It's been a while since I last posted, but I do have a valid excuse. I've been absolutely swamped at work. Swamped to the point where remaining at the office until 10 or 11 or even 12 some nights is not uncommon - at least it's been this way for the past two weeks. For those of you who don't know, I work at a large Wall Street law firm as a paralegal. And I'm on one deal that has consumed a tremendous amount of my personal time.
Working these hours has made me realize something very profound. Actually, I already knew it, but doing this much overtime has really driven it home. Working long hours at something you don't love doing just for the money is not worth it. Not even a little bit. Let me explain.
At my law firm, the starting salary for first year associates is $160,000. Granted, that's a lot of money, but it's not the most money one can make. And a high price is paid for that $160K, both in terms of quality of life and mental health. As a paralegal, it's expected that I'm going to be doing overtime every now and then. But in general, I can leave the office at 5:30. Lawyers at big firms like mine, however, routinely leave the office around 8 or 9 and they get in around 8:30 or so in the morning. This past week, when I was leaving the office at 11, I saw at least six of the attorneys on my floor still at the office. This is ridiculous! Why do people forsake having time to do the fun things they love and spending time with friends and family in order to ensure that some deal goes through? The simple answer is the allure of the greenback.
This would make sense on a basic level if lots of money would bring people lots of happiness. Unfortunately, thinking that money will bring you happiness is like what Solomon in Ecclesiastes describes as "chasing after the wind". Most humans, not just lawyers, seem to think that the next promotion, the next raise, the next person that he or she sleeps with, the next new car or pair of clothes will bring us happiness. And these things do bring us temporary happiness, but soon it fades away. We're left looking for something else to fill a void in us and provide that peace to calm our restlessness. If this isn't true for you, I know that it's certainly been the case for me.
In light of this realization, I've recently begun asking myself why I want to make the type of money that I want. Is it so I can buy lots of cars or nice accoutrements for an expensive apartment? Is it so I can impress women and my friends by taking them out to fancy dinners? No. And I'm not sure what I will get out of being a millionaire several times over. There are plenty of unhappy, even miserable millionaires. I think fundamentally what I'm looking for is security to know that I can weather any financial storm, to be able to help out family members who need it, and to make sure my children don't need student loans when they go to college. I'm going to go even further though and ask if even these most basic of things will make me happy. I'm not too sure, but I think that in all of our strivings, it's important to take a step back and reflect on what the driving forces are behind our dreams of wealth. Please feel free to send me your thoughts on this issue at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or post them on this blog.
Thanks for reading and until next time...