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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perks and Titles

This is going to be a short entry but I had to share. Last night, I was working on an article proposal and I got to thinking. Back when I was at the firm, the perks were the best part of my job. I was working in a huge law firm in New York City. I had my own office with floor to ceiling windows in Times Square. I had high quality business cards and when I responded to “What do you do for a living?” I was met with respect and admiration. After five years at the firm, I was taking home over $10,000 a month after taxes. Seriously, I was living a dream, but not my own. I hated my work because I wasn't fulfilled. I went home run down, tired and empty at the end of each day. I took on pro bono work in an effort to make a difference but it wasn’t enough because billable work always had to come first. I got to a place where I put my job before my health, my relationship and my spirituality.

Today, I got my first paycheck at my new job. I worked for a little over half of the pay period and my check was just shy of $700 after taxes. I didn't spend my day sitting behind a big desk in a skyscraper with my back to a huge picture window. BUT, I did attend a conference focused on human rights. At various moments during the event, I was inspired, tearful, hopeful and amused. When I signed in at the name tag table this morning, the spreadsheet included a column for my name, my agency and my title. In the title column beside my name, it said "Activist." Imagine that. It actually made me a little giddy. After all, it's why I went to law school in the first place. I wanted to make a difference...to ACT in a way that could change someone's life. Dreams realized...now THAT is a perk.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Milestones

Today marks my 45th blog entry. It has been quite a journey to this point and I feel, in many ways, that I am just getting started. I am starting on my second week at my new job. I have accepted the financial changes and brainstormed ways to supplement my income. I worked on a financial plan with my mom and while I lamented needing help from her at 31, I have accepted it. As soon as I did, goodness came flooding in. Last week, I cried despite rejoining the work force because I didn't think it was what I spent so much energy praying for. This week, I cried because I know that my new path is one that will exceed my highest expectations.

The transformation started with a conversation I had on Saturday. I was at a friend's birthday party when the person next to me asked how I knew the guest of honor. I said we used to work together. She responded with, "So you're a lawyer too?" I said yes and paused. Then, I tried on my new job for size. I said, "I don't really practice anymore. I work at an NPO now as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence." She paused and then flashed me a huge smile and even clapped her hands. "I think that's awesome. Good for you!!"

In all my years as a lawyer, I have never gotten a reaction like that. People would say, "That's nice." or "Do you like it?" If they were also lawyers, they sometimes asked, "What type of law?" and when I replied, they nodded and that topic of conversation kind of died. So, back to the dinner. After the "awesome" comment, the person across from me started talking about her work with abused children. She noted that the work was trying and emotional but that she was happy. She wished me the same as I settle into my job. I took that gift and reflected on it. Sure I could stand to make more money but am I happy with this new job? Yes. Milestone #1.

Monday at work, I talked to my supervisor about work we could do as outreach in the community. To give me some ideas of things we did in the past, she told me about a workshop they did to teach a form of therapy that people could do on their own. What form of therapy, you ask? WRITING!!! Yep! A writing workshop. There it was clear as day, a way to incorporate my passion for writing with my new job. I didn't see how that was going to work when I was chasing the actual writing job I talked about a few posts back. Milestone #2.

Last night, I met an attorney who talked to me about keeping my licence and things I could do to supplement my income and still give my heart to my work, while incorporating my passion for the law. Thanks to my supervisor, we are having breakfast on Friday. Milestone #3.

In just a few short days of work, I have been in a local high school helping teach students how to be effective allies to their friends who may be victims of domestic violence/sexual assault and providing them with resources if they are victims. I have been to a community activist meeting and met the executive board. I have attended seminars aimed at creating ways to free the world from the bonds of racism, sexism, and hate based violence. I have witnessed people help women in need of solutions to move on in life. It has been busy and at times overwhelming but I can honestly say (especially after talking to a few friends at my old firm) that I am happy that things happened the way they did. Milestone #4.

