Monday, October 27, 2008

Follow Your Dreams

I’ve been thinking about doing this, in one way or another, for a while now. But I was never really sure if I would be doing it for the right reasons. Not to mention how silly it sounded whenever I brought it up to people. But this weekend it all came together: the weather was beautiful, the trails were inviting and freedom seemed just around the corner. So I went for it.

This is NOT a knock against Harvard. Or a calculated criticism of legal education. Or even a rejection of elitism, per se.

Sometimes you just need to say goodbye to your past in order to move forward.


In the end, it was just a piece of paper. Nothing more. I would rather live my life on my own terms than be a person that needs a piece of paper to justify their own worth.

A special thanks to M for helping to put this video together. I think it looks pretty cool, particularly if you click the "Watch in High Quality" link right under the YouTube video. What do you think?

77 comments:

Jerry Critter said...

I am giving you a first impression without really thinking about it.

It makes me sad to see you burn your diploma.

That's all for now.

Jennifer F. said...

That reminds me: I always joke with my husband that he needs to get his Ivy League diplomas in English. He worked that hard and his clients can't even tell where he went to school because it's all in freaking Latin! Yes, I am a rube. :)

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear more about why you burned it. It seems like you could put your education to use in a totally different way, e.g. like helping poor people or people trying to live simply w/ legal needs, etc. But I'm guessing that that first quote on the video might be a clue. Did you never want it in the first place?

Anyway, I'd love to hear more about it!

Christian said...

Very brave.

Now, keep going.

Flowers are selfish, always remember that.

louise said...

great video jack, I just showed it to my kids, you have to follow your heart

Kaycee James said...

Wow.

EJ said...

Wow that's radical. You are a braver (or more foolish - hard to tell them apart sometimes) man than most.
I noticed you started in the empty corner so you even had time to reconsider.......
Looking forward to following you new found blog.

Carolyn said...

Now that is a commitment step if I ever saw one......

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm. Well, you went for it! That's all I can say.

Kristina

NorthWoodsGuy said...

CARPE DIEM JACK!!!

btw...I left my Thoreau and Emerson recommendations for you on my blog.

Good luck!!

Heather's Moving Castle said...

I am blown away! But I know you can always get another copy or transcript if you need to. It is mostly symbolic, I am guessing. Congrats on your new freedom! You have a lot of lost time to make up for! Have a blast. Thanks for being true to yourself. I'm sure you will be famous one day. This is such a fascinating adventure you have shared. Thanks!

Miss Scorpio said...

Jack, I'm speechless. I don't doubt that it was therapeutic.

Now, have you told you're mom about this one yet?

Jill said...

Wow. Another bold move.

I understand your motivations, but I wonder why you felt a need to destroy it. Regardless of who you want to become, your past is a big part of who you are. Why would you want to destroy a piece of your past? Or maybe you are just trying to show that as a material possession, a diploma means nothing - it is experience that counts.

I will have to watch the video you created - hadn't yet when I made this comment. Whatever happens, you're certainly on an interesting journey.

Diana said...

This made me extremely sad. I echo the other noters -- I hope it was a symbolic gesture (I guess it has to be, since you can always get another copy from the university) more than a repudiation of your efforts in the past. I think hard work is always worth something, even if it was towards a goal that has now changed.

Elizabeth said...

I know it's symbolic - I'm not sure why any of us need an actual copy of our diploma - but I must confess that the gesture made me almost tear up and feel like something valuable was being lost in the process. I will have to think about why that is. My quick take is that it has something to do with the value I place on education, the fact that you're burning a diploma from a school that I know others would love to be able to attend but cannot for various reasons, the hard work I'm quite sure you put in to get that diploma, and the belief that you could put your skills as a lawyer to very good use in a world that sorely needs help.

Jack said...

Jerry,

As always thanks for the comment. :) I have a feeling I am going to be repeating myself quite a bit in connection with this post...here is goes...

