An Attitude Revamp (or, How to Get Your Groove Back)

fiji birthday drinkOn Tuesday, we talked a bit about how there will be numerous times in a person’s life that you realize that you are, perhaps, a bit off track from where you would like to be. Maybe you wake up one day and realize you own nothing beyond dowdy suits, Mom jeans, and pajamas — a wardrobe revamp is in order. Other times you wake up and realize it’s your attitude that needs an adjustment. There are different varieties of this. The two big ones that I’ve seen involve a realization that perhaps you’ve been phoning it in for far too long, either because you were dealing with a personal issue (planning a wedding, having a baby, dealing with a sick parent, etc, etc) or because you just aren’t engaged in your job anymore. Other times, you realize that it’s your job that makes you unhappy; you may suddenly feel that you’ve been beaten down for so long that you don’t even remember the last time you felt calm, fulfilled, and at peace with the world.  This is a type of burnout that can happen with any job, but I’ve seen it especially with those professions — BigLaw, I’m looking at you — that consume most or all of your waking hours for years at a time.  Sometimes the right answer might be to just suck it up, deal with it, recognize the commitments you’ve made and the value of what you’ve got.  Other times, a vacation can help — but you can’t solve every problem by a week or two in a tropical locale.  (Pictured: fiji birthday drink, originally uploaded to Flickr by mjecker.)

For my $.02, the first situation is the better of the two — you still intrinsically like what you do and where you are, but you just need to reengage with the job. Some ideas for that:

  • Revamp your routine. If the first thing you do every day at the office is surf the web for two hours, stop that — don’t even turn on your computer if possible. I recently read about someone who “turned the mouse off” during work time to cut down on distracted browsing; you can also just put your mouse out of reach, turn it on its back, or unplug it.
  • Restyle your office (or move offices, if possible). It’ll make you feel like you’re at a new job again.
  • Reengage with your profession again. Attend a thinky seminar or conference, and really listen — take notes as if your life depended on it. Take some time to apply what you’ve learned to your current job (and, perhaps, to your boss’s job). Set up a meeting or write a memo if you come up with tangible ideas as a result.

The other main kind of “attitude revamp” I’ve seen people need is when your job makes you miserable — perhaps even your profession — and you can’t easily get a new job (or a new profession). The only thing, in my experience, that I’ve seen work for this is to reconnect with some older, core version of yourself from the time before The Job. For example, maybe you were on the swim team in your youth — and you can just rejoin an adult swim club that does drills and the like. For me, I found myself in this situation a few years ago, right after I’d missed my best friend’s wedding to do a doc review — and the only thing I could think to do to reconnect with ME again was to take a humor writing class, which I hadn’t done since I was 17. I signed up at Gotham (with the very excellent teacher Sara Barron) and realized in pretty short order that a) I could write something other than a law brief, and b) I was kind of good at writing, as well as giving other people in my class useful feedback on how their own stories could be better. As soon as I reconnected with the “me” I’d been when I was 17 — full of hope and ambition and sarcasm — weirdly enough, good things started to happen. I met my future husband later that month. I got on a much better project at the job, working closely with a lawyer I truly admired, about two months later. I decided to start this blog about four months later. None of those things had anything to do with my rediscovered humor writing skills — but so much to do with my rediscovery of me, the person I’d been before I’d spent nearly 15 years throwing myself into school and work.

Readers, what are your tips for getting your groove back? What other major attitude revamps have you been through?


  1. This is really timely for me. I’ve realized in the last 6 months that my attitude had gotten to dangerously bad levels of apathy. I had children in 2008 and went on maternity leave feeling on top of my profession – without reservation I would say that I was the #1 associate at my mid-sized firm, and I expected to make partner that year. I came back to a merger with a BigLaw firm and then the economic downturn, and this past year, the worst hours year of my life. I’ve gone from being on the verge of partnership to being happy to have a job, feeling unseen, feeling like I was starting over and my years of work meant nothing. I found it devastating to think of starting over trying to impress people, and then I didn’t have any work to do to impress people.

    How did I turn it around? I’m still in the process. I devoted a lot of time to community service and just getting to know people outside of law. I tried to embrace the fact that I was getting a (not entirely wanted) slow period that I could use to spend more time with my kids than I would get to if I were working 2000+ hours. And I just tried to find things to identify “me” other than my career – I trained for a 5K, I chaired an event, etc. I’m now waiting on an inevitable hours-based paycut, but I’m also finally getting back to a place of just appreciating what I love about being a lawyer and the talents I have. I may never be a partner, but I still have a lot to be grateful for.

    All in all, it’s much harder to revamp attitude than wardrobe.

  2. What a great post, and just what I needed today. I’ve been thinking a lot about taking a fiction writing class — my 6-year-old self would like that!

  3. A couple years ago I went through this – a combination of a horrible boss (the kind that makes “Miranda Priestly” in the Devil Wears Prada look positively kindly) and losing two close family members in six months had me seeing life in shades of black and charcoal. It took me a long time to come back from that place… I gave tax accounting one last shot, and after an extensive hunt found a new position. I chronicled my accomplishments each day by writing down every thing I accomplished – no matter how small – on a notepad, so that at the end of the day I felt good about myself. I also took grad classes in areas that interested me (yay electives), and began reading industry newsletters, attending seminars, etc., to remember what I love about tax accounting.

    Some days I still go home exhausted, and wonder about opening a fruit stand in Florida… but by focusing on what I have accomplished, staying connected to others who love what we do, and giving myself time away from work – I don’t bring it home with me, if I have to work on a weekend I’ll go into the office – and making a concerted effort to enjoy the outdoors through walks after work with my dog or sitting on the deck, I keep some sanity.

    • Chicago K :

      Shayna, I had to giggle at your fruit stand comment. On stressful days, I used to(jokingly) tell people at work I was going to be an organic farmer and open up a stand to sell jam by the side of the road. One day, a coworker brought me in an article from the Onion. The headline was something along the lines of, “Farmer Never Expected He’d be Waking up at 4 AM to Fill Out Forms for Goverment Subsidies.”

      Made me laugh, and even though it was satirical, reminded me of how even the “simple” jobs never really are…

    • Another Sarah :

      Throughout college and law school, I had a running half-joke that instead of working I was going to open a tiki bar on a beach in the Caribbean. I figure even if it’s not the most glamourous lifestyle, almost 100% of my friends slaving in a high-rise every day would be wicked jealous at my self-proprietorship, surrounded by alcohol, at the beach. :-D

    • Oh yes! For me, it’s barmaid in Key West.

      • Before I took the bar, I completely filled out the Peace Corps application and requested Borneo as my first choice, then put it all in envelope in case I failed. Now I think the Peace Corps (in my idyllic/delusional vision, a la the tiki bar or fruit stand) in some rugged, verdant, non-active volcanic coastal area, would be ideal. It does not exist, I know, and even if it did, they are not inviting me and my three kids! But I still want to go there.

        And I loved this post. Have been totally overwhelmed at work (a good problem to have, to be sure), to the point of ADD-like inability to get even the smallest things done (delegate discrete research assignment), let alone the big things (write major brief, almost out of time, NFE – yikes). Not to mention the usual work/life balance bs – manage kids, camp, nanny changes, back to school, new carpool, dog ate the couch, try to be loving/attractive wife, get to the gym for sanity and health, haven’t paid bills yet and they are about to be overdue, what have you.

        How does one actually get her ‘groove’ back (find her groove, it’s been lost so long?) when one is running perpetually on hamster wheel? I’ve recently been doing a lot of chatting on this site, kind of like making new friends (I moved to my present city only recently so don’t really have too many locally) – I really like the ‘sisterly’ camaradarie here, but at some point, virtual is not real and real is where I need my ‘groove’ back.

