Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy, is available on Amazon.
There’s a terrific opening scene in Stephen King’s novel, Pet Sematary.
I don’t read a lot of Stephen King novels. That’s not because I dismiss his skill as a writer. It’s because they scare the hell out of me.
In this one, the main character is a young doctor. He’s on his first day at a hospital when a college kid is rushed into the ER. The kid was hit by a car, so he’s all smashed up, his neck broken, blood all over the place, one eyeball hanging out — whatever. Just as the doctor is concluding he’s dead, an arm shoots out, grabs the doctor by the collar, and the dead kid stares at him (with his working eyeball.)
“Stay away from the Pet Cemetery!” he intones.
In a flash, it’s over. The kid is stone cold, and the doctor wonders if he was hallucinating.
The suggestion to stay away from the pet cemetery, however, is a sensible one. Like most sensible suggestions, it goes entirely unheeded. I don’t want to give away the ending (and I only read the first 20 pages because I got scared), but I suspect that if he stays away from the pet cemetery, flesh-eating zombies won’t become an issue.
But he doesn’t listen! Lawyers are the same way. They just don’t listen!
Here’s another scary story. My client was in law school. With a big smile, she announced to her journalist boyfriend that she was accepting a job at the big, prestigious law firm where she’d summered the year before.
He grabbed her by the collar, his face etched with horror, and intoned: “But you hated that place. It totally weirded you out. You said you were pursuing public interest. Why would you go back there?”
She didn’t listen. Now their relationship is over, and she’s hating her job and her life and weeping in my office.
“Why didn’t I listen?”
But she’s not the only one. You had moments like that, too – didn’t you? When someone tried to warn you?
My Pet Sematary moment came the summer before I started law school.
I was visiting home, went to a party and ran into an old friend – a guy I’d known since I was about twelve years old. I casually related the big news – I was going to law school! I expected one of several possible reactions:
- an expression, feigned or otherwise, of happiness that I was finding my way forward in the world;
- a tinge of jealousy that he was still a burn-out art student, while I was on my way to wielding staggering corporate power; or
- curiosity about law school and how he might follow in my tracks.
I didn’t get any of those reactions. I got disappointment and concern.