It's just a paper dude. I can always call up harvard and get another one. And that's the point. Why do I even NEED a diploma, except to look at it and prove to myself and/or others that I went to HLS. I say fuck it.

Jennifer,

Yeah, tell me about it. :) As for the rest, see above. I am NOT giving up being a lawyer. In fact, I'm in the process of finding a legal job that is exciting and fulfilling for the first time in my life. But I don't need a piece of paper for me to do that. More than anything, I don't need the external validation of a degree that steered me towards a life I am now rejecting.

Christian,

Thanks.

Sub Girl said...

Oh my! Thats a big thing you did there! But at the end of the day it was still just a peice of paper.

No you can't buy the salmon there. It's only for stocking purposes.

Jack said...

Louise,

That's wonderful to hear. I hope they enjoyed the ending.

Kaycee,

Thanks for the comment.

EJ,

Thanks. You know, I don't think I even thought about that whole corner thing, at least consciously. Interesting thought...

Jack said...

Carolyn,

How true.

Kristina,

I certainly did. :)

Northwoodsguy,

Yeah, thanks for the suggestions. I'm digging the exist. link you sent and hitting ebay for used copies later this week. Definitely appreciate it.

Jack said...

Heather's,

Precisely. If it was such an important THING then why can I just make a phone call, send someone MONEY and just get another one? Thanks for the kudos. :)

Miss Scorpio,

Naw, I was just joking about that. No way am I going to say anything. It might kill her. :=)

Jill,

See above. As for destroying a piece of my past, again, it was just a piece of paper. I haven't destroyed the friendships I made while I was in law school, or the memories of intellectual curiosities fulfilled. I just burned one piece of paper I can get a copy of within 2 weeks.

Jack said...

Diana,

See above. It was just a piece of paper. Nothing more. Definitely not rejecting my education (in the process of getting a great law job).

Elizabeth,

Ditto for you as well. See above. I know what you mean; it's one of the things I had to work through before I made my decision. I am still going to be a lawyer and will be working on important, vital issues. I just don't need a piece of paper to tell me I am worth something. Let's put it this way: if my harvard degree had been for writing a dissertation on how to solve our current environmental crisis I wouldn't be burning it. I hope you understand that.

Sub Girl,

Precisely! And thanks for the clarification.

Amanda said...

Good for you for doing what feels right. I suspect that's huge growth for you.

The summer I was 21 I briefly dated a guy who was 29. He was also a writer, and so when I showed up at his cabin one day to learn he has just burned an entire lifetime's worth of journals I could not even begin to imagine how or why he had done such a thing. I occasionally wonder whatever became of him. Now it's a few weeks before my 29th birthday, and I completely understand why he burned the journals. It's not something I think I'll ever do, but I have learned how important it is to let things go, particularly those things that you don't feel are part of your current self (no matter how much they contributed to who you have become).

I'm reminded now, too, of an important moment during my sophomore year at one of the Ivies. In a class with a professor who changed my life by railing against the culture of mindless achievement that feeds kids into schools like mine, I made some comment that reflected my deep cynicism about how empty our achievements are, and how none of us would be at schools like that one if our parents hadn't pushed us in that direction. A classmate turned to me, startled, and said that her parents didn't push her at all, that she was there because she genuinely loved to learn. When she said that I realized that I had forgotten the joy in my essential nature -- my inner over-achiever killed my inner nerd girl. So I went looking for the joy instead of the accolades, and was fortunate enough to find them within that school -- and I now credit that school with setting me off on a life that is rich with quirky meaning.

But I did take a detour before I got here. I used that degree right after graduation to land a job that was the teaching equivalent of corporate law. I lasted 6 months and then went on an 8 month road trip to find my bearings. When I did, I landed in the non-profit sector, doing good work that makes me incredibly happy (for the most part). My degree has been so useful -- I'm able to take the skills that I learned and the connections I made there and use them to benefit those around me.