        That said, I am inspired by several comments of corporettes who have trudged through various ‘not-groove’ periods and come out on the other side. Thanks!

    • Tax Lawyer :

      Shayna, did they care at the tax accounting position whether your CPA license was active or inactive. My problem with switching from a law firm to an accounting firm to do tax work is that all the accounting firms seem to want an active license.

      With 40 hours per year of required CPE, and 17 years at law firms that would not give me the time off to keep my CPA license active, it lapsed long ago. I was not about to use my meager vacation time at biglaw to attend accounting CPE classes. So now I am trying to re-activate my CPA license, and it is proving very difficult. How did you manage this?

  4. Thread hijack – any tips of how to deal with a break-up if you meet your ex at work every single day and he likes public displays of emotions? I need a major attitude revamp, but don’t feel like having everybody at work know about every baby step I take…

    • If it’s just an early morning or late evening chance meeting, text or e-mail or call someone from your phone so you look very busy, and just don’t pay attention to him as you pass.

      If it’s more often than that, you might need to take him aside, maybe with someone from Human Resources, and explain that work is not the place to display these things.

    • Yikes. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, and particularly so at work where even if he the one being emotional, you are likely to get half (or more of) the blame.

      This is the kind of thing that needs to stop immediately. I’d start by getting in touch with the ex outside of work (call/email/in person, whatever you’re comfortable with) and tell him that you understand he’s upset and may want to talk about that, but that work is a completely unacceptable place to do it and that you won’t engage with it there (your choice whether you will engage with it anywhere else – I don’t know how fresh the breakup is or whether you want to stay on good terms – but I think it’s harder to avoid scenes at work if you’re having them the rest of the time). Tell him that if he has another emotional outburst at work, you will have to talk to HR because you aren’t going to let his behavior hurt your career.

      Once you’ve had that conversation, do NOT engage with him at work. If you two can say hi in the hallway while you continue walking, that’s fine, but any conversation just gives him an opportunity and an excuse to get emotional with you again. He is doing it to get your attention and possibly (consciously or not) to hurt your standing with your employer and with co-workers. You need to give him no attention at all.

      And again, so sorry you have to deal with this – I’ve had exes like this, but not in the workplace where they are screwing with your career as well as your personal life.

      • Anonther Anon :

        Hugs from someone who just took an boy-related emotional kick this weekend.

        Good luck!

    • Tax Lawyer :

      Wow, I am the last person to give anyone advice on relationships, given my history. But I can tell you that I had a co-worker and very good friend who went through a bitter divorce while working in the same office of a big firm at the time.

      It worked out well for them, but only because he had some clout with management, and managed to get her transferred to a different office location.

  5. I really disliked my old Biglaw job, left it for a new one a few years ago, and got here only to find that the new job in and of itself wasn’t enough to “adjust my attitude.” I spent the first few months avoiding calls and work, leaving early, etc. It was a serious problem, obviously, especially since my switch coincided with the beginning of the recession when people were getting laid off left and right. I woke up one day to realize that I couldn’t continue on that path. Here’s what I did:

    1) Forced myself into a routine. I had stopped going to religious services and exercising, things that were both important to me. And I was getting up at somewhat random hours. Each day just felt unstructured. That was bad for me, so I re-instituted structure in my life.

    2) Took up hobbies. My dad told me that it is unreasonable to expect to always like your job. You need not be fulfilled by your job; that’s what the rest of your life is for. So I focused on things that do fulfill me: started volunteering and taking language classes again. I love feeling well-rounded and knowing that my true worth to society and my family has nothing to do with my transaction-structuring skills.

    3) Engaged in a serious career evaluation about what paths I could take, how long I should aim to hold the current job, what I wanted to gain out of it. It gave me a sense of professional purpose again.

    4) Had a difficult talk with the assignments partner at my firm about how I’d been struggling, and made clear that I was turning over a new leaf ON THAT DAY. It really worked. I know that partners had been worried about me, and that my conversation with her was shared. And having it known that I knew I needed to shape up showed that I was taking responsibility. More importantly, I think it paid off once review time came around because I could tell the reviews were structured pre- and post-turnaround consciously. This makes for a better review file. Rather than looking like a “mixed bag” performance, it was clear that I had forced people into thinking about my performance on the time line. And the comments were therefore “Rough start, fantastic since February.”

    BTW, a year and a half later — I love my work, and my colleagues like and respect me. I went from wanting to leave the law altogether to loving my job.

    • Wow, you have my admiration. I was having that kind of a time too–I just got married, and then found out I was expecting (shock!). My hours (and work product) sucked. I would drag in whenever and leave as soon as no one was looking. Having a talk like that with the partners would probably have been a great idea. Scary as heck, but helpful. I realize in retrospect I was dealing with depression that probably warranted some outside help, and they deserved to know that. Now I’m back from maternity leave feeling much better and more optimistic about my job and abilities.

  6. I get really weighed down by accumulations of stuff, so when I start feeling that ominous “I hate my life” feeling, it helps to purge whatever space is dragging me down. I think it’s also helpful to set a small goal, like cleaning a bookshelf, so you can see a tangible accomplishment. Boosting your self-confidence with little victories during bad times can be a big motivator to tackle bigger problems.

  7. I started an IP legal/consulting firm last year. I left my job as in-house counsel in 2007 to be a SAHM and was miserable. For the first year of my daughter’s life, I kept myself telling myself that this is what I wanted so you are going to make it work. But it wasn’t working. Then one day I had an epiphany. I realized that this wasn’t good for me or my baby. I said to myself, “This is your reality. Now how do you want to proceed?” I knew that I missed work and adult conversation. So, I took the plunge. I won’t say it’s easy. My daughter only goes to daycare 2 days a week. But, I’m making it work, and I am a lot happier.

    I also take time for me. I have a standing “date” for dinner every month with my best friend. I’m reading books again. (I love to read and was too exhausted to do it when my daughter was little.)

    • Wow, KelliJ, I have liked your comments in other settings, but I really like this one. Good for you!

      Note on the reading: before I became a mom, I read a book at least every few days. For the first few years after I had kids (one and then twins 2 yrs later), I could not read more than a page of People at the grocery store. I missed reading terribly. Now that they can all brush their own teeth (and talk back and not go to sleep on command with a bottle, but – bless their souls – 2 of the 3 will read their own books in bed alone – YAY), I can read about a book a week and it is precious to me.

      Good for you re your consulting enterprise. And good for you that you are doing so well with your daughter – you are smart to grab this time with her (you don’t get it back) while not completely checking out of what you need in the adult world. You are making it work and that is no small accomplishment with a toddler and a solo work gig. Pat self on back repeatedly :).

      • Suze — you get the pat on the back repeatedly as well for passing on your love of reading. Not only is it obviously a great habit that will serve your kids well in so many ways, but in the years ahead you’ll find so many opportunities to connect with them over books.

      • Tax Lawyer :

        Suze, I have an idea for you, and I have been trying to spread it nationwide with respect to child-rearing. It came to me out of the blue after spending a weekend with my brother and his children.

        Children generally need a forced time to go to sleep. If you make this time early (say 8:30-9:00pm) and enforce it, the kids will desperately want to stay up later.

        So tell them that they can stay up as late as they want, so long as they are reading at bedtime. They will start reading like mad–kids just don’t want to go to sleep when we want them to.

        Not only will they become much smarter and more literate, generally after an hour or so of extra reading, they fall asleep anyway.

        A great way to make our next generation less video-game-addicts and more intelligent than the alternative.

  8. I am interested to hear other people’s responses to this. I feel like I am in the middle of a funk…I just feel a bit foggy. At the same time bored and overwhelmed, like I have too much to do and not enough to do. I like my work but it’s not anything to write home about.

