If you’re like me, you might find that practicing law sometimes feels like a questionable way to spend the best years of your life. As I have previously noted, legal work is both extremely stressful and incredibly boring. Moreover, it requires lots of hard work, often to the exclusion of other, perhaps more meaningful, life pursuits. Given all of these difficulties, I sometimes can’t help but wonder: is life is too short to be a lawyer?
Depending on your feelings about your job, this inquiry may or may not send you careening into an existential crisis. But before you get too carried away, let’s get real. You have student loans to pay and, more importantly, probably a family to feed. And although quitting your job to open a bed and breakfast in South America may seem like a great idea on House Hunters, unless you are comfortable living off $20,000 a year, this probably isn’t a realistic option for you.
Assuming you are stuck in your law job for the long haul, what can you do to make the most out of your life? While I have previously discussed ways to achieve a more satisfactory work-life balance, the unpleasant reality about these suggestions is that we are all limited by the number of hours in each day. While I think these suggestions work, they obviously cannot eliminate the underlying problem, which is that you probably spend most of your waking life in your office. Assuming we can’t add hours to each day, how about adding years to our lives? How about living forever??
In fact, living forever — or at least much longer — may not be as crazy or impossible as it sounds. As futurist Ray Kurzweil writes in his book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (affiliate link), the coming biomedical revolution might make immortality a reality. According to Kurzweil, because medical technology is both increasing in sophistication and shrinking in size exponentially, by 2030, we will have developed the technology to cure and prevent almost all diseases. This will occur, among other ways, through use of tiny nanobots that will patrol our bodies searching for and repairing our various ailments. Sounds cool (albeit extremely creepy), right?
To help you survive until 2030, Kurzweil also provides a relatively sophisticated overview of common diseases — heart disease, diabetes, etc. — and suggests a number of extremely specific preventative measures that you can implement now to increase your longevity. These range from the obvious (eat lots of fruits and vegetables) to the more obscure (avoid certain types of vitamin E).
If you are at all interested in prolonging your life (or learning a lot about health and wellness), I would suggest reading Fantastic Voyage. To be sure, it will make you extremely paranoid about everything that comes in contact with your body, and will destroy your ability to enjoy certain things in life, including all types of food. I would also mention that to fully implement Kurzweil’s suggestions you’ll have to start taking upwards of 150 supplements a day.
If these measures sound completely insane a bit extreme, I’m here to offer some simpler suggestions. These are based on recent research about telomeres, the “caps” that protect the ends of chromosomes to keep your DNA from unraveling (think plastic caps on shoelaces to prevent fraying). Telomeres serve the important function of preventing chromosomes from sticking together or being rearranged, which can cause abnormalities that may lead to cancer. In addition, increased telomere length is thought to correlate with increased longevity.
At this point, you may be wondering: how long are my telomeres? To answer this question, you can arrange to have your telomeres measured through this helpful website. Assuming yours could use some length, you might try the following suggestions:
Quit smoking. Although the possibility of developing lung cancer should be a good enough reason to quit on its own, now you have yet another reason to kick your smelly and vaguely suicidal habit: Inflammation caused by smoking may be decrease your telomere length.
Vegetarian diet. A diet low in animal protein and high in fruits and vegetables may be a key factor in maintaining and even growing telomere length. Even if you don’t want to go full vegetarian, you may consider at least minimizing your meat consumption to just a few times a week.
Exercise. Add telomere length to the long list of reasons to get regular physical activity. Exercise (and particularly yoga) has been shown to have a connection to telomere length.
Meditation. Meditation has also been linked with longer telomeres. Need help meditating? Check out my previous post for some tips to get you started.
In sum, although living forever might be an unrealistic goal at this point, you may be able to add some years through developing healthy habits like those described above. At very least, this possibility should give you some hope that you can enjoy a longer, more meaningful life after your law job.
Elizabeth Adams (not her real name) is a recent law school graduate, former federal judicial clerk, and aspiring health guru. She currently practices insurance coverage litigation at a mid-sized law firm. When she isn’t sitting at a desk — which isn’t very often — she is following her bliss. At the moment, this mainly involves working toward becoming a certified yoga teacher. Elizabeth’s column focuses on exploring how and whether lawyers can achieve a sustainable work-life balance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.