I sit in the modern office with the windows looking out over downtown Denver and I fight the tears that threaten to spring to my eyes. I hope the woman sitting across from me, the woman interviewing me, doesn’t notice that I’m overcome with emotion. I give myself a few moments to answer her question. How can I phrase it so that I don’t sound like someone who doesn’t really want this job? I take a calming breath.
“I think Atticus Finch would be disappointed in me.”
I’m sitting in the office of The Advocates, a legal recruiting firm that also helps lawyers get contract work. My attempt to get freelance legal work isn’t coming along very quickly and I’m really ready to do something (anything), so I’m hoping they can get me some contract work soon.
As part of the process, we’re doing an informational interview where they learn basically everything about me. We started with my childhood, with science fairs and hamster experiments and summer camp. We talked about high school, about extra-curriculars and moving before freshman year and independent study and SAT scores. We talked about college, about my switch to an Economics major, the sorority, my deep involvement in philanthropic work, my legislative internship. We talked about law school, about my work on the journal, my internship with a federal judge, my love of singing in the law school musical. And then we talked about Biglaw. About what I liked and, more importantly, what I hated. And then she asked me to name five traits that a great lawyer should have.
I found that my mind immediately jumped to Atticus Finch – I thought of him and then named traits of his that I thought made him a great lawyer. Moral, hard-working, kind, passionate, intelligent. Next she asked me who my hero was, so I went with Atticus Finch. (I’ve thought about naming a potential son Atticus, I should just own that he’s my hero, right?)
And then she went to the heart of the matter: what would Atticus Finch think about me? That’s when I almost started to cry. Because to be honest, Atticus Finch really would be disappointed in me.
He’d tell me, “Sara, you had such potential. Look at how, from a very young age, you loved to help people who were less fortunate, how you knew the responsibility you had to help others and how you embraced that. How you loved the joy that helping people brought them and you as well. Look at how smart you were, how driven, how curious. Think what you could have done. But instead you choose to work at a job you hated just to make money. You stopped being true to yourself. You tried to fit in society’s mold, to meet society’s definition of success. And it nearly drove you to the brink. Think with your heart, Sara. You’re lost now, but you can find your way again. You’re better than this. I know you are.”
Atticus, I hear you. I promise I’ll try my best not to disappoint you anymore.