    Then again, I have a 2 yo and a 6 month old, so I guess it’s normal to still feel foggy all the time!

    • mom of three :

      Yes, normal…will pass.

    • You probably haven’t slept in two years – anyone would feel foggy :) my only kiddo is four and life is so much easier now than it was when he was 2. Hang in there, this too shall pass :)

      • This is where I am – with a 3 yr old and 1 yr old (who doesn’t sleep through the night and is still nursing) – and just generally in a funk/fog – so I am happy to read that this will pass. I read the comments here about making time for oneself and exercising reading and the like, and I literally don’t have that time right now – but knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – that eventually the baby will sleep through the night and I will be able to get up at 5:30 not to nurse, but to go to the gym, having had a decent night’s sleep, helps me get through the fog in my life right now.

  9. Following on what MM said – I have found that job dissatisfaction and poor performance are a self-repeating cycle – you feel disgruntled, so you start slacking in small ways. Then you get negative feedback or are passed over for something you wanted, and you feel more disgruntled, then you slack off more, leading to more negative consequences, etc. I was in this cycle very early in my career and it took my boss – a totally amazing guy who is still my mentor – sitting me down and saying “what you are going to get out of this job is directly proportional to what you put into it, and right now you ain’t putting in sh* t. Snap out of it.” It pulled me out of the downward spiral and got me back on track, quickly. So if someone has gotten into “slightly slacker” mode and is feeling malaise – resolve to get back on track in one week or less. Dress up for work. Get there on time and stay until the end of the day, every day. Make an effort to network around the office, be cheerful and open (not just hide in your office/cube all day). Do something nice for your boss, assistant or receptionist. Make task lists so you get things done without procrastinating. I know all this is Good Work Habits 101 but in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to let things slide and then all of a sudden you’re the grumpy, sullen person in the office people avoid.

    I have also found that boredom breeds discontent, big-time. I don’t believe in being overscheduled (see below) but having too much time on your hands can also be bad, because it gives you too much time to brood and pick over things that are not really that important.
    I think we all go through periods of general dissatisfaction with our job, marriage/relationship, life in general, etc. I apply the same rule to my marriage and my career: it’s not going to be fun all the time. They shouldn’t actively make you miserable, but long-term careers and long-term marriages are not built by managing constant excitement, thrills and triumphs. Most of it is about showing up and making an effort every day, consistently, even when you don’t feel like it. I also think a lot of women get depressed because they are constantly catering to the needs of others, and ignoring their own needs. Yes, you are a wife/girlfriend, mom, employee, daughter, friend, etc. But you’re also still you, and you need things too. Take a half day off and go do something for yourself, whether it’s the spa or sitting in a park reading a book. Say “no” more often – I find I get the most unhappy when I have not said “no” enough and I am overcommitted. It’s OK to need time to do nothing, because usually in those moments you do something that feeds your soul somehow. Make time to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of other people.

    • You are so right that boredom breeds discontent.

    • All great advice.

    • One more thing I wanted to say – I think everyone needs one person in their life who does not want or need anything from them. What I mean is, I love my husband, my son, my mom, etc. but they all want or need things from me (and rightfully so). My employer and my coworkers want and need things from me (again, rightfully so). Many of my friends and acquaintances want and need things from me. And beyond that, many of these people need me to be a certain person, doing and saying certain things, which is not always who I feel like being. My two very best friends, however – one I’ve known since childhood, and one I’ve known for over 10 years – do not want or need anything from me, other than my companionship. When we talk, or go to lunch, it is a completely unfettered and agenda-free conversation. Sometimes in the middle of a tough few weeks, when I feel pulled in a million directions, I stop and make plans for lunch with one, or a phone call with the other (she lives far away) and it is literally like being able to breathe again after being held underwater. I can say anything to them, and they can say anything back. There’s no judgment, no hidden agendas, no maneuvering, no subtext. Just friendship and understanding. I don’t know what I’d do without these two friends, who have many times kept me from collapsing under the weight of my own life. There’s bound to be someone in everyone’s life that can be this person – having that person as your backup can be a tremendous relief.

      • This resonates with me very deeply — my college roommate is that person for me, and we are now 10 years out, both with 19 month olds, and we can pick up the phone or email and it’s like we’re 19 again, and there is no expectation of anything other than our friendship. You’ve made me appreciate her even more than I already did.

  10. Great post!

    I’m working my way out of two-year slump at work. I spent a year in an interim position in which I was not considered for the job and got extremely burnt out and frustrated. And also knowing way too much about how my company is run.

    I made a list of what I wanted to accomplish in my current job and in my career and decided that I needed some more education, and I’m now going back to school (part-time) for graduate degree. Hopefully, it’ll give me some ideas to apply to my current job and will also prepare me for the next level.

  11. HotInTheCity :

    I had a complete over-haul of my life about 4 years ago. Maybe it was a quarter life crisis, but I hated everything about me. I was obese, hated my career, and was really worried about the health of my marriage (which was a mere 1 year old at that point.) I’m type A, so I started making lists. I started with that one, listing the four major areas I was unhappy with (which, really, was my whole life, lol.) Then I made a list for each area. For job, I listed why I hated it (boring, micromanaging boss, and unclear work objectives.) Then I made a list of solutions for each thing on that list (or maybe an even more narrow list and then a list of solutions for that narrower list.) So, for example, for my micromanaging boss, my solution list was: 1. send daily emails, even twice daily, updating her on my progress so she backs off (and it worked.) 2. Mention to bosses’ boss that I want to try a different group when a spot opens up (and it worked. It took 4 months, but I was moved.) And 3. Find a new job (I ended up switching careers since I decided it wasn’t really the job, it was the career. I hated engineering in general.)

    Anyway, I’ve lost 80 lbs and went back to school, which in turn made me happier and made my relationship with H better. He and I did have to work on a few things, but overall, I am much much happier in life. My lists worked.

    • delurking :

      Well done! That sounds like you did great!

    • Ick, engineering… I can relate. Landscape architecture for me. AutoCAD all day was torture. I’m still trying to figure out what to do now. What field did you move into?

  12. This is kind of a different situation, as I’m still in school, but I had a similar problem with my drive in school.
    One of my very close friends who I always compared myself to in terms of dedication and drive dropped out of university because she realised she wasn’t happy. That forced me to evaluate how happy I was, and it dawned on me I wasn’t.
    I needed a prescription to help me sleep, I never saw my friends that I didn’t share a flat with. I was used to being one of the most intelligent people in my high school, and I was pushing myself to get the same kind of marks in university that I got in high school. I was simultaneously wearing myself out to do that and becoming increasingly unhappy because I couldn’t.

    So, I told myself I needed to either take a break from school or revamp how I approached school. I decided to revamp. Our semester exams happened after Christmas, so for the short two week period I was home for Christmas I was either revising or had my exams looming over my head. That Christmas I didn’t revise while I was at home, I had two weeks between getting back to school and my exams so I revised before Christmas and after. Of course two days before my first exam I was a wreck, beating myself up for not taking my revision seriously. I forced myself to calm down and not pull an all-nighter. Lo and behold I did so much better on those exams than I’d ever done. That was the reassurance I needed.

    I still cringe a little when I get my marks back and they aren’t as high as they were before, but then I take a deep breath and think about everything I did in the two weeks before that assignment was due that made me happy. That is the key. I look at what I’m missing, but then think about what I would have to miss to reach an impossible goal.