It's only up from here. It's not what I expected but I think it might be just what I needed. Some...ok, most things are way more important than money and happiness is chief among them. I have been fortunate enough to feed a baby elephant, ride on the back of its big brother, go on safari, see a sunset in Hawaii, Turks & Caicos and San Francisco. I had a great wedding and have an even better marriage (maybe I'm biased). Don't get me wrong. It hasn't been all roses. In my life, I have lived through the misery that the women and children I now work for are living. I have been depressed, afraid, angry and uncertain. I have been jobless and at times, pretty destitute. But with all of that, I am still standing. I survived. In the next chapter, I plan to thrive.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Acceptance and Faith

So...it has been a while and a lot has happened. I did not get either of the jobs that I was so confident about. I did however get a job. That's right. I am finally gainfully employed. After 10 months and a few weeks of making job searching my full time job, I finally have a job that pays, albeit not much. I am employed by a non-profit organization catering to abused women and children. I am not employed as an attorney but rather as an advocate. I am nervous about working in a new arena and more terrified about living on an eighth of my former salary BUT I am excited about seeing my life come full circle. I should explain...

Several years ago, when I was writing my admissions essay for law school, I had to answer the question: "Why do you want to go to law school?" It was easy for me to answer. I wanted to be a resource for abused women and children. I wanted to put abusers and rapists behind bars. I wanted to be a positive force in the lives of people who had been beaten down both physically and mentally. I wanted all of this because for a while in my childhood, I was a victim and in the midst of pressing charges, I realized that the laws and those advocating had a long way to go before they truly provided justice.

I went to law school. I tried my hand at this type of law and quickly learned that in family court, no one really wins. In abuse and rape cases, juries, judges and sometimes victims are jaded and defendants are usually let off with a slap on the wrist. After a clinic, I decided I didn't want to spend my career hovering between tears and anger so I went for the job with no emotion and a big paycheck. In that job, I quickly realized that I had traded empathy for hazing. I was still under stress but this time, it was based on wanting to please a boss that refused to be pleased. I still cried but it wasn't because I was feeling for a rape victim. It was because I got yelled at after spending all night writing a brief and improperly writing a citation. Then I lost my job and traded that stress for a new brand, which you have read about on this blog.

So, if I take a step back from my fears, I can see that God has put me in the place where I should have been years ago. Perhaps, I was supposed to push through my fears back when I first started working with abused women and children. I didn't so now I am not in a position to be a domestic violence/rape/child abuse attorney...but I will be in a position to learn once I start working. It is interesting how life comes full circle. I am grateful for a bigger plan and look forward to starting a new life. I will, of course, share the journey.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Baby Eagles

I haven't posted in a while...I needed a break. To be honest, I wasn't in a place where I was capable of encouraging myself and I didn't want to memorialize my negative thoughts in writing. After a little time and distance (and a fun getaway with hubby and some friends), I'm ok and back in the game. After all of that, I guess I don't have to say that I am still not employed. I mentioned in my last post that I didn't get the job that I had dubbed "perfect for me." I haven't directly heard from the second job but I heard through the grapevine (through the friend that referred me) that I am on the B-list. In other words, they are moving forward with their top choices and if the ultimate supervisor doesn't like those choices, they may call me back. I went for my callback interview for the third job on Friday. If I make it to the next round, there are at least two more rounds, so there will be no certainty there for quite a while. if I get that job, it will mean the end of me using my law degree...at least for the near future. The job pays next to nothing in a New York market BUT I think it will offer me a lot of personal fulfillment. It's all pretty frustrating and I don't know what I am supposed to learn from all of this. Trust me, I have tons of questions for God...but I am putting them on hold because I don't even know if this third job will work out. I want to ask why I went through law school if I am meant to end up in a job where I don't need the degree or why I got married and built a life based on my previous income when it was just going to be taken away. The reality is that this job might not be in the plan either. So, where does that leave me? It leaves me right here. I got so high on my expectations last time that the door closing in my face left me completely stunned. This time, I am still trusting that there IS a plan. It may not be MY plan but I am trusting that it is all going to work out as it should. I am still exploring other ways to create income.

I heard a sermon today that included a lesson about baby eagles and how they learn to fly. At some point, the mother eagle clamps on to the baby and flies off with it. The baby is there clamped securely in its mother's talons enjoying the breeze when all of a sudden, the mother drops the baby. The baby freefalls towards the earth and the mother catches it right before it hits the ground. The baby is saved and goes back to soaring with the assistance of its mother's wings. Then the process starts again. Eventually, the baby gets the hint and starts to flap its wings. God does the same thing to us. When he wants us to grow, he takes us from a place where we are safe and secure and drops us into a place of uncertainty. Eventually, we learn to fly. Right now, I am in a freefall. I'm flapping my wings and for the moment, my effort is stopping me from crashing into the ground BUT I haven't yet started to soar.