Anyway -- you're on a good path. And if you ever decide that you do want a copy of your diploma, tell them to give you a nicer holder for it. That's the thing I love about mine -- it's in this padded little frame that is actually quite pretty. I'm still not going to hang it up anywhere, but it's nice to know that I could. For $120k, or whatever it cost at the time, you'd think the damn thing would be decked out in jewels. :)

PleaseRecycle said...

Ha! Jack, I didn't walk for my graduation from Harvard and I didn't fork out the $10 to have them FedEx me the piece of paper but now I'm thinking it might be worth it to do something like this!

I identify with your comment about not needing the external validation. All the hard work WAS worth something, but YOU are the only one who really knows what that something is.

three moons said...

:-)

Jen said...

jack, I appreciate your blog. thanks for sharing your insights as you travel along life's journey. I will keep reading...

Sharon J said...

If that was the right thing for you to do, that's all that matters. Good luck travelling down whatever paths you choose in the future.

emmani said...

Adventures in Voluntary Liberation!!
I burnt all my books when I left school... YOU know what you have achieved in your life and that's what matters.... follow your dreams Jack x

Jade of the Jungle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
emmani said...

I love you Jade!

Jerry said...

Considering where you are in you journey, that must have been like taking that first deep breath of cold air when you come out of your tent camping in the fall (if that makes sense). I must say thought, that the first thing I thought of when I saw the pictures and video was "Oh my god, what the hell is his mother going to do when she sees this?!"

menrva said...

I'd always been bothered by the holes in institutionalized education and during my last semester of as an undergrad I did the unthinkable and dropped out. I was completing a degree for a major I didn't care about and had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. Eventually I did go back a few year later and complete it and am now on the verge of obtaining my Masters degree. But THIS time it's because I KNOW what I want to do with my life. Having a degree just because that's what society says you're "supposed" to do is damaging to the soul. A diploma is just a mass produced piece of paper that has no ability to represent a person's true intelligence. Burn baby burn!!!

a square peg said...

I understand your action. It actually seems like something I might do (though I haven't, not my diploma, anyway, but other things that have tied me to the past I have flung away--photographs, letters, journals). Sometimes I regret the loss of some of it, which unlike a diploma, can't be retrieved, but for the most part there is a sense of freedom knowing that you are not bound to your past, whether it was good or bad. Now is all we have.

Jack said...

Amanda,

I wonder why he felt the need to destroy them? There must have been a trigger. That story about your professor and that class...it sounds like a great realization. I wish I had that mindset when I was in school. All i cared about was getting that A, nothing more. And yes, the thing just came in a cardboard folder. How awful!

Pleaserecycle,

Then we are clearly kindred spirits! :)

Three moons,
:) back to you!

Jack said...

Jen,

Thanks for dropping by. BTW, totally dig the pic on your blog with the boogie board.

Sharon,

As always, thanks.

Emmani,

Thanks for the comment. Are you back online? Are you guys settled yet? Let us know soon.

Jack said...

Jade,

That is definitely a much better idea. But could we have lit the plane on fire as well?

Jerry,

Thanks for the support. And btw, don't ever tell my mom. She would have a heart attack.

Menrva,

Precisely! we are definitely on the same page.

carrot quinn said...

Holy Crap. Your blog is officially Not Boring anymore. :)

Kerry said...

I didn't realize that you were a Harvard grad... You are my fucking hero!!! It's just a piece of paper.

I totally feel that you may have to do a whole "Into the Wild" experience.
Hardcore!!!

Christine said...

That piece of paper (which I cannot interpret) has rather significant meaning. Are you sure you did the right thing by burning it? Couldn't you have put it away for safe keeping? Mind you, this was a big accomplishment in your life. Sure you're not just having a moment?

notesfrommytravels said...

Delurking. :) Might I suggest that you watch Into the Wild if you have not already? By the looks of this post either you already have or you´re channeling Christopher McCandless. I haven´t checked your blog in a couple weeks and things sure have gotten interesting! I´m along on this journey with you after watching my sister go through much of the same thing.