  13. Great post!! I also am working my way out of a slump. The impetus to start to readjust was, for me, the totally superficial but also really annoying fact that I couldn’t update my wardrobe on “normal” store websites because I had never lost the baby weight. (All the posts I saw on corporette–and the size I could wear wasn’t even listed!) (And yes, the first thing I did was get my hair cut and colored). I have 2 small kids (3 and 1.5 yrs) and, about 6 months ago, finally decided it was time to be more than an exhausted, schlumpy mom. I have lost (almost) 20 pounds of baby weight, started a great exercise class which–oddly enough–counts as “me” time (in my head) and am gradually revamping my wardrobe to once again be more updated and professional. I feel better about everything. And, even though the job isn’t as great as it could be, I also feel as if I am repositioning myself for another forward adjustment–either where I am now, if the opportunity presents, or elsewhere. Thanks again for a really great post.

    • ChickintheStix :

      Momof2, I’m so inspired by your post! Congratulations. Our children are the same age, and I’ve been telling myself that I’m just in this holding pattern (body, work, brain) until they’re older and I get a little more sleep. Reading your post, though, is my (to misquote Oprah) “Well, duh!” moment: change is no accident! Takes intention and movement. Thanks for that.

  14. It’s far, far to easy to lose track of what you wanted out of life. Finding activities outside of your average routine will really help open you up to having more fun, and finding new possibilities. I would highly recommend going through a program such as “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Campbell. You can pick it up at most bookstores and do it on your own. In some cities, workshops and classes based on the book are also taught.

  15. Thanks for this post, and for everyone who has commented. I really needed this today/this month.

    • me too. fabulous post.

    • Me too.

      • Agreed! I think it’s weird that sometimes you can be in a slump and not know it, but then looking back, think, “Wow, I was so unhappy–why didn’t I do anything about it?”

        I met this amazing woman (an MD at Deutsche) at a Women on Wall Street event a few years ago and she said that once a year she does a “self inventory.” Such a great idea.

        You can’t get where you want to go if you don’t know where you’re going!

        • In-House Europe :

          Was that MD by any chance a German woman named M- P- ? if so, I agree she is amazing!! :)

  16. I can’t say how much it helps just to know other people have slumps too! I was feeling like a total failure. Thanks for the encouragement that there can be life after slump–my career is not over and my life can still be not depressing.

    • Me too. I am glad to see I’m not the only one.

      This is so timely, Kat’s reading my mind. I am bord at work (there isn’t enough stuff to do at the moment) and people are leaving in droves, which is driving me to think about it too. I could be an SAHM as we can afford that financially but I would go nuts after a couple of months, I’m sure. I have been really apathetic about work and thinking about quitting.

      Then last week, some new and interesting work came up and I felt much better when I left work for the day.

  17. Experienced Counsel :

    How did she lose 80 pounds? 20 pounds?

    • I lost 50 with WeightWatchers Online. I loved that I didn’t have to go to meetings (no time) and the tools were so helpful. I couldn’t believe that just counting the points of what I was eating (and making healthier choices) I could lose that much weight! I’ve kind of slacked off a bit, but I’ve been maintaining. I’m gearing up mentally to start an exercise routine (really liked the lunchtime workout post on here) and am considering going back to WW to lose the next 50.

  18. So much good stuff on here today!

    My version of the fiction writing class was to take an improvisation acting class. I’m not an actor, and I don’t consider myself to be a creative person — I took it because I wanted to learn how to listen better, to get in touch with my instincts, and to get outside of my own head. I started out with a plan to take the level 1 class for 8 weeks, and my goal for the first class was to make it through the class without crying or throwing up (yes, seriously).

    Before I knew it, the 8 weeks had gone by and I went on to level 2, and then level 3, and so on. Now, almost a year later, I’m about to finish the top-level class and have spent the last 5 months performing improv on a little stage in front of an audience on Friday nights. It has been many things (amazing, exhilirating, etc.) but most of all it’s been FUN, which is something I hadn’t even realized was completely missing from my life for a few years.

    Have I lost the weight I put on during my Big I-Hate-My-Job/Life/Relationship Slump? Nope. Have I managed to turn my living space into an organized sanctuary? Not at all. Do I sometimes get terrified by the fact that I’m approaching mid-30s and have no prospects for marriage, kids etc.? Sure. There is still much for me to do, and my improv class hasn’t fixed everything. But for the first time in a very long time I’m re-discovering things about myself that I had just kind of locked away and forgotten about. I’m more relaxed, playful and easygoing than I have been in years … and that is just the attitude re-vamp I needed.

  19. Sconnie MBA :

    Great post and great comments!! It’s really comforting to know I’m not the only one who’s gone through the whole “why am I in this city and at this awful job and where is my life going” mess. I am not an overly dramatic person by nature, but the frustration would literally make me bawl at times. My solution was to transfer to a different office (and state), start exercising in earnest again, and revisit activities from my childhood (softball, ice skating and German classes). I quickly became more cheery and confident personally and professionally, and like Kat, met my future husband within two months of the transition.

    I am happy now with where I am professionally, but the next big change in the next few years will be children – any advice on how to balance family and career???

    • “any advice on how to balance family and career???”
      If I have anything useful to share, it’s this:
      In one SATC episode, Carrie’s boss from Vogue says that the answer to “having it all” (meaning in that context, career and relationship) is to “stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like.” And that is what I had to do. You cannot be a working mom and do everything perfectly; you just can’t. That’s not to say you can’t work and have kids; it just means you are not going to have the picture-perfect life you see in the movies (which everyone says they know they can’t have, but a lot of women secretly lust for anyway). You can have it all, but not necessarily “all” of everything every day. Instead of having a uniform, level set of priorities, your priorities and activities will evolve and change on a day-to-day (or even hour-to-hour) basis. Kids are all different and they are their own people; some kids are “easy” and some are “challenging.” I ended up with a “challenging” one, who also has special needs, and so we’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to our life to cope. But he is totally worth it, and the changes we’ve made, we needed to make anyway. Be flexible, be open, and don’t hold on to perfectionism – and you’ll be fine. Good luck :)

    • There is no magic answer to this question. What is “balance” for one person is totally off kilter for another person. What balance means to you is going to depend on your personal values. I had to learn that the hard way. I don’t want to put my daughter in full-time daycare. I want to be a hands-on mom as much as I can. This means I can’t go back to work full-time. I turned down some great opportunities to further my career and make big money because they required too many hours or too much travel. My little, part-time solo practice provides the work side to my life right now.

      I think Susie Welch said it best (and I am paraphrasing here…) “There is no such thing as work-life balance. If you want to be a CEO at a Fortune 500, you’re going to have to put in the time and effort needed to get there which means you won’t be spending that time at home with your kids.” It’s from her book 10-10-10 which is phenomenal.

      • KelliJ, you are my hero. See my earlier comment, which I wrote before reading this one!

        I don’t really have the choice on working full time (became the involuntary sole supporter of 3 kids), but your sentiments resonate so much with me. Just good for you! Keep at it, and enjoy that you have this time with your daughter AND you are doing your own work thing.

      • Sconnie MBA :

        These comments are great ladies – thank you! Amy, it really hit home when you said to “be flexible, be open, and don’t hold on to perfectionism” – those are the three biggest things that frustrate me now and I can only imagine how it will be if I let those take over once children come.

    • In the immortal words of Nike, Just Do It. You just take each decision – the big and the small – make the decision that makes sense for you, and move forward. Reevaluate if it doesn’t work. Nothing is permanent. Working late one night doesn’t translate into never being there for your kids. Staying home with a sick child doesn’t translate into not being good at your job. Just do the best you can and don’t make those little decisions harder or bigger than they are. In modern motherhood, there’s this sense of impending doom if you make the wrong decision at any point, but that’s not reality.

  20. I really needed ALL these pep talks. I’m at almost 20 years into a BigLaw career, and I am just … DONE. The boredom breeds discontent mentioned above is so true, and pretty much every description of being a slacker is me. But I keep dragging my feet on taking real action – oh, I’ve taken lots of baby steps like reading up on new careers, how to think about what you want to do, drafting a resume, even talking to some people about it, etc. So I feel like I’m moving ever so slowly towards the goal. But now I’m really at the point where I have to actually DO something like SUBMIT a resume or ASK for an informational interview. This may be just what I needed to take that next leap. THANK YOU!

