Thursday, February 12, 2009


These days, I find myself in a classroom four days a week. Three of them are for journalism and one for literature. Most of the other times, I am researching, interviewing someone for a class assignment or writing. In each of these settings, I find myself learning again, whether it's from someone I get to talk to as a part of an interview, from a teacher who is trying to help us learn something new, from the other students in the classrooms, or from myself as I am slowly digesting what I have learned and drawing new connections as I write. And I am reminded again what a pleasure it is to learn.

I thought I had done a pretty decent job of keeping myself on the learning curve even while I worked in law firms. I tried to read a fair bit and had signed up for classes here and there, particularly earlier in my career. But more often than not, I had found myself having to miss a class when work kept me in the office late or being too tired to engage fully. I remember just dropping my pottery class when I missed two days in a row and pictured the pots I had painstakingly made sitting on a shelf cracked.

When you work in a field for ten years, that sometimes becomes your life, whether you intend it or not. I'm sure some others are better than me at keeping their lives in flux, but despite myself, I seem to have settled into the life of a lawyer over the years, like sediment that slowly drops, finds a resting place, and eventually calcifies. Most of my friends are lawyers, and the things of the lawyer world became the norm. It no longer seemed strange to talk about billable hours as if everyone in the world tracked their lives by the tenth of an hour. And when some associates went around talking about how they were the "favorite" of such and such a partner and were told that they were a "star," I had learned to stopped wincing.

Last night, in my Berkeley Extension literary analysis/writing class, we analyzed short stories by Virginia Woolf and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I walked into class feeling thick-headed after trying to read the Woolf piece four times and failing to get what she was trying to say. Once discussion started, I was amazed by the insights other students had on the story. It was so refreshing to sit with a dozen people with sensibilities that had not been eroded by years of bad television. Oh, don't think I don't relish my share of The Daily Show as much as anyone else, but it was a relief to be reminded that there is room to talk about subjects like the subtleties of human alienation, desire to connect, and the wistfulness of longing without feeling corny. I walked out of that room realizing I have so much to learn.

Sitting in that class reminded me that no matter what, I need to make the effort to keep myself engaged. That whatever I choose to do as a career, I can reach out beyond the comforts of my immediate environment and find inroads to different ways of thinking and approaching life. That I don't need to sit lazily in my own little corner waiting for the world to reveal itself. That that is a sure path to mental decay - and unforgivable waste of what has been given to us.

I know I sound corny, but I prefer it to calcification.


  1. Shinyung, a cousin (who is a lawyer) asked if I knew you (told her in College) and pointed out the WSJ law article about you. Good for you for standing up for yourself. Hope everyingthin works out.

  2. I'm glad to see you blogging again! I've been away from the computer except for quick email checks, so I have not been catching up on all my blogs/pages until just this moment.

    You know, these posts make me so glad that you left the corporate world and it makes me grieve for my friends who are caught in the craziness.

    Though I do want to say that you can be a lawyer and have a life. I don't think you can be a lawyer in a big law firm in a big city and have a life, but well, that's a whole 'nother beast! Of course, I'm also the girl that has made it a bit of her life mission to talk people out of law school, so it's ironic that I'm defending the profession :p (Sorry, sucker for the emoticon.)

  3. I think it's awesome that you're in class four days a week. And I think it's awesome that you seem to find it (at least somewhat) awesome. I think in some ways it's been a good year for you, and I find your ability to find a new track with which you are happy, in a relatively short time, laudable. You have demonstrated tremendous strength and resilience. Perhaps the happiness and enthusiasm you seem to present are your reward for those qualities.

  4. I've read this post twice. I'll probably read it again. Biggest take-aways for me: the description of how you "settled into the life of a lawyer over the years, like sediment that slowly drops, finds a resting place, and eventually calcifies." Great image. And the fact that it's possible to buck the trend by actively pursuing and challenging one's intellectual curiosity. Totally agree.

    Would you agree that blogging is an excellent example of how we can "reach out beyond the comforts of [our] immediate environment and find inroads to different ways of thinking and approaching life"? No matter what career is calcifying us?

    I gotta say, though, I kinda would like to be calcified. Always feeling loosely formed and shifting around is not fun either.