Also, I noticed you took a photo of a quote from Walden, and you should definitely check out the book when you have time. I just finished it a few days ago and there is so much inspiration in it.

Anonymous said...

Will you now proceed to burn your SS card as well?

Anonymous said...

You know burning that piece of paper doesn't change anything about the fact that you have a law degree. It's still there, archived away (you can tell your mom that).

Life doesn't have to be a straight path.

Anonymous said...

Part of your lawyerly ego is still shinning through. Why do you feel the need to tell the world of your actions? Why even have this blog document your feelings and actions and intentions? Nothing simply about that and you know it. But I do give you credit for trying and hope your new adventures bring you peace and happiness.

Anonymous said...

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of you for getting into Harvard Law in the first place.

Sadly, I'm even more jealous you've had the good sense to leave the law. It's something I've wanted to do since my first semester in law school, but never had the courage to do- it's hard to kick a six figure spending habit- best of luck to you. I suspect more of us are rooting for you than we'd ever admit.

-JRM

Anonymous said...

I applaud your efforts to simplify and turn away from the luxurious attorney life. I wish I could afford to do that, but right now I'm worried about finding a job and paying off my $120K law school debt...

L.Abreu said...

hello jack!! I love your blog, are you a mind reader? when you pass by the caribbean stop by to say hi.

Jack said...

Asquarepeg,

Yes, I agree. Notice I didn't burn pics from my time at law school, or my law books etc...

Carrot,

I am definitely taking that as a compliment! No need to go on with a boring blog.

Kerry,

Thanks! Always good to hear nice things.

Jack said...

Christine,

My mind is clear on this one. It made sense at the time. Still makes sense today. Again, it's just a piece of paper. Everything valuable about being at harvard (my friends, my books, my experiences) I have kept.

Notesfrommytravels,

That is such a great observation. I have seen the movie (never read the book), but promise, cross my heart that I wasn't thinking about it when I went for it. Can't speak for my unconscious though... And yes, Walden is fantastic. It was always one of my favorites growing up but been meaning to reread all the trancendentalist authors as an adult.

Anonymous 1

I don't think so. At least not right now.

Jack said...

Anonymous # 2,

I'm glad to hear that. I definitely agree.

Anonymous #3

Thanks for your comment. Definitely respect that point of view; I've found that people who blog get that perspective from time to time. From my end, all I can say is that that point of view would be more valid if I were actually interested in being less anonymous. Don't really feel like leaving my anonymity behind any time soon.

Anonymous #4 (JRM)

Thanks for the comment. What I have found so compelling is the sheer number of comments and emails I have gotten from other lawyers saying something similar. Good luck and take care.

Marissa said...

Um, that was hot.

Diana said...

Sorry you had to repeat yourself so many times! Ha. I do applaud your committment to a simple life. Best of luck to you, and I hope you find fulfillment!

Anonymous said...

.......I'm older.....almost 48.......and this is 'sad'......you are intelligent and bright and sensitive................BUT.. if you were my son.....I would tell you to use this diploma to do GOOD in the WORLD. I'm an Agnostic.. but I firmly believe when I'm doing SERVICE to others in little ways.. (i can't do more at this time; but little things that add up)... that you could help so many unfortunate people who are not born as bright;or been in abusive situation that they did not encourage... innocent baby; people who lost medical coverage after working all their lives on a technicality (see Michael Moore 911 films).. gosh..if you give back you'll feel so LIGHT and FREE and have a purpose.
we all wonder why we are here..

well we are stuck here; unless we commit suicide so might as well do something GOOD.

Gosh, I wish I had that degree to do good; I wish I had your intelligence.. and the time you spend wandering; is going to not get you anyway; because really there is NOTHING out there; it is already in YOU.

You have a wonderful townhouse; and you do have two tenants; like I do too; thanks for the tip months ago; i did it.. and have more time for a bit more service and more time with my children etc. (which is service; for how we raise our children effect society).2 are grown but 1 is only 12. I have time to even get to know his friends too and be the Sweet Mom; handing out juice and making warm soup.