  21. Agreed that this is so well-timed. Have any of you reached the level of career discontent where you wonder if you could be fulfilled by ANY job? I’m a young-ish associate and have gone through the schooling, the job search, the baptism by fire, the allnighters, all the hoops, and have come out successful but absoluuuutely hating it. My colleagues are respectful, encouraging, and appreciative, the money is great, the advancement opportunities are there, and I dread going to sleep every night knowing I have to go back the next morning. I come from a very working class family and am stunned by my own lack of appreciation for my good fortune after working my butt off to get here.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at is, have any of you overachievers made it to an objectively great place, only to realize that you want nothing to do with not only your own career, but with any all-encompassing career? At this point I can’t even picture my dream job — I feel like all my happiness and fulfillment comes from my relationships outside the office. I’ve been working hard not to take this experience for granted, but it’s tough.

    • This. Totally in the same place. You’re not alone in your feelings — though I wish I had a good answer! I know I’ve gotten to a bad place when I can’t get out of bed in the morning (I am usually a chipper early riser) because I can’t bear the thought of going into the office.

    • I read a great book a few years ago: Midlife Crisis at 30. The title is kind of a misnomer because it really isn’t about a typical “midlife crisis,” it’s about exactly what you’re saying: getting to a point where you realize you’ve followed all the unwritten “rules” and gotten all the anticipated rewards, and you should be happy, but you don’t like where you are. The best part of the book is in the back, they interview a bunch of very successful 50-something women about where they were at 30, and the answers are all over the map. Some were stay-at-home moms. Some were in completely different careers. Some were unemployed. The lesson was, you don’t have to have it all figured out at age 30. There’s still plenty of time to seek fulfillment and meaning and be successful wherever that leads you. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. It’s out of print but you can still get it on Amazon:

      • Thanks for the recommendation, I just ordered it! And thanks to you both for the kind words. Having put myself through college and law school through some pretty thankless, miserable jobs, I can recognize my complaints for the first-world problems that they are, but it’s still really difficult to appreciate a great career that feels so ill-fitting. It’s almost worse that so many of my former classmates would be thrilled to take my job — I feel ungrateful. Perspective is definitely the solution — it’s so hard to remember that this will just be a line on a resume one day!

    • I have been there and have started to see what the other side might look like — in my case, changing practice areas to move away from litigation and into something that’s not litigation. I’m getting an LL.M. (and I’m really enjoying being in school again) and recently was surprised to find myself wanting the kind of respect and high-status position in a law firm that I felt I’d jettisoned from my life wish list several years ago. (As in, “I just want to be happy, and I’m not interested in putting in the hours and work and suffering it will take to get a prize I don’t think I want.”) That said, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing one’s efforts on having a happy life rather than a prestigious, high-paying, even intellectually stimulating job/career. A job can be just a job — something that pays the bills — while you get your life satisfaction elsewhere. You just have to know (or figure out) where you get your greatest happiness, and come up with a job that will pay the bills but give you enough time to do what makes you happy. Not that easy in this economy, of course.

      One last thought — when I read your comment I immediately thought of Gretchen Rubin, who went to Yale Law and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — and then realized she didn’t really want ot be a lawyer, though she was quite good at it and had worked very hard to get there. Her blog is called The Happiness Project, and she now has a book out called the same thing. While I liked the book, I found the blog posts about career and her own path even more interesting. Good luck — you are not the only one.

      • Really interesting to hear about your feelings after stepping away from the firm. I know I would miss the autonomy that comes with firm practice (in terms of being the one who decides when and how you will finish what needs to be done — I love telling my colleagues when I am taking a day off rather than requesting a day off). I hope you can strike a great balance post-LLM. I will definitely check out that website, thanks! Who knew that contentment would be such hard work?

        • Really, who did know that? I share your sentiments of feeling ‘ungrateful’ – given that so many people (young, middle-aged and even ‘old’) can’t find work in this *generally miserable* (sorry, I meant to say “challenging and interesting”) profession. I try to remind myself that I am VERY fortunate to have more work than I can shake a stick at, and get paid well for doing it, and have relative flexibility about when I am doing it (but NOT that it must get done, generally in some form of ‘NOW’). I spend lots of time trying to talk people out of choosing law as a profession…but I am basically stuck with it, and as my wonderful (happy to be a lawyer) husband reminds me, it IS the best ‘non-sh*t (read: not manual labor) job we’ve ever had. I dunno. I would just like it better if there weren’t so many artificial deadlines and just plain mean/unreasonable people.

        • Oh, actually, I’m still at the firm in the litigation department — just not on partnership track any more. I was deferred on the partnership decision two years in a row, and then decided to go of counsel rather than trying again in year three. I cut back to an 80% hours load (with almost exactly 80% salary and all the same benefits, plus profit-sharing I wasn’t eligible for as an associate). This helped in every possible way, and is what has enabled me to stay there for three more years. I only figured out the LL.M. tax path as a possibility a little over a year ago. I’ll finish the degree this December, so I’m just starting to look seriously for a new position now (since my firm doesn’t have a department that does what I now really want to do). But I would have burned out completely (and probably burned some bridges) had I not made that shift.

          That might be one option for you to consider — buying yourself some of your time back, essentially, to give yourself the time and mental space/energy to figure out which parts of your job/career you like and which parts you’d rather jettison completely. When you’re working BigLaw hours it’s incredibly hard to figure out — or remember — what it is that would make you happy, because you’re just trying to get through it. You might find you actually enjoy parts of what you’re meant to be doing for your job if you don’t have to bill 2000 hours a year.

          Every firm is different, of course, and some may not allow this. It may also depend on what year you are, how much key people respect your work and want to keep you around, etc. And I’m thinking it’s probably one of those things that’s pretty irreversible . . . but on the other hand, if you’re miserable enough that you dread mornings (I have definitely been there!) it might be worth that trade-off.

        • South of Houston :

          Thank you so much for sharing how you feel, C2. I feel like I could have written your exact same original post about my own feelings (though I work in finance, not law) and the worst part is the guilt about seeming ungrateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had (which I’m really not), and the feeling that somehow I’ll lose who I am if I get off the ‘track’ that I’ve set up for my life. I also wonder whether I’ll ever be able to find a job/career that works for me. I wish I had some great advice for you, but unfortunately I haven’t figured things out either… however, it feels really good to know I’m not the only person feeling this way. Best of luck with finding a balance that works for you!

          Also, I’m somewhat new to this blog and I am so impressed with the kind and supportive comments that I’ve been reading here. Such a big difference from many other blogs out there where people (esp. women) are tearing apart other peoples’ choices… truly refreshing!

          • Every time I post here I have that very same thought — can this really be the same internet as the one filled with the malicious loonies on other blogs? This topic is a perfect example — I am so thankful for everyone’s thoughtful, encouraging perspectives. And I’m glad you found your way over here, South of Houston!

            Also, in one of those the-universe-is-trying-to-tell-me-something moments, amid this discussion and my ordering an armload of reevaluate-your-career books per everyone’s suggestions, our firm paid out our annual productivity bonuses today, and I got horribly, horribly shafted. I just watched a year of dedication to something I hate get undercut to an insulting degree, and I almost feel lucky, because that last thin thread just broke and I think this may be the kick in the pants I need to follow through on all these doubts. So thanks to everyone for making me feel not-crazy, and here’s hoping we can all find some peace and balance.

