Restorative Practices/RJ Practitioner/Attorney-at-law/Compassionate Witness
Many of us dually admire and envy attorneys. They often look like a million bucks and speak with such confidence and certainty. However, that was not my reality after I started my legal career. The money was not too bad, but I definitely didn’t look it; I did not have the time to. My usual workday at my first job required that I got up at 3:30 am if I wanted to catch the only transport that could get me at my workplace in time, following a 2-hour-long journey from one town to the next. Then, I would have to take the journey back home in the evenings; the earliest I got home was 7:00 p.m. This seemed bewildering to many who I have told this experience to, and to be truthful, it was also bewildering to me. My health slowly started to decline and at one point I was curled up in an almost fetal position with a rising body temperature.
During this entire experience, I was in a relationship with my now husband, who at the time was my boyfriend and lived in another country. Therefore, I also had to find time daily to communicate with him, which was usually before I left to commute and after I returned home in the evenings. Nonetheless, our love persevered and every day our conversations were my place of regeneration. Then, I realized that I did not want to stay in a job where I was treated like a machine and not a person. I wouldn’t get into the specifics of my actual job responsibilities and woes, but I would just say that legal aid is never easy.
As a result, I left my job in a little under a year and took up a similar role in the community where I lived. I finally activated the courage that I was slowly building up to migrate and be reunited with my love. We got married soon after and we have been in our own practice since. This is not by any means a fairytale ending because those ending are never true to life. We still have to work our rear ends off to keep our confidence and our bank accounts active, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I chose love and health, and it kept me from being a burnt-out attorney who would still have a million bucks and professional glory above herself; however, she would have been a shell of herself.
I figure that if you have gotten to this point in the article; you have started to think more deeply about your own life and professional choices, or maybe you know someone who is in a job or situation that has caused them to be burnt out, but they are still scared to start over again. I recommend taking some time to reflect to figure out what you want from life and from your profession. This period of self-reflection should be free from distractions and could be creative. As such, if you like writing songs, poems or short stories, write a few lines about what life feels like now. Alternatively, you could come up with your own self-reflection prompts and methods, but ensure that your focus is to understand what you are feeling to figure out what you need to do next. You can always reach out if this was helpful or if you need some support in this area.
However, you can search online for more resources on burn out and/or workplace stress. A good place to start is Annie McKee and Kandi Wiens’ (2014) article titled, “Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit”. This article was very informative and offers some practical tips for dealing with stress and burnout while on the job. It also provides information on how to practice self-compassion and give empathy. I was specifically drawn to the tip about building friendships at work, which I believe may be very helpful since the last few years have shown us that we are all in this together. Do remember that you are loved and your health and wellness matters. Feel free to share the knowledge you have learnt here with others.
McKee, A., and Wiens, K. (2022, March 7). Prevent burnout by making compassion a habit. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2017/05/prevent-burnout-by-making-compassion-a-habit
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
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