Random Blog A Musing Farf

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I used to think I was brilliant. Sure, there were things I was not good at (like foreign languages and fractions), but even while I struggled with those subjects, teachers all universally agreed that I was smart. And, with some private tutoring, I even excelled at subjects like Hebrew, French and Math. But, where I used to think I was really smart, I am now convinced I am not intellectual at all.

I got to Small Liberal Law Firm almost two years ago and realized that I am not smart at all. At first, when I got here I thought I was smart and doing a great job, but then, after about a year of working really hard, I was formally reviewed and told that I need to pay attention to detail and think things though more. I started thinking things through as much as possible and was told that I am a bad writer and my ideas don’t make sense. I listened to other people talk at meetings and heard the questions they asked. You could have given me an unlimited about of time and those questions would not have occurred to me.

My current boss, Evil Partner, perpetuates this. He has not liked me from my first day and tells everyone else every time I make an error. He does not think I am smart and I have begun to believe him. The problem is, once I begin to think I am an idiot, it permeates the rest of my life.

But the thing is, there are things I am good at: I am really good at “people skills.” Generally, people like me a lot and I excel in social situations with men and women. If you give me a task (i.e. get this impossible to find document), I can accomplish it and easily get people to “bend the rules, just this once” when I need them to do so. I love animals and after my second Dog Trainer Training class, I am convinced I can be really good at it. I was an awesome SCUBA instructor before I was forced to quit teaching because it was costing me more to teach than I was being paid.

But, I am starting to think that being a lawyer is one of those things that I am not good at. I do okay in hearings, but apparently can’t write a legal brief in a way that people like them to read. So again, the people aspect of law (client development, relationship building) is all fine, but the “real” work causes a problem.


What’s weird is that I used to be smart. This original brilliance lasted until I was fourteen and finished Eighth Grade. Starting in Ninth Grade, I went to Loomis Chaffee, a private school in Connecticut. While there, my self confidence and social life flourished, but my grades foundered and no one was going to accuse me of being brilliant. On the other hand, for the first time in my entire life, I started to think of myself as pretty and popular.

On to college, where I did well enough in classes I liked, and poorly enough in mathematics for my professor to offer me a “D” in the required course if I promised to never take another class in the department again. My grades were not very good overall, but I had a kick-ass internship at the White House that eventually turned into an actual staff job.

I loved working in politics. Senator Dodd, in a televised speech, called me the “best Research Director” he had ever had. People thought I was great at political research and I felt like a fraud. It was so easy and mindless – how could people be so easily impressed? But, I enjoyed it so there seemed to be no problems. People (myself included) thought I was brilliant.

Then, in 2000, the political research jobs on the Democratic side pretty much dried up. I was sick of living out of suitcases and jumping from campaign to campaign. I had seen what that life did to friends – high divorce rate, no connection with family, no possessions of any value, few hobbies – and I did not want that for myself. So, I went to law school.

Law school was pretty much high school all over again. I loved living in New York and made amazing friends that I think I will have for a lifetime. I was confident, happy and content. Except, no matter how hard I tried or how well I thought I knew the material, I could not seem to do well on exams or papers. In election law – of all subjects! – I received a B- on the final paper. I could not figure out how that happened. After all, I was clearly the professor’s favorite, spoke during class and asked questions. I did all the readings and was always prepared. I tried to make an appointment to speak with the professor to discuss where I went wrong, but he never made himself available. And, if no one thought I was brilliant, they certainly did not think I was an idiot either.

Then, I got a job at Local Union. I loved my boss and felt like I was fighting the good fight for workers, but the job was basically dead end and I pretty much hated everyone there except Wuzi and Stitch (my boss). Wuzi and Stitch both left (although Stitch eventually went back) and so I left and went to Small Liberal Law Firm. Stitch used to tell me that I was the smartest young lawyer he knew.


So what happened during all those times that people told me (either directly or through a formal grading process) that I was not smart? Reading this, it appears that my self perception of my own intelligence is based entirely on what other people think. Well that’s not right. And yet, I can’t help it and dream daily of giving up the law, becoming a full time dog trainer and…. Well, that’s the thing. I can’t figure out the “and.”

I love training dogs, but want a lifestyle that costs more than dog training will pay me. I want to not work very hard at a job I don’t really like, and I want people to think I do a good job. But I would be willing to work really hard at a job I loved.

Why is this so hard?


Chitown Cubs Fan said...

This happens w/ me all the time. In school and work, when I enjoyed the subject I excelled and was "the smartest". Things I don't enjoy, I don't get good reviews. You seem to enjoy the people aspects of work and helping/doing good. Maybe you should try and find a job in a not for profit or find a company that does a lot of work with charities you support and try and get a job w/ them in their charity department if the not for profit doesn't pay enough. The other thing you could do is get a job in sales. I do real estate, my roommate used to sell power tools. You don't have to work in retail to work in sales.

PS Cubs are in the playoffs! Woo Hoo!!!!!

Suzanne said...

Evil Partner is an asshole. Instead of letting him put you down, you should get filled with righteous anger. You are not stupid or an idiot, and I have to say, when we do jobs we like, we often put them down because they seem easy to us. They seem easy to us because we are smart enough to know what we are doing and we also like it. Other people have different skills and talents and intelligence (or, in many cases, none at all) and therefore are in awe of you because they literally could not do it.

So the royal we says that you should find a job that better suits your interests and skills. Maybe that is not dog training or lawyering, but something else. Have you thought about working for City government? (Don't snicker.) It pays well and needs smart people like you, and there are many different types of things a lawyer with your skills and talents could do.