    • Yes–I gave up i-banking and an Ivy MBA to return to a lower paying career, and EVERYONE I know thought I was crazy, except my closest friends, who thought it made total sense. I didn’t want to be a banker or a trader. I had those jobs and was miserable. I was qualified for them, worked really hard to get them, and then when I was there, hated the jobs and nearly everyone I worked with.

      You have to know yourself. If what you are doing isn’t fulfilling, ask yourself why. Do you need more/less people contact? Do you want to help people but your job is too corporate? Do you want to reconnect with a “life” that you don’t have time for? Figure out what’s missing and what type of jobs offer what you want. Talk to people. Dare to dream. Figure out how to transition. There’s an amazing book called “The Authentic Career” by Maggie Craddock. Find it, read it.

      Another good one, just in terms of getting the creative juices flowing, is a Po Bronson book. It’s called “What Do You Want to Do with Your Life” or something similar. Anyway, good for brainstorming.

      You will find your bliss. It’s OK to walk away, but try to pay most of your student loans off first!!! :)

      • What was the “lower paying career”? I’m exploring various jobs to do with an MBA… I’m curious where you are now. Thanks!

        • You’ll probably laugh, but….sr corporate paralegal in biglaw. I like law better than numbers, have tons of deal experience and was a legal assistant prior to b-school.

          I am sure many of the attys think that being a paralegal would be awful, but it’s not if you are a senior. You get paid well (at least six figures), have junior folks to do the truly grunt work, get to leave at a decent hour most of the time, and do interesting work. I love it.

          Again, cringeworthy to many of my MBA friends, but they hate their consulting jobs. I’ve had “prestige” jobs and hated them, and I am over what other people think. I like my life. And I actually work at a very well-regarded firm (in the legal world) so it’s all really in the eye of the beholder. I still get to work on big deals, which I like, but don’t have to be an excel monkey or deal with evil banker-types too much!

    • Yes. I am about to start my third year in Biglaw, went straight to law school from college and have had no other full-time job, and now am feeling like the only job that would make me happy is something that my law degree would be completely useless for — teaching, being a fitness instructor, being a stay-at-home mom, etc.

      My former law school classmates all get it — none of them are happy in their Biglaw jobs — but my parents, who are usually very supportive, can’t seem to be there for me with this. This makes me feel like maybe I am just being a whiner who doesn’t like to work in general, but I can’t imagine that everyone feels this bad about the activity that they spend the majority of their adult life doing!

      Talking with one of my friends about this recently, I told her that I feel like I’ve been trying to “show everyone” for my whole life — and now I’ve reached this point where I just. don’t. care. anymore. I just want to be happy, and stress-free!

      My student loans and mortgage make me feel pretty trapped, but I am trying to figure out how I can make a change while still taking care of my financial responsibilities. I will definitely check out the books recommended here. It is very helpful to hear that other people have the same feelings and to see what they’re doing/have done about it!

    • C2 I think you have my life. I think often (daily) that I won’t be happy in any profession. I also come from a very middle working class family and thought I was doing everything I was supposed to do to get ahead in life and I suppose in many ways I have. But I’ve consistantly hated this profession and now its gotten to the point I fear I’ll hate any profession so I might as well stick it out (for the next 30+ years) at least I know what form of hell to expect here. And yes, I’m thankful, have a lot, better off than a lot, blah, blah, blah…I am greatful just not happy.

    • This. I was just telling my fiancee this morning how I fear if I kind another job I will still be miserable. I’ve had several thoughts lately that maybe I just wasn’t “cut out to work” or “cut out for the corporate world” or “cut out for finance.” I don’t know what it is exactly, but one part of my job I just don’t seem to be meshing with.

      Like you, I feel extremely selfish. My job is pretty cushy compared to a lot. It pays well, I get loads of vacation. It’s just that I go back and forth between being miserable to the point of crying in the bathroom and to enjoying it.

      Don’t have an answer, but am enjoying this thread and everyone’s responses.

  22. All great ideas! A book club was good for me, as was volunteering at the preschool in church on Sunday (I got to watch my own daughter with 10 others!). I think I’ll take up piano again, I miss it… Oh, and I LOVE singing in choirs. Now my mind is thinking of all the possibilities. Thanks, C!

  23. Honest question. How hell-ish are BigLaw hours your first year in? I’m dating someone who I generally have to initiate contact with, and who I see about once a month. He blames work, but I am beginning to wonder… Then again, we seem to enjoy the time we spend together. So is it that bad?

    • Anonymous :

      The hours can be bad, but if he doesn’t prioritize you now, he’s not going to later either. Time to move on.

    • Yes, it is that bad. And likely to stay that way – so consider whether that will work for you.

    • Yes, if they can’t manage their time well or don’t prioritize time with you, it will be bad. At BigLaw there is always something else that could be done. If the person is a gunner or gets a sense of self importance from how much they work, this likely won’t go well.

    • It varies by firm and by department – I’m a lawyer working for a firm that doesn’t value personal time (actually had a partner tell me he only bills half time for the hours where he’d “just be spending time with the family otherwise”), and my fiance works for a law firm that has a much more 8-5:30 schedule, with people working from home at night. As the person who always has to cancel engagements due to sudden work “emergencies” (blech), and who comes home exhausted and depressed, the best I can tell you is to talk with your guy. Ask him whether he sees this work level continuing, whether he likes this lifestyle, and where he sees his life in 5 years.

      Personally, I’m putting in the hours now so I can walk away from it and take a less-demanding position once my student loans are paid, or so I can go part-time once I have kids. It sucks now, but I’ve got a plan and that keeps me going, and my fiance (sort of) understands. See what makes your guy tick, and figure out whether you can operate on his timeline. If not, get out.

    • Thanks for the advice ladies. It definitely helped to give me some perspective, particularly since I’m not in the legal field. I think I’m going to follow Emily’s advice and feel out what his career plans are. Thanks again!

  24. Book recommendation: The Power of Full Engagement.

    I just finished reading it. It talks about structuring your life around rituals to ensure you’re sleeping, eating and exercising enough, and connecting to your values to make sure your life is going in the right direction. Highly recommended.

  25. Anonymous :

    I’m being “anon” for this one, because I’m calling someone out. I got into a “hate my job and go home and cry every night” funk one time because (1) my assignment sucked, and (2) I dealt daily, nay, hourly with a Nasty Hateful Coworker. For some reason he was the head man’s golden boy, so I didn’t feel I could complain. I thought, a lot, about quitting. But I decided that I liked my work, generally speaking, and it was just the details that were ruining it for me. My plan, which I executed faithfully, was to keep my head down, in terms of the co-worker, ignoring his constant sniping, put-downs, corrections and criticisms (and no, his work had NOTHING to do with mine, and in fact I was senior to him) and simply do my work without comment or interaction with him, and do my work very, very well, throwing myself into it 100%. A few years later, there was a new head man, and nasty co-worker is seen by this person for what he is, and I got a new assignment – the best one in the office. This is not the best plan for everyone or every situation, but it sure worked for me.

  26. Perfect post for today for me! My slumps come in waves and I got hit by a big one this week, not sure why. Things like making lists of what you accomplish, focusing on small goals, and making time to exercise (much as I hate to admit it) have really helped me. Problem is, sometimes I get so low I just don’t even care enough to try to feel better. One of my professors actually noticed I was down last semester and reached out to me (and I am so, so grateful). We had a conversation about losing the will to feel better and what came out of it was the realization that, hey, you might as well try — because what else are you going to do? Also, in desperate times measures like using leechblock or forcing yourself to wkr away from your computer can help cut back on the slacking; in fact when I first tried to post this, leechblock kicked me off and I had to get back to work for an hour.