I have a 140 IQ but have children and only a 2 year AA. If I had no children and that law degree at this point in my life I would be doing good because what else is there to do..??

LIke the wizard of Oz movie; there is no place like home; well Jack there is no place like the soul you already possess.

this is so sad.. but you are young and it is only piece of paper; and nothing more; just that you seem so aimless now. so very aimless.......and wandering around is goign to get played out; that is what spare time is for (hugs) remember I'm not criticizing you to be mean; just want the best.

In al-anon they say 'take what you want and leave the rest'

Betty Ann NYC Blog AHenwithoutaRooster

Anonymous said...

Hilarious how "just a piece of paper" needed to be marked up, taken to a designated spot outside, burned by one person, filmed on camera by another person, and then posted on a blog so everyone can see.

Pretty safe to say that if you really believed that, you would not have staged such theater.

Jack said...

Anonymous #5,

I hope you find a job and that you come to enjoy the profession. For a while I loved it and didn't mind the huge student loans I took out to make it happen. But the pressure of having to pay all that money back is certainly unfortunate. If it makes you feel any better, I have been working for a while now and I am basically in the same boat.

I.abreu,

Thanks for stopping by. Will take that suggestion to heart.:)

Marissa,

Thanks

Jack said...

Diana,

Thanks for the kudos.

Anonymous #6 (betty),

No worries. This does not mean that I will be leaving the law. In fact, on the hunt for a much more fulfilling job as we speak.

Anonymous #7,

I think that's actually a fair point. At least to the extent the whole thing needed to be filmed in the first place. What I do think is missing from your analysis is that this is, in fact, a blog. I have chosen to share some very personal things in this forum anonymously, and the act of burning my degree is just one more thing I have shared. To criticize the "theater" of it all is to criticize the very purpose of being on a blog in the first place. I will leave that discussion for another day.

LivitLuvit said...

Freaking awesome. I'm sure it was the right thing to do, and it must have felt so good. I'm thinking Office Space when they steal the copier and go apeshit on it in a field...

ryan said...

I knew a guy who had his tacked to a corkboard in his office, with a big plastic thumbtack right in the top area. Random papers were tacked around or on it.

Mine is in a fancy frame that cost $$, in a box in the garage. I haven't gotten it back out after I changed firms.

That said, I don't know if burning the diploma really is the rebellion you intended, unless you felt your own identity was because of the diploma. I'd say leaving Biglaw now and burning your business cards would be more gutsy... not that I'm calling you out but I suppose I am slightly skeptical that you're planning a job change 14 months out. Just get out of your house ASAP and leave after this year's bonuses. Use the bonus to pay off your credit cards.

If you have lots of student loans already, it's unlikely you can amass nearly enough by Dec 09 to make interest off of your savings to make a difference. Look where the economy is: speculation today the prime rate could be ZERO for a while to spur things along. There probably won't be growth for 12-18 months. HLS has loan forgiveness for low income law and gov't jobs, does your undergrad?

Family on BIkes said...

I've often said that making the decision to take this trip of ours was the hardest part of the entire thing - once you finally take that step to commit to your own journey (whatever that may be), all the rest falls into place.

It's interesting to see you take all these great big giant steps all of a sudden. But I know that you CAN take those steps now because you have honestly and truly finally made the decision to do it. And once you've made the decision, the rest is easy.

Good luck! You're already free.

Nancy
www.familyonbikes.org

Jack said...

livitluvit,

Awesome scene. Great show reference.

Ryan,

I have a feeling you haven't read too deeply into the blog. Leaving my job in the next 4 months not 14. Definitely aware of the realities of the economy and its impact on the Plan. Just going to have to wing it.

Nancy,

Thanks for the comment. Always nice to hear from you. BTW, awesome pics! I hope the trick or treating stuff goes well tomorrow.

ryan said...

