About two years ago I met with a lawyer about an SEC issue I was having. The details are not important. He was a little overweight, bushy mustache, a plaid sort of suit that didn’t match up right, he had driven in two hours from Long Island. I had arranged a fancy place, thinking that if he thought I could be a big client he would make the two hour drive and give me a free consultation. Which he did.
Most of the meeting he kept complaining about how “lousy” it was to be a lawyer. He was complaining about his kids. His wife. The two hour commute. His clients. How many of his clients were total criminals. how the government was criminal. “But,” he says, “this is what I do. It’s too late for me to do anything else.” When we were all leaving we stopped by the bathroom. he came out of the stall, didn’t stop to wash his hands, yelled out, “see you later,” and went on his way.
Over the next two years I would run into him occasionally. One guy called him “my dear friend” and the “smartest lawyer I know”. Another group that worked on the 59th floor of 40 Wall Street laughed hysterically when I said that K. said he was the best lawyer in the sector. They even called another lawyer on the speakerphone and said, “hey, guess what K. said he was the expert at.” And everyone laughed.
We all, coincidentally knew K and over the 20 or so years K had been in business in the lowest, shadiest, stinkiest part of Wall Street, he had demonstrated a flare for…well, nothing really.
Yesterday K, 49 years old, died of a heart attack.
He just gave up. I don’t care about the technical details of heart disease. He clearly didn’t need to die and could’ve done stuff to avoid it.
But he gave up. He was tired of it all.
Tired starts when you can’t get up in the morning. When you can’t look your wife in the face and say good morning but there’s no way to avoid it day after day. When you have kids that you just don’t know how to support and you start losing the ability to care. When you have clients and you think, “ugh, not another f-ing one of these.” When you have to drive two hours to meet some shitty guy who you know is going to just get a free consultation out of you but you do it anyway.
Day after day. No day different. Maybe you had other dreams. but maybe you didn’t. Everyone told you that being a lawyer would make you a lot of money, would bring you safety. Safety that would protect you to death. But who are you going to make happy today? Your mother, because you are alive, her little baby? Your wife? Your kids? Your customers? The ones who appreciate your art? When will it finally matter?
You have a drink at the bar before going home. Maybe two or three. You watch sports but you forget which team is which. You want to watch sports with your kids but they don’t care. You want to watch with friends on a Sunday with some beers but you have no friends.
You’re tired. And bit by bit you see a glimpse of something but you can’t tell what it is. It’s not the famous final last words of Steve “oh wow” Jobs. Its a feeling in the heart. A feeling of pressure. Something has become disconnected but only you know it. Something has finally given you the choice. You push at it. You sense what it is. You eat a little more. Drink a little more. Sometimes you can’t move but then you do because you know you are pushing it. You’re too tired when you wake up. Not another f-ing day. But you get up because you know what you are pushing at.
Every day, a tiny bit, you finally realize deep down you have a choice. You push at it. You press the button. You visit your clients again but deep down you know you have a secret that they don’t know. You experience sudden acts of kindness and the people around you are surprised. “He was a good man,” they said to me later. Because you knew the Secret that they didn’t know.
And one day you wake up and everything feels light again. You don’t feel surprised about how happy you feel. It’s natural. There are no worries. No clients. No bank accounts. No bathroom stalls. You jump out of bed. The window is open and you fly out. You skim through the trees and laugh. You fly to the moon and back. You forget who your clients were. You forget what your name was. You forget the irregularities of the nuances in SEC law. You forget everything. You’ve shed your body a million years ago and you’re no longer tired.
You were a shitty lawyer. And now you’re not.
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