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, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).
A visit to my office has evolved into something akin to the road to Lourdes. Pilgrims arrive red-eyed and defeated, faces etched with misery, searching for a way out of a trap.
The standard story is some variant of the following: You are either out of work or loathe your work. You have $180k in loans. You have either no income or an impermanent income paid to you in exchange for any joy life might offer. You see no hope.
Let me spell out the critical element here: You are one hundred and eighty thousand dollars in debt.
Just to fully drive the point home: that’s bankruptcy-proof debt.
You’ve yelled at your parents, but it’s not really their fault. You’ve wept and wailed and gotten drunk and stoned and consumed a scrip of Xanax. You’ve tried sleeping and pretending you don’t have to wake up.
Then comes the pilgrimage. Perhaps I can heal with a laying on of hands….
Okay, here’s the feedback I’ll receive for what I’ve written so far:
You’re exaggerating. You’re bringing me down. Law isn’t so bad. I love law.
Yeah, well good for you. I’m not exaggerating.
It’s their own damn fault. No one made them go to law school.
Yes. They. Did. Stop kidding yourself — the entire system is engineered to lead smart, conscientious kids exactly where it leads them. And get off it already with the no sympathy/blame the victim routine.
How bad are things? How many times can I pose that (at this point rhetorical) question?
Young lawyers look me in the eye and ask, how am I supposed to carry on with my life? What they mean is — how is one supposed to live a life worth living — a life that satisfies one as a human being — trapped in the hell of law and law school loans?
Sometimes, I ask them what they would be doing with their lives, if they didn’t have loans. Here are some of their answers.