even if I don’t make much money at all.
After all, the last thing on Earth that I’m going to wish for on my deathbed, is a bank account with more zeros.
That’s why I absolutely refused an insanely lucrative legal career.
And you know what? It’s probably one of the best damn decisions I ever made in my entire life.