    Now for a thread hijack – since I’m slacking and in a slump today ;) – I have my heart set on a cordovan leather tote/shoulder bag for interviews. I haven’t found ANY in my price range (max 200 for the perfect thing) that I like that are new but I did find the perfect one in a vintage shop for just $40!!. Problem is it has a few scuffs. Anyone have any luck refurbishing cordovan colored bags? OR, any sources for a new cordovan colored bag? BTW, LL Bean’s “cordovan” is NOT really cordovan, I am disappointed to say. Cordovan is the rich deep burgundy you sometimes see in men’s shoes. TIA and keep your heads up ladies!

    • I envy all of you who can do some work away from your computer :) As a programmer, this is, sadly, impossible for me.

  27. I admire the moms out there who have dealt with work-life balance- that’s an area I’m scared of as haven’t gotten there yet.

    I had a bad attitude because I hated my previous jobs. 3 years ago I decided (with husband) to move to cities (NY to Seattle) for quality of life reasons. At that point, I did a big career evaluation- what I thought I liked, wanted, was good at, what was reachable, etc. using existing tools including the awesome book ‘official guide to getting a job’ or something close to that. The assessment gave me clear results with a few pathways. I picked a few steps to take on (certificate degree, conferences, networking, joining nonprofit Board, serving as expert on international committee, etc.) and started doing them, while also taking a job I didn’t like in Seattle. After 2 1/2 yrs of plugging away at these things on the side of unhappy work life (but bearable and decent), I landed my dream job and am now overjoyed with my work situation. It took a lot of discipline and there were many days where I wondered if I’d ever make the transition, and didn’t feel like doing the extra stuff for free after long work days. It worked, and now I am exactly where I want to be- and on the right path going forward.

    I also felt blah in my personal life during that time. I took up a hobbie and made an amazing group of friends through it (salsa dancing, but we also hike and do lots of other activities together now). This has been an absolutely wonderful aspect of life in many ways. Physically good for me, a total contrast from work life, release, and getting to know a group of fun, diverse international people in my town. It was hard at first, because I would literally go out alone to dance events and felt pretty alone/stupid. But that only lasted a few months.

    I found that talking to husband and friends really helped on the career transition, as well as taking a little notebook to chart out ideas, note progress, etc. Not every trail leads to gold, it’s trying as many as you can handle strategically and being diligent.

    If I feel like my attitude is slipping at work, I like to take a mental step back and think about how a classic consummate professional would act. Not whiny/gossipy- in charge, not over eager- not weird, is competent and confident. Etc.

  28. The most important thing I’ve learned in trying to revamp my life, even with small changes, is that time is finite. Sounds like a given, of course, but I was slow to figure it out.

    If I want to add something – more sleep, 30 minutes of yoga, time for an extra cup of coffee, whatever … I have to remove something else to make that time. If you’re already over-scheduled, trying to add one more thing, even something you want/need, can make a bad situation worse.

  29. I got laid off from a medium sized law firm in a medium sized city that I loved in early 2009, the height of the Great Recession. In desperation I took a Biglaw job in NYC. I hated it. HATED IT. I tried to tell myself to be grateful to have a job at all given the economy, but that just made me feel more trapped than anything else. Hours, hours, hours, nasty miserable people, weekends ruined with no notice, a complete and utter disrespect for associates… I was miserable. I stopped caring about what I wore to work, even to the point where Corporette would make me sad because I couldn’t rally any interest in looking nice at work because I hated it so much. I tried to reconnect with myself by doing things I loved before the Biglaw job, like cooking and running, but I just didn’t have time for them. And recognizing that I did not having time to do the things I loved when I actively wanted to be doing them just made me more miserable.

    So… I quit! I searched for new jobs like a maniac, lying and sneaking away for interviews, and finally landed a new job at a little firm back in my favorite medium sized city. I’m currently sitting in my NYC apartment surrounded by moving boxes. I’ve already bought a bunch of new clothes (and finally dry cleaned and pressed the ones that were so neglected), spent a lot of time reading women-in-business books, and started training for a triathlon. Just leaving all that nastiness behind me has let my authentic self flood back into my body and I’m excited about my career again.

  30. It’s great to recapture an interest you have given up in order to practice law. Sometimes this takes very little time each day – I am now practicing piano again – Chopin – find my hands have “grown” (looser ligaments?) and I can play better than before.

    Another good one is to do over all or part of the house or apartment – this is exciting – you can get good results with very little money if you find good workers – entertaining is more fun after you redecorate. I am talking about color – color – color.

    Buying clothes is a quick high, but it’s a high that goes away very fast.

  31. housecounsel :

    “Buying clothes is a quick high, but it’s a high that goes away fast.” It has taken me forty years to finally figure that out.

    Great topic, informative and helpful string of responses and a fantastic, supportive group of women. I wish you were all in the offices next to mine.

    (In-house counsel and mom of three kids)

  32. Thread Hijack! Hopefully people are still reading this from yesterday.

    I was hoping you guys could give me some advice on how to deal with a co-worker that needs an attitude adjustment. This co-worker tends to say snide comments and really blunt to the point of being mean comments and in my honest opinion has no right to do so! Not that it is an excuse or anything, but co-worker isn’t even a respected person in the office at all (for quality of work), which to me, and this might sound bad, actually makes it worse. Co-worker likes to throw around insults like “yah, well you are not being productive when you worry about that so maybe you should just move on already (in a very blunt mean tone)” or “I don’t really think you know what you are talking about”…comments like that which basically say “I think you’re an idiot so I’m just going to pretend I’m better than you”.

    I’m a new associate at my firm (so is co-worker but he/she is looking for, and will likely take, another job in the near future) so I don’t want to rock the boat but at the same time I don’t want to be disrespected by someone. I know it’s not just me because co-worker does it to everyone; I even heard an intense argument over the phone with a landlord that was NOT appropriate for the office!


    • There is probably someone who knows a better way to deal with this, or even nip it in the bud? But, whenever I have to encounter/work with nasty people, I remind myself, over and over, that it is because they are so unhappy, and usually insecure about their own value/worth, that they are driven to insult and/or be otherwise mean to other people. That their comments are not really about my lacking as a person, but their own. Maybe try to pity them or feel sorry for them. Maybe try to smile and be kind to them as often as possible. And when they make comments like that, try not to be too sensitive. What they say can only hurt you if you let it. Remember that what they say does not count. They are losers.

  33. One resource I recommend for those unhappy w/ BigLaw: Monica Parker’s book The Unhappy Lawyer”. She also has a website called leaving the law. I’ve not worked w/ her personally, but have heard her speak, read the book, & worked through the exercises. She’s gone through much of what’s been discussed here & gives a good framework for deciding what you want to do.

  34. I just started reading “4 hour work week” and while some of the suggestions are not realistic, his perspective about work is really refreshing. It’s made me think about what I want out of life and how work fits into that, instead of the other way around. Definitely read it if you get a chance and need a break from the unending hamster wheel.

  35. Biglaw Refugee :

    To the anon dating a lawyer: for most of us, the hours are bad, but not bad enough to prevent us from taking fri and sat nights off. We also usually have time to send a few texts or emails every day. If he does not contact you most days even when you don’t contact him, and you’re not seeing him most weeks (if only to veg out in front of the tv) then he probably isn’t that interested. Unless he is preparing for a trial in the next six months or working on a really big merger, the lack of contact is not due solely to his work schedule. I’d back off and if he doesn’t respond by paying more attn to you, move on.

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed. It takes less than a minute to send a text message. Anyone who claims to be too busy to touch base is lying.

    • anonfornow :

      Not the original OP but I was in a similar situation it took me 2 months to figure this out. I almost thought I was being unreasonable in thinking that he should text/email me once in a while.

  36. Sisters on Corporette, thank you! I really needed to know that I’m not the only one going through these work slumps. I’m currently working in state government; between layoffs, budget cuts, furloughs, pay freezes, unproductive workers with less responsibility making more than me because they’ve been there forever, and an unwillingness to look at innovative ideas to save money and therefore provide better services to the public have sent me into a major funk.

