Although I’ve fallen off The Office bandwagon the last couple years, I finally caught up and watched the series finale today. Stanley receives his retirement cake and proclaims “I’ve been waiting for this day since I was 18 years old!!”
That is my life.
I look at the partners, the seasoned lawyers, the gray hairs, and I wonder “how did you make it there?” How do they make it through year after year of the 4am panicked wake-ups, and the sunny Saturday afternoons spent hunched over the computer, and emergency after confused emergency? How do they make it through without totally losing their minds?
Where does the inspiration come from? How do you stay eager and energized where the reward for all that hard work is an annual week out of town, where there’s no hope of entirely avoiding work, because your job involves deadlines and expectations that are outside of your control, and there’s always an enormous chance that your trip away will have to be called off anyway, for some unexpected work demand.
I’m finishing up year six. This is around the time where people make it or break it. They peel off from the practice or they get driven out or they take some other direction entirely. Some days I feel proud. I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of things, from the legal skills to the business building and all those things in between. Other days I drag through my exhaustion, unsure how to convince myself that the endless cycles of flight-or-flight are worth it. The practice does get easier over time. I sleep most nights now, which is something I could not say a couple years ago. I am better at estimating the time for completing a particular task. I can better manage my time and workload. I don’t know how to do every assignment that ends up on my desk, but I’ve more skilled at figuring out how to do the things I don’t know how to do. I tell myself that next year will feel better than this year, and the year after that will feel even better. That self talk has little meaning, when I’m exhausted right now.
I’m tightly wound, always. The past two weeks I’ve been wound even more tightly. A spring, about to pop. I haven’t run in months, but twice this weekend I went to the gym and ran for nearly a half-hour. I ran this morning, and if the gym didn’t close early today, I would want to go back tonight and run again. The stress winds tight in my chest and pulses through me in a low, unshakeable agitation. The treadmill burns the agitation off. The quiet is temporary. And by the time the red has receded from my cheeks, I’m wound tightly again, ready for another run.
There’s no dissatisfaction with what I’m doing. I’m not a creative stifled in a corporate job. I don’t find my work meaningless or soul-sucking. It’s fascinating most days– learning secrets, examining theories from different angles, piecing together concepts into larger themes, challenging myself to learn entirely new subject areas in short periods of time. But all of that comes with the overwhelming pressure of the practice. It’s hard to see that carrot dangling ahead, and sometimes I doubt it is there at all.
Where do you find your motivation?