Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Importance of Making Lemonade Together

In law school, most of us had this stupid idea that we were meant to work hard at firm jobs, and 7-9 years later, we would make partners at which point life would get so much easier. Oh to be young and naive once again... for those of us that have now been out for 14 or more years, it's like being Neo from the Matrix and all of the sudden realizing the picture we had been painted was all just a scam.

So here is the real deal-- firm jobs are actually super hard to find; getting on partner track is even harder. Once you get there, if you last (and about 40% will not) you then have to buy into the partnership-- with no guarantee as to whether the firm will last, the kind of business it will continue to generate, etc. This is why so many lawyers are disenchanted with their career choices, and it is now crystal clear to me why so many suffer from anxiety, stress and/or depression. What was once a solid career choice is no longer a profession, it's become for most a normal business focused on the bottom line.

Because divorce does not discriminate, I have also learned that most people in other fields are in the same predicament at jobs with no guarantees-- bankers, realtors, sales people are mainly on commission. Doctors, therapists, hair dressers and other service providers are also entirely relying on their clients paying for their services. Those that are true W-2 employees are rare, and even they have to worry about their job security in this precarious economy. The only ones in fact that are the most stable are government employees and educators at higher learning institutions. This truly helps explain why I see so many people stressed out and stretched thin financially these days.

To add to all these wows, the DC Area is a particularly tough place to call home. Many have moved here for job opportunities or to puruse a higher degree, and they have very little family support near by. Given the transient nature of this area, friends come and go, and so many people I know focus on work to the exclusion of so much else. I accept all these realities, and routinely suggest good coping mechanisms to others to help deal with all these stressful factors, but the one I really want to emphasize the most is the need to choose a partner wisely. A good partner is not just someone who will be with you for the fun times. We can all have fun during the honeymoon phase in a relationship, but to truly succeed in life, you guys need to be able to weather both highs and lows togethers.

Everyone is always happy when things are going splendidly, and who doesn't want to be around the girl who is the life of the party? But what happens when s#%t hits the fan? It will happen eventually, and what I like to find out sooner rather than later is what happens when I have an off day? How will that person react when I don't meet their exact expectations? When plans fall apart- does your partner have a meltdown or help you come up with some alternative solutions? If you can't count on someone on a low day, you really need to think carefully about the long-term potential of that relationship. As one of my dear friends from high school recently pointed out, the best partners (and ones that last) are those that help you make lemonade out of lemons.

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