Thursday, May 12, 2005

Excerpt from The Cranium Chronicles

aaron, your last post begs the obvious -- why are you unwilling, afraid even, to move elsewhere without a plan?

I don't know that I can answer that directly, but I think it's somehow related to the year between my 24th and 25th birthdays. Whether my past history is the cause, another symptom, or something else, I don't really know, but what happened then feels relevant now.

That year was probably the most challenging one of my life. When I celebrated my 24th birthday in July 1992, I had stopped my law school jobs one week earlier, so I could devote my days to preparing to take the Bar. I took the Bar at the end of July, followed by a trip to Deep Creek, Maryland with my ex-fiance, still live-in girlfriend. En route to Deep Creek (which was to be spent with her family), ex broke up with me altogether. Sucky vacation was followed by awkward living arrangement, to put it mildly, that lasted seven months. At least we had a second bedroom. And of course, I needed a job, so I got one, as a temp doing data-entry not much above minimum wage. I kept looking around for a law job, but between my pickiness and the slim job pickings, nothing turned up.

In December, I caught a huge break. In my last semester of law school, I had aced a seminar co-taught by my favorite professor and the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court (it was one of my highest scores in my law school career). When a law clerk for the Chief Justice had to leave in the middle of the year, the Chief Justice interviewed me. I didn't have the Moot Court or Law Review credentials, but I guess I made a good enough impression in that class (it didn't hurt that another of her clerks was a classmate of mine, and that she respected the professor's opinion), so she hired me effective in January. It was quite an experience, both good and bad. Mostly bad. I worked like crazy (not just me -- the judge's clerks worked much harder than clerks for any other judge on the court), but the judge wasn't satisfied with my work. I kept at it, but to no avail. I'm sure that it didn't help that I fell apart emotionally when my ex moved out at the end of February. When the judge fired me a couple of months later, she blamed herself more than she blamed me. She told me that her senior clerk had similar difficulties when he started working for her years earlier, but whereas then she had the time to work through them with him, now she felt that her duties as chief justice didn't allow for that time. Her comforting words, regardless of their truth (and I don't know for certain whether and how much they were true) had little effect on me -- I thought the world of the judge, and I was crushed that I couldn't meet her expectations.

It only took a few days after that to sort things out. I was done with school, had no girlfriend or job, and was living in a city (and state) I wasn't particularly fond of. With nothing to lose, I decided to move to DC. It took a couple of months to put the plan into action, but Fourth of July weekend I drove a Ryder truck that was hauling all my worldly possessions up to the DC suburbs. When I celebrated my 25th birthday a couple of days later, I was still without a job (in fact, it would take another four months), but at least I had moved somewhere I wanted to be.

So over a decade ago, even though I didn't like where I lived, it took losing everything else before I finally left.

It sounds like you don't much like leaping into the unknown, at least when you have a choice. So why don't you start formulating a plan?

End of Excerpt

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