    I think it’s time to do a reassessment of what I really want to do with my life. I’m 32 and have only been in government three years, so a career change isn’t out of the question. Any suggestions on books to help a person figure out what they “really want to be when they grow up?”

  37. Tax Lawyer :

    Very elitist post. “Re-connecting” with a biglaw job? I am an attorney and CPA in Baltimore, with 17 years experience in corporate/transactional, tax and estate planning experience. I also finished in the top 5% of my class, admittedly at a non-top 14 school, which was the only one I could afford to attend in the evening program, after working 8 hours per day at a regular accounting job nearby.

    I started at a biglaw firm, but DC changed its rules and required 5 years of practice to waive in, and since I had been building a client base, the idea of me not even being able to be listed on letterhead, or signing my name to a cover letter, forced me into a small-law job in MD.

    After taking a Miami real estate 1031 exchange management position, I was feeling very optimistic. Until the bubble burst, and there were no real estate gains to be sheltered from income tax. So I moved back to Baltimore, and have been unemployed for 11 months.

    I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for any biglaw associates who don’t enjoy their workloads or the mindlessness of their assigned tasks. Let them try $15/hour document review in a small basement, with their cell phones confiscated on entry (God forbid if a family emergency occurred), no internet access, and no health insurance.

    What I really don’t understand though, is why corporate America is not hiring these excess attorneys to fill management slots. They have been proven ambitious, intelligent and hard working. I find that having a law degree on my resume actually hurts my employment prospects, rather than helps them. Why this attitude?

    If I had just graduated law school, and not spent so much time working for firms, then I would have the option of omitting any legal experience, and would likely be more attractive to employers. But I have been practicing law for too long to call myself a “consultant” for 10 years–I have to show that I was employed as an attorney, and it detracts from my ability to get hired in a non-legal capacity.

  38. Grooveless :

    I want my life back, not just my groove! A number of years ago my biglaw husband had a complete mental and physical breakdown and hasn’t worked a day since. I work 40hrs per week as Corp Counsel near to home and take all responsibility for mothering (2 girls 15 and 11), housekeeping, grocery shopping, school visits etc plus regularly entertaining clients family and friends. He plays golf most days and has taken on some journalism from home. His depression is isolating and all pervasive.
    However he is now having an affair .
    Found out yesterday…I’m in the office today. Does anyone have any ideas about how I should deal with this one…because I’m feeling pretty grooveless!

    • Grooveless – ouch, I wish I had the words to comfort you but I’m speechless.

      I don’t know you or anything about you except for the few things you just posted here but know that you are deserve more and you are worth it. Decide on your expectations and go get them – there is such a thing as being too nice and supportive.

      Good luck.

    • Oof. I’m so sorry. I think an ultimatum and some self-assessment is in order.
      First, the affair. If you’re interested in salvaging this relationship (which I can’t tell if you are – there’s a healthy amount of disdain in your post, which is understandable and you don’t have to stay with him), you tell him that you are aware of the affair, you are hurt and angry and you ask him if he’s interested in saving your marriage and never seeing the other woman (or limiting contact, if seeing her is inevitable). If his answer isn’t a resounding and immediate yes to making your marriage work, then be concerned. Most people will say what they need to in order to get out of a sticky situation, but unless he’s willing to break it off immediately with the other woman, that’s bad. (Happened to my best friend – her ex husband kept saying he was sorry and saying he’d leave the other woman, but he eventually chose the other woman.) Sometimes infidelity is just a way to feel alive again, and getting caught and confronted is all it takes to stop the other relationship altogether.

      Ask him what he wants out of your relationship and your family. And feel free to drive home that you know he’s depressed and unable to work, and that you were as supportive as you could be, but that he’s overstepped the bounds of what you will tolerate and is setting you up in his daughters’ eyes as a doormat. I’d calmly detail the sacrifices everyone has made for him, and tell him that all you expected in return was for him to make those sacrifices that he was capable of making (going to get treatment, taking meds, staying faithful, trying to be as productive/helpful as his mental health allowed).

      Now then, to you. Examine what has happened to you and to your interaction with him in the past several years. It’s very possible that you’ve done nothing wrong. Or it’s possible that in taking over the household and serving as caretaker, you’ve become more his mother, and less his wife (understandable, esp. in his condition). The cruddy thing about that is that he can come to regard you like a teenager views his mother – a person who takes care of him, goads him about doing work or his health, and acts like the “adult”, making the family work , being unfun. Has he become your third child? ny marriage is hard, and humans (despite our best intentions) seek out the things that feel new and different and make them feel alive. That’s hard in any long-term marriage, esp. one where the dynamic between partners has been so skewed. There is a lot of infidelity, and it’s not insurmountable – a lot of people just get caught in a bad situation. But I would stop parenting him – unless he needs you to do things for him (i.e., he can’t drive). Tell him that you married an adult, and that you will help him with the things that he cannot do on his own, but otherwise, he’s resourceful and can find a way to accomplish the rest. While you did just find out about the affair, you sound as if you didn’t respect him much before, and he probably resents you (and wants to act like an entitled child).

      But give serious thought to whether this is something you want to salvage. If you’ve done your best, you’ve done your best, and you need to set a good example for your girls. That isn’t necessarily staying together for the kids.

    • Oh no…I am so sorry. But frankly, you are being a bit TOO nice to him. You’re doing everything though he had the breakdown several years ago? You just need to assess what things you can or can’t live with (infidelity and abuse of any kind top my list) and then take it from there. Thankfully your kids are atleast of an age where they don’t need care/baby sitting!

  39. Texan_in_NY :

    Wow – this post really hits home.  I recently up and left a BigLaw job in Texas and moved to NYC.  I was so done with it all that I left without a fully fleshed out plan. For now I am doing part time legal work with a law school friend and focusing on pursuing my longtime pipe dream of becoming a writer (actually taking classes from Gotham as well).  The feeling of freedom from the soul suck of BigLaw is exhilarating, but I must admit that I feel a little lost now having so much free time on my hands. An extreme measure – yes – but I haven’t regretted it for one second.  

  40. I recommend having major surgery. There’s nothing like it to turn your world upside down.

  41. I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was to find this blog and discussion thread. I’ve been struggling for some time to get through slumps in my professional life, and a huge part of my problem has been a sense that I’m all alone in this. I know that this isn’t the case, but its an instinctive thought that I haven’t been able to stop having. I really appreciate how honest and supportive everyone here is-it is a real contrast to what I find on similar websites [C2 -“filled with malicious loonies” made me laugh]-and your comments have made me a little more hopeful than I was at the start of the day. Thanks!

  42. Kat I’m reading this post as you’ve linked to it in 2012, and I have to say, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m at the tail end of a year spent as a lawyer in a town far away from my boyfriend, where I never wanted to live, and with the most miserable boss I’ve ever met or heard about. It was a great opportunity and I’m happy I took it, but I am *so thrilled* to return to a bigger city to move back in with the man who loves me enough that he was supportive this entire time I was chasing a dream with this firm that turned out to be more of a fantasy than reality.

    I’ve been beating myself up for *months* wondering why I can’t just *get it together*. Dragging myself out of bed, forgetting to put on makeup, just feeling *horrible* all the time. Reading your paragraphs about reconnecting with your sarcastic, writerly self, and then feeling things fall into place — I’m so inspired to go back to the place I had been, before everything fell OUT of place, back to where I WAS my authentic self.

    It brings actual tears to my eyes to consider just how important it is to nurture things like your real self. I am so full of hope for the future, and putting this “attitude revamp” mentality to it kicks me into high gear to hit the ground running.

    Thanks for that!

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