“I would prefer not to.”
— Bartleby the Scrivener, on coping with law firm life.
“If this is Freedom, what’s captivity?”
— Tamara at age 13, on coping with her first period.
Yesterday, I attempted to quit That Job. It took three years, 6000 billed hours, 3% muscle mass, and 1.25 diopters of eyesight to get to where I am today. I have seen the sun rise from my office more times than I can count on my hands. I once lost so much weight that my body stopped producing saliva — for six months. Now I take special vitamins to keep my hair from falling out. More than once, I have left the house wearing my shirt backwards because I was too preoccupied to notice.
Despite this and more, I awoke on Quitting Day feeling oddly bereft. My heart misgave me so badly that I got off the bus ten blocks early and walked the rest of the way up. I solicited pep talks from friends, received text messages from others, and talked on the phone to C for 45 minutes. I invited my secretary out to lunch and we each downed a glass of Prosecco. We got back and I hemmed and hawed, brushed my teeth, came up with a script, and finally, marched down five flights of stairs with my pulse in my ears. I walked right up to the corner office where the head of my department sits. His office was dark.
Then I turned the corner and made for the office of the senior-most partner in my group. His office was also dark.
In typical law firm fashion, the minute you look for a partner (after years of dodging them at all costs), you can’t find one. I had no one to quit to.
I quit today instead.