Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cysticish Choices

Okay, so I'm jumping on the blogging about work bandwagon because it's an issue that just keeps coming up for me lately. There are a couple of reasons for this, but mostly it's because I chose a job that expects junior associates to be available to the firm more or less on demand, 24/7. Not that my firm is particularly unreasonable (I honestly think it's better about this aspect of the job than a lot of NYC firms), but honestly the job is very demanding, and it's so tough (and ridiculous) to be constantly worried about not keeping up at 27!!

Basically the situation is this: there is one particular case at my firm that has a lot of "emergencies" in the sense that the work isn't very consistent, but when there is an assignment it tends to be really time sensitive. I am staffed on this case, as are most of the litigators in my associate class. I am also on another case that has fairly consistent hours every single day and where nothing is particularly time sensitive. This second case is a very small team and makes up the majority of my work for the firm.

The problem is, every time the "emergency" case rears its head (which is about once every few weeks), the entire team has to work ridiculous hours in order to meet the deadline. As in full time, 7 days a week, for a period of anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. The more senior attorneys on the case are very understanding about my CF, but at the same time I feel like I can't demand too much leeway since my working less only means that my colleagues have to work more. Plus there's the fact that I don't WANT to ask for too many exceptions. Besides the fact that we're in the middle of a recession and this isn't the time to not pull my own weight, there's also the more personal issue for me: I went through 7 years of college and grad school to get where I am, I worked my ass off to get through an Ivy League law school and then to get my job at a competitive firm, and I probably sacrificed my health more than I should have. I simply don't want to have worked so hard and not to reap some of the rewards. And yes, I know 24/7 working hours aren't what normal people would call a "reward", but I'm not a normal person...I'm a lawyer ;) Seriously, I just want to be a productive, valued, and fully-involved member of the team!

Every single time this case comes up I end up sick. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to make the connection. Normal people get sick working all the time, so my body obviously CANNOT handle it. And I am well aware that health is the primary goal - that any other sacrifice should pale in the face of living long and living healthy.

"Should," however, doesn't always mean "does."

I feel like CF is robbing me of something I dreamed of and worked towards all my life. I feel like I'll never be able to be effective in a courtroom because I can't breath, I can't talk in complete sentences without coughing and/or pausing for breath. I feel like no one wants an associate who gets sick every other week. And I feel like even when I make the smart choice, even when I set limits and really stick to them, I still wind up getting sick. I'm not a "what's the point" kind of girl. I hate that question. But at the same time I feel like CF has given me just enough of a taste of what my life could be, has let me live just enough of a "normal" life to know what I'm missing, and now it's trying to take it all back. Not positive thinking, I know, and I will snap out of it and do the right thing for my health. But I want to allow myself just one chance to say how much it SUCKS before I do.

And now I'm off to go cuddle with my puppy, who by the way has proven himself the ULTIMATE in CF-friendly dogs. Not only is he hypoallergenic and more than happy to romp around in the dog run while I catch my breath on a bench, but his new favorite thing is to sleep on my lap while I do the Vest! What a sweetie.


  1. And the best part of that puppy...when you feel down and depressed and want to cry, he will be there to soak up your tears...literally :) Maggie does it quite often, I consider it a small shower for her haha!!!

    On to the meat of your post. I know EXACTLY how you feel. Of course you know that since I blog about my work issue all the time.

    The part that struck me the most and that is the hardest is when you said "...I feel like CF has given me just enough of a taste of what my life could be, has let me live just enough of a "normal" life to know what I'm missing, and now it's trying to take it all back." It's true, especially for people that have gone through school, spent the time, energy, and money on a career choice only to have that excitement taken form us only a few years into it. (Not that people who don't go to school don't get robbed of anything...I don't want a band of angry CFers at my door haha).

    The thing that got me to agree to a 4 day work week is that I know I can take work home with me such as drawings to review or I can do searches on the internet from home. I will still feel productive even if I am not at work. Can this happen for you? Can you take work home so that at least you can do your treatments and vest and all while reviewing case work? I don't have a clue what is involved in a lawyer's job, except the courtroom stuff, so I could be blowing smoke for all I know!!!!

    Well I will leave you now that I have written a HUGE novel for you!!!

    Lots of love and hugs my friend!!!


  2. I hear ya, girl. You are definitely allowