My Four Rules For Dinner With My Former Law Firm

When I RSVP’ed “yes” to the dinner I made 4 rules for myself:

1. No using the phrase “just a mom”
2. No denigrating myself for laughs
3. No apologizing for my choices
4. No pretending that any of the decisions were easy or cut & dried

BONUS RULE: No playing victim about how I left the law firm after maternity leave or what I am doing now.

The day of the dinner I hoped the babysitter would cancel. In my whole parental life (2 years, 11 months, and 3 days), I have never wished that– it’s blasphemy to wish the babysitter to flake out.

I double-checked the dinner invitation in hopes I had gotten the wrong date. I emailed Jeff at work in DC and told him I was sick and probably wouldn’t make the dinner, but it’s hard to make a fake cough sound believable over email. He called and said, “just go.”

It was weird to wear real clothes and leave the house at 6 pm. I stood anonymously on the train platform.  I could have been any old person going any old place. Once on the train, I packed in next to rowdy Cubs fans clad in royal blue and reeking of happy hour brewskies. I thought, “I should have brought my big foam finger,” then I would really fit in.

I thought about what my kids were likely doing at 6:15 pm (practicing screaming at the top of their lungs and marking the walls with crayons) and again at 7:00 pm (throwing food on the floor and trying to convince the babysitter they are allowed to have popsicles for dinner).

I considered simply riding the train back and forth to O’Hare for several hours so I could read my book, watch the sunset from the dirty train window, and send out mordantly funny tweets.

But I didn’t; I just went to the damn dinner.

When I finally got there, I hugged my former colleagues and filled them in on my life without using the phrase “just a mom.”  I looked at the pictures of their kids on their iPhones.  We talked shop and then talked about schools in the city and the evils of travel sports teams for kids.

I excused myself after dessert so I could take the train back home.

“Damn, look at me! I showed up at a dinner and had a lovely time. I followed my rules!” I skipped down Grand Avenue on the way home.  I couldn’t believe I actually showed up for the alumni dinner at my old law firm.

I went to the dinner to say a proper goodbye to my former life– the life of a law firm lawyer.  It felt like when you have coffee with an ex-boyfriend a few years after the break-up, and you leave Starbucks proud of yourself for having grown so much and for offering to pay for his coffee and biscotti (even though he was sort of cheap and asshole-ish about money when you dated him).  For me, law firm life is like that boyfriend from a long time ago, who didn’t treat me that great, but now that I have moved on, I am grateful for what he did give me.  And the better boyfriend, perhaps even the husband, is just around the next corner.

Yep, it’s just like that.

Have you said goodbye to a former life or self?  Did closure come right away or some months/years later? Do old jobs or careers feel like old boyfriends?

New Growth In Unexpected Places

New Growth In Unexpected Places


20 thoughts on “My Four Rules For Dinner With My Former Law Firm

  1. Good on ya!!

    I still have nightmares about my old job . . . and yet I am so much more than just a mom. And now I am doing what I love. I’m a writer and full of gratitude and joy.

  2. I hear you! I never fully left my career, because I still do consulting work, but I still feel like an imposter, most of the time. Thanks to the internet, I rarely have to actually see people in person, but a couple weeks ago, I actually had to go DOWNTOWN to meet with a client. Even through I used to work downtown everyday, I was scared to death of the traffic, the parking and all the smart-looking people in suits. And I was just sure I would show up with a little peanut butter handprint on my butt.

    • Exactly! I used to own downtown and the other night I was all fretful about the train and the exact location of the restaurant. and yes, there was a cheerio on my shoe, but I had a good attitude about it. And I never thought this would be my situation. So strange.

  3. You did good. And because you went home happy about where you are in life and not pining for your old job–it means you totally made the right decision! Yay you!

    • That’s true. I didn’t even think about it that explicitly. I didn’t leave pining to have my case load back or a great business wardrobe. I really enjoyed being out and looked forward to taking Sadie to ballet the next day and Simon to music and then napping because those classes really take it out of me! 😉

  4. What a fantastic analogy. I hope to feel that way someday soon about my job/career. Since I have experienced it first hand with an ex-boyfriend I believe it can come — with a little more time maybe. Good for you!!

  5. I definitely know the feeling from when I worked at a law firm (as an admin assistant, not a lawyer). When I went back six months later to do contract/special projects work for them, I realized how far I had come, and I was so proud of myself for leaving, but also for leaving on good terms and not burning my bridge. It’s fun to look back that way, to see just how far we’ve come, when on the day to day, it sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s that far. Lovely, poignant post, as per usual! 🙂

  6. Love the analogy with the ex-boyfriend. What a great way to look at it.
    My best friend just graduated from law school and is getting ready to take the bar now. She’s the same age as me, 40, and she left the life she had to do just that.
    I left the life I had four years ago when we moved to Canada and started “from scratch” – but I have not quite found my place yet. I just know that I don’t want to be a lawyer when I grow up 😉

    • You will save so much money if you skip that law school part. And good for your friend!!! It’s so hard to be new and start over. Glad you had the courage to do it!

  7. Finally got around the commenting on this one, which took me back to my first post-resignation lunch with my former corporate comm colleagues. I dressed in a suit, knowing they’d be in the same. I didn’t apologize for what I was doing – shared pics of my newborn son and my plans to start my own consultancy and get published. Then I asked for their business – and I got it. I was nervous as hell, but felt relieved when I left. They ended up being one of my top clients for six years. I get it – all of it. I’m so glad you went to that dinner. It’s a great step to acknowledge to the world – and yourself – that what you’re doing is the right thing. *chest bump*

  8. I left my life as a lawyer at the same time i left my family, my friends and my country and moved to Canada 8 years ago. Is complicated to start again when you already have everything in place, but is not impossible. I enjoyed so much the time becoming a lawyer, not so much when i actually had to be one. Now my life is fill with toys, stickers, baby food and social work.

    • I totally agree! I loved, loved, loved being a law student but practicing law was so dry and so full of office politics and grasping and BOREDOM. Your life sounds similar to mine, minus the social work. I don’t miss being a lawyer, but I didn’t realize how much it was tied to my identity, until I let it go.

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