Reflecting on a “career”

Thirty-two years ago this month I arrived in Tampa, fresh out of law school, to begin my new job as an associate attorney in a law firm. It would be fair to say that I began with nothing. In fact, less than nothing would be fair. I owed $24,000 in student loans, had borrowed the money to buy my 1982 Chevrolet Citation and I had to borrow the money from my parents to pay the security deposit and first months’ rent on my apartment. The first night I was there someone smashed the window out of the car and stole my only possessions of any monetary value–my stereo and a backpack containing my favorite books. An inauspicious beginning.

I’ve complained often on this blog about how miserable I was during my law career and how unfulfilling I found it. Certainly that’s true, but it’s only part of the story.

It was a grueling stressful job that kept me away from home and family too much. But the truth is that it is because of my time as a lawyer that I’m now able to live this life. It took determination and patience, but there was a finish line and I did finally reach it.

I was privileged to spend most of my career with what I regard to be the finest law firm in the state. I was fortunate to develop an excellent client base and a good reputation with the judiciary. I worked on lots of interesting, often complex and high-profile matters. I learned a lot. My practice took me all over the world and I met lots of fascinating people. The vast majority of the time, I was on the side of the good guys.

I became a partner in my firm. Eventually I was named to the Florida Legal Elite, Florida Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America in both the Commercial Litigation and Intellectual Property Litigation categories. I may not have enjoyed my job, but the cosmic joke was that I became pretty good at it.

I’m reflecting on this stuff because since May 1, for the first time since that May in 1985, I have no professional affiliation with a law firm. Even though I haven’t practiced since August, 2010, my old firm had given me an honorary title, kept my bar dues paid and kept my bio on their website. But now they’ve eliminated that professional designation (for liability reasons because, you know, lawyers). Now I reckon I am fully retired from the practice of law.

This morning as I type this, anticipating a day spent picking and processing vegetables for tomorrow’s farmer’s market, I have blisters on my palms from driving t-posts yesterday and from loading and unloading 400 bales of hay. I worked until after nine last night and I’ve been up since five this morning, and have already tended the goats and chickens and raised the curtains on the hoop house. It’s a strangely different life from the one I led for over a quarter century, and I love it. And for all my complaining, I’m grateful for my time as a lawyer, without which I probably wouldn’t be able to do this.

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22 comments on “Reflecting on a “career”

  1. Great post, Bill. And a reminder that sometimes we have to “put in the time” at something that helps build the foundation for the life we want to live.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Cynthia. I know there are people who just quit their jobs and plunge into a new life without planning it out. I made a radical change, and did it at a time that might objectively seem foolish, but it wasn’t impulsive. I had worked and planned for it for over 20 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hilarymb says:

    Hi Bill – well done .. and what a delightful life you’re living now … and as Cynthia says – so true … just enjoy all the goodies and your meet up at the Farmers’ Market … cheers Hilary

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  3. “I may not have enjoyed my job, but the cosmic joke was that I became pretty good at it.” That really resonates with me because I often find myself in the same situation! Here’s to finding the combination of being good at something you love! 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      That’s the sweet spot, isn’t it? I’m not very good at farming, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Having put in my time on the my former job, I now have the flexibility to learn on the job without feeling pressured. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Laurie Graves says:

    Yes, good post. Life can take many twists and turns until we get to a place that feels like home.

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  5. Avery says:

    lovely to look back and realize the gifts on multiple levels ❤

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  6. Michelle says:

    Hindsight brings great perspective; thanks for sharing yours1

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  7. I hope M reads this post! He is having a hard time with the “nine to five” (although it’s more like “five to nine”) but I keep trying to encourage him to hang in a just a little bit longer – then we will be able to retire early out at the farm. He too, is really good at what he does, but it is not what he loves.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m glad this post was well-received. I worry sometimes that people will read my posts and be inspired to quit their jobs and take up farming, without realizing that I planned and prepared for it for decades. There were times when the finish line seemed almost impossibly far away. There were times I was so miserable I didn’t think I could stand to keep slugging away year-after-year. But I can say that looking back now I’m (mostly) glad I did. As I said in the post, I think patience and determination are crucial. A friend who did something similar once told me, “Don’t wait too long.” Of course, that’s good advice too. In my case I made a plan when I was thirty years old and stuck to it. It was really hard at times and I was constantly tempted to abandon it. Hoping y’all find the right balance and reach you goals happily. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my gosh. That’s great. Enjoy the farm!

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  9. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I’m glad you made it to where you want to be in life with good health and time to enjoy it. I really loved my job but retired to some thing better. I’ve shared before that I really had in mind to be a farmer but technology stole my heart in high school. After a fulfilling career for 41 years I came back to my first love with Urban Vacant lot gardening. So in a way I’ve come full circle with the income to enjoy the gardening and not have to make a living with it.

    Have a great day out in the garden.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s sad to see people who are unhappy in their second half of life. You’ve found a passion to follow, as we have. That makes a big difference I think.

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  10. Joanna says:

    That was a great read Bill, thanks. We didn’t wait as long as you, but somehow God made sure we had enough for the time we needed it. He also made us wait about six years or so before giving us the okay to take the route to Latvia that he laid on our hearts. Like you though, we had no idea where that would lead eventually. Good times!

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    • Bill says:

      I think we have to expect that things are going to happen that we didn’t plan for. My goal had been to move back home by the time I was 50. I had no intent whatsoever to be a farmer until after I got here. I would’ve laughed at that notion.

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  11. Annie says:

    A heartfelt and interesting post. Glad it worked out well and especially glad you had positive family support to carry out the plan. Sometimes that makes all the difference.

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