A Thousand Little Deaths

I was at the inaugural meeting of a book club a few weeks ago and I looked around and realized that almost everyone in the room was an attorney.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t still painful to hear other people who have accomplished my “dream” talk about boring things like depositions and hearings and writing motions with perfect arguments. Even hearing about someone doing legal research makes me wince.

The discomfort here is two fold: grief and jealousy. I am still mourning the apparent loss of my own dream of becoming an attorney while also being incredibly jealous of the most mundane law related tasks. I know the classic answer here is that I can take the bar again and so so is so stupid but somehow he passed the bar so of course you will, which both feel like a band aid on a bullet wound. And please don’t get me started on people saying that there’s an attorney that they know who is so stupid, how did he pass and you didn’t. IF I KNEW THE ANSWER TO THAT I WOULDN’T FEEL LIKE I DO AND ALSO I WOULD BE A FCKING ATTORNEY.

I do think this experience has really opened my eyes about how disappointment can haunt you and that death is not the only thing that you have to grieve. I’m also learning a lot about how to be where you are. There is no alternate universe where I passed the bar the first, second, or even third time. There is only this world where I am not an attorney. That isn’t to say that I’ll never take the bar exam again or that I will never be an attorney but it IS saying that right now, here, I am not an attorney. And that is both okay and it isn’t. I think a lot about accepting where you are and who you are is realizing that it doesn’t have to be okay. A lot of things and experiences that we all go through are not okay and it’s important to both recognize that and give it space to be felt.

We don’t live in a world where we are going to feel okay all of the time or even most of the time. We have a thousand little deaths every year of dreams that didn’t come true, love that didn’t materialize, or even a parking spot that got blocked off. The little bereavements all deserve recognition but they do not deserve our lives.

It’s good to see what hurts us, what makes us feel sad or angry. Understanding the depth of our emotional spectrum is important. It’s how we choose to move forward after that recognition that matters. We can Marie Kondo and thank our disappointments for teaching us, for showing us that we were capable of feeling the entire spectrum of emotion. But we also need to move forward. If I spent all of my time dwelling on how I am not an attorney, how I’m scared to take the bar again, how I am not living the life I had imagined, then I wouldn’t have the life I have now, which isn’t the best life but it is real.

Accepting where I am has given me the freedom to do things I never thought I would. Also knowing that the “worst thing” I ever thought could happen to me already has (x3) has given me a sense of foolhardy confidence in going forward in new directions. I know that I am capable of failure, I know that failure is fucking imminent and inescapable. But I’m learning to embrace it and respect myself for trying.

So yes, I can be sad and mad and grieve for the life I thought I wanted. I could let myself be hurt by hearing my friends succeed. I could seethe in jealousy (and don’t get me wrong, the hurt and jealousy will still creep in). Or I can look at where I am, what I am capable of withstanding, what I am capable of doing, what OTHER dreams I have…

and maybe I can do more than I thought.

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