Jack, I apologize if I misunderstood your plan - your Sept. 29 post says

"Leaving My Job
Start: December 17, 2009
End: December 31, 2009"

I hadn't seen the other posts with dates.

diane said...

Bravo, burning that diploma, was you waveing the american flag for freedom, and justice for all. And you not letting your education, and the paper symbolism dictate your right to exercise your free will, or get in the way of you expressing life on another level. Don't ever let education stop you from learning about life.

bill h said...

Best wishes. I'm a 52 year old lawyer in Dallas, a partner in a small firm. My office is filled with small gifts from the pro bono asylum clients I've represented, a carving from a Togolese pro democracy activist, a papyrus from an Egyptian Coptic Christian, a stacking egg from a Russian Jew. It is a rare privilege to have that legal education. You can do much good with it. Feel free to look me up and call, if you want to talk pro bono work.

blessings and Peace,

bill

Anonymous said...

How beautiful.

I wish you all the happiness in the world!

Emily said...

You might want to read Simple Living by Wanda Urbanska. My husband is a lawyer and we live in a tiny mountain town. He walks to work every day and the kids and I walk him home in the evenings. It's all about lifestyle. Urbanska is local to us here, so I stumbled upon her book when trying to create the life we want for ourselves. I think it would resonate with you. She and her husband were also Harvard Alum seeking a new life.

los cazadores said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
los cazadores said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Jack, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I am a little older than you and have been in the process of transitioning from a large law firm for quite some time (thinking back, it really started almost eight years ago when I left one firm for another!).

I am a little more tethered to my current life, and for the most part in good and fulfilling ways. I am not tethered to the law.

As for the diploma, I get it. You are what you do. You went to an excellent school and worked hard, and you should be proud, but those credentials tell little about who you are and anyone who clings too tightly to those probably needs some of the self-examination you have undertaken.

Something I often think of when I undertake new things or consider a new path is a quote from The Book of Five Rings, "Today is victory over the self of yesterday."

Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I know how that piece of paper takes on a life of it's own especially when it comes at the expense of heavy financial burden. I envy your flight of freedom. I once told someone I would crumple up my degree and throw it in the trash can. I never did it, but I never framed it either. To this very day, it sits under a stack of crap in my closet.

I identify with the symbolism of you burning your degree.

Cindy

Jack said...

Ryan,

No worries. You are still presenting valid points.

Diane,

I have a feeling we would get along very well.:) Thanks for the comment.

Bill,

Sounds like you have used the law to genuinely help others. The fact that it is also a rewarding experience doesn't seem to hurt either. I might take you up on that. But first, need to finalize the Plan, take some time off and figure out next steps. Thanks!

Jack said...

Anonymous,

Thanks. Always nice to hear good things.

Emily,

It's funny you reference that book. A friend mentioned it the other day. It's definitely now on my radar, but in all honesty, I may have to wait a bit before I have the time to check it out. Working to become unemployed is hard work! :)

Anonymous,

I am curious, when do you see yourself completing the transition? By the sounds of it you are very well aware of where you want to be and have recognized the value of other things in your life, besides your job. I'm just sad I didn't get to that point earlier.

Anonymous said...

Jack,

It took me the longest time to make a transition because I was afraid and did not really know what to do next.

You are right though, I do recognize the value of other things in my life, and I came to the conclusion about a year ago that there was a mismatch in the law between what I value and the sacrifices my job requires. When I get pangs of fear and doubt (and I do), I try to remind myself that I am only trying to find a new job. I am not doing anything more complicated than that. Of course, I am actually switching careers, but that sounds scarier.

I got pretty comfortable logging long hours and going from one deal to the next, but I never really liked it. I like the people I work with, but the work itself never seemed very fulfilling. Unfortunately, I let myself do it for a long enough time that one day I found I could not do it any longer.

My work suffered and I had to talk to people at my firm about what I was going through and I sought help from other lawyers who had been through similar experiences. Turns out there is a cottage industry serving maladjusted lawyers. It was like I was suffering from depression, but only at my job. Unfortunately, it went on long enough that it did start to leak into the other parts of my life.

I was lucky enough to realize that I felt much better if I took some control over my destiny. Every day that I did something that I viewed as helping me get on to a new path, or at least figure out what that path should be, I felt better. Conversely, every day that I did not move myself in another direction, I felt a little more despondent.

I have now picked a direction (nothing terribly exotic), but a career that I think will be engaging, will provide for my family, allow me some time with my family, and be something at which I can excel. I am still working at finding an opportunity and getting myself in the door, but I will keep you informed.

Jack said...

Cindy,

I think we can both agree that burning a piece of paper does not matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, it can get people talking; and it encouraged you to write your post, even as if freed me just a bit more Good luck and keep in touch.

Anonymous,

Thanks for the follow up. Sounds like you have redirected your focus for the better. What is the new career? It also sounds like you have a ton to say on the subject. Maybe a blog is in your future! :)

Yeoman said...

I ripped up my big display (non Harvard) law school diploma 15 years ago. I think I threw my smaller one out with the trash some time ago.

I'm still a lawyer, but wish I wasn't. And I don't miss that piece of paper at all. Good for you.

Also, I see you entered law for the same reason I did. The difference is, I haven't been able to get out. Most lawyers, truth be known, are there as they don't know what else to do. They're generalist, with no strong interest in anything, but some interest in lots of stuff. Unfortunately, law's a soul destroying career which discourages that impulse.

Congrats!

Jack said...

Yeoman,

Thanks for the comment. You have an interesting focus on your blog. Need to follow along from now on.

Mike said...

Jack, I have to wonder if you simply made the decision that I was too afraid to make a long, long time ago. I spent most of my 25 years in law practice trying to find something I was happy doing. I ended up doing medical malpractice litigation for 18 years, the first half on the defense side, then on the plaintiff's. I was never comfortable, or happy, doing this as I have a low comfort threshold for uncertainty and risk while at the same time have high expectations for myself. At age 52, I had had enough and just closed my practice. I've spent 2-1/2 years trying to start a mediation practice, but have concluded that in my area, people either are not interested in using mediation or they want to rely on retired judges as mediators. So I continue wondering where to go from here. Throughout my career I have endlessly heard the mantra that there are so many opportunities for someone with a law degree, but I have yet to find a person that can answer the follow-up question of what? I'd love to hear more about your plans.

Jonna (aka mom) said...

I think burning the diploma is a symbolic way to process grieving. Doing something like that is a physical action that makes something more real. It is saying goodbye. It frees the person to move on into the next stage of healing.

And yes, as some mention, it is a sad thing. Healing usually is a sad process though so it must be faced if one is to proceed beyond it.

I shredded both of my marriage certificates and both sets of divorce papers. Cried when I did it too. I had to let it go. I had to accept it. I had to prepare to move on. I don't miss the stupid things either.

Helene said...

Jack,
This made me very sad. This is partly accountable to the age difference between you and me. But Jack, I've been 32 before. You haven't been 57.

Things change. It is not so much that people change, as it is that as one gets older, one opens a door that one did not know was in one's mansion, and goes into a room that one did not know was there, and sees a view out the window that although it existed all along, one has never seen it before.

Sorry for the bad English.

Helene said...

Jack,
Second comment here. I've had a chance now to read through the reactions of others. And I have found the autobiographical comments quite compelling.

I'd like to hear more from some of the commenters on this blog about changes that they have made in their lives. (I am personally more interested in hearing about steps forward, and the resolution of past ways of thinking into new ones, than I am in the 'shredding the past' stories, although I've done a fair amount of that myself.)

Absent Capacity said...

Jack,

I see amazing potential in the fact that a JD admits that a piece of paper is absent the ability to control someone.

Love your blog, love the way you work through your shit, and I hope to meet you someday. Belgian beer on me.

JV