44 – destination unknown
I wrote recently about the fact that you have to learn to enjoy the journey of life and not simply seek a destination. I believe the truth of this. I do. Truly.
But you want to at least have a destination in mind, right? For example, when I ride a motorcycle, I want to go somewhere. I can enjoy the leans and the shifting and the acceleration, but my head tells me I’m just wasting gas if I don’t have an objective aside from the joy-ride. For this reason, I don’t ride as often as I could, because I can’t justify a simple ride around town, or county, or state, without a destination. It’s a burden.
In 5th grade, I became determined to be an attorney. By sixth or seventh, I had decided to go with criminal defense. I stayed on course all the way through law school and then joined a firm doing that and other work, and then I found myself disgusted with it. (iuris, mens rea) I altered my course just a bit and came to Arkansas, where my roots are, to get back into criminal defense. I stayed in it for years, and in 2008 I was on track to be “death qualified.” This means I was getting the training and experience to be lead counsel on capital punishment cases. I was assigned to two death penalty cases at the time, but legally it takes a team to offer a full defense on these, and I wasn’t the leader of the team.
It was this point in my career that I was offered a position as a prosecutor. I struggled with this fork in the road, but as Yogi Berra once said, “When you see a fork in the road, you should take it.” So I did. I had lost a judicial election, and then set my sights on capital cases as defense, and once I was on track, I switched sides. My reasoning? Stable pay, good benefits, “working for the good guys,” and finally, even if I decided to return to defense at some point, prosecution experience would only help. So I took the job. It lasted two years before the leader of the team I joined was un-elected, and I left.
So now I was re-calculating yet again. Back into private practice, to pay the bills, and trying to find a map of my life to study to find a destination. Judge? Tried that – not much of a politician. Prosecutor? Meh. I didn’t feel as good as some did with putting people in prison. Defense? Meh again. I just wasn’t sure where the truth was in criminal cases well enough to be comfortable taking a side and I didn’t relish getting my client acquitted just to see him kill someone later. Personal Injury? Didn’t want to be an ambulance chaser. That’s when the County Judge called and asked me to fill in. I wasn’t politically entrenched in either the Rs or the Ds, so I was safe to step in as a neutral attorney in the politics of local government. Skipping some details here, suffice it to say I took the job and have been here ever since. About 5 years now. I’m not saving anyone’s life, like I was in child abuse law or prosecution. I’m not pulling innocent men out of the jaws of government prosecution, as I was in defense. I’m approving contracts and advising elected officials. A fairly safe job – like casually riding a motorcycle through the countryside on a warm day without traffic.
The problem is that a) there’s no destination, and b) I prefer a more challenging ride. Give me a longer distance for endurance, or a dirt road to test my skills, or some traffic to squeeze my alertness. Raise the stakes above the level of money. Make it matter. I think that’s one reason I never got far into sports (other than my lack of ability – just said that to beat you to it). Ball games never seemed to matter much. Nothing on the line except someone’s pride and a trophy.
Anyway, I’m ready to get back in the game, so to speak. I need to know my work is making a difference, as it did in child abuse or prosecution or defense. I’ve had a pleasant respite from that type of stress, but that’s what I was built for and I’ve known it since elementary school.
I don’t know what road I’m on, but I’m better at the leans and the shifting than I once was, and I’m still looking for a worthy destination. And I’m reminding myself to be patient and to downshift to keep from speeding past the turn I should take. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the breeze and hope that politics doesn’t wreck me before I find the goal – if there is one.