Four years and a few months since that fateful Tuesday when I gave away my DUI case to Lloyd, somehow knowing that I couldn’t make the impending hearing. My last official and cognizant business at Stebbins Mulloy.
And as I write this, three years. Three years since I publicly announced to the world: I’m out.
The world where I ran the show, controlled my destiny, and poured my whole self over a large wooden desk seems like a lifetime ago. And if time is the great healer, then I’ve got a good start.
I’ve come a long way since cursing those around me who couldn’t understand why I didn’t return to my high-stress, demanding, unrelenting, no apologies of a job. I was taught early that the law is a jealous mistress and that’s no lie.
I’ve come so far that in my last counseling session, I was able to firmly admit that (I think) I’ve finally crossed the bridge. But the cables must be fraying a bit, because the entire session was spent on lawyers.
What it means to know them. How it is to be one. And how much I dare to forget about my life as one. I still feel like I walk the tightrope, and the balance remains. Keep them; leave them. Join in or hide away.
I used to feel like I was scrambling. Frantically trying to fill the void. And then I denied whether my creation was even real. Whether I could replace what stood on a pedestal with something so abstract. The means were important, and the end has been sweet. Not everyone can say they’re a published author.
And while I still find myself first and foremost owning some nuanced version of, “I’m a lawyer,” I don’t need it as much as I used to. And what scares me the most is that I’m finally okay with that. Sure it’s funny and deflective to answer, “What do you do?” with “It’s complicated.” I smile through, “I’m a fully recovered trial lawyer.” A form of acceptance has begun to wash over me easier than the flood of uncertainty. It’s liberating and somewhat vindicating.
I can’t say it doesn’t still sting. I won’t deny it’s taken up much of my head space. I know I’m sometimes jealous, defeated, hurt, and bitter. That I still desire with every shred of my being to sit at that seat at the table. To have the specific daily purpose and grind. Instead of wistfully watching those around me live my forever dream.
I’d also be lying if I said that those around me always seem happy. That they aren’t searching for their new purpose and a new dream. That I often hear the word “trapped.” That the jealous mistress isn’t constantly asking them for one more hour and one more thought, day after day after day.
To every season, turn. To everything in life, a tradeoff.
I’ve embraced that I get a do over at life, and finally accepted that there’s no second chance of Jackie M. Stebbins with some type of etched-in Stebbins on a law firm door. And honestly, I think I’m fine with that.
But unlike many around me at the monthly bar luncheons, I still know my bar identification number and can recite it from the heart.
Just keep swimming.
*I penned this on August 1, 2022. And after I finished, my August 1, 2019, Facebook post popped up and I saw what I had shared that day:
“‘To everything turn, turn, turn. There is a season turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose, under heaven.’ Outside of death and taxes, there’s another certainty in life and that is change. I have tried to peacefully accept all the changes in my life and hope for continued good things to happen to those around me and to me. So long to the life I know as a trial lawyer and let’s see what happens next.”
And to that, my long-lost Cousin Toni, all the way down in Arizona, commented: “It is with happiness and sorrow that I salute your change. Perhaps it is time to write a book.”
“A time to build up, a time to break down A time to dance, a time to mourn A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together” ~ Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Birds