The prostitute’s shoes clicked down the linoleum hallway. I sat jetlagged on the bed of the hotel room. I had no food, so for dinner I ate a Ziploc bag of unsalted cashews. I had to get home.
This is a copy of a guest post I published on Leave Law Behind, a great resource for lawyers looking to transition out of the law.
The decision to leave my six-figure law firm job didn’t come quickly. But as I looked down into my desk drawer, I realized I had to do it. Lined up neatly were orange prescription bottles of Adderall, Xanax, Effexor, and various headache medicines. I had the Adderall to wake up in the morning, the Xanax to relax at night, and the Effexor as a backup if I had to stay all night at the office.
I knew the statistics. Lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse at higher rates than most professions. I could see it around me; everyone looked miserable, exhausted, or insane. Now it had happened to me.
It’s easy to set rules. It’s a lot harder to follow them.
I once set a rule for myself never to check work email after 11pm unless we had a signing or closing. When I told my rule to my non-lawyer friends, they thought it was completely reasonable. So did I.
I had shrunk. It took a while to realize it, but I had. When I started my career as a lawyer, I had expected that it would be difficult, but I would grow as a person. Instead, it was the opposite. I had shrunk physically, mentally, socially, even spiritually.
“Your leg, you will lose it,” said the Frenchman. We were on the side of the road, halfway through a twisting, fourteen-hour bus ride from Delhi, India, to the hillside outpost of Manali. This was our one rest stop, at a roadside café in the middle of the bus’ winding trek north. I sat in a small plastic chair, left leg propped up, twice the size of the other. Angry lines of infection made their way up from my ankle and calf. “It will reach the bone. You will lose your leg,” he repeated, and walked away. The absence of qualifiers and inflection common to second language speakers gave him an air of authority. As I ate my masala potatoes, I thought, he’s probably right. I’m going to lose my leg. Time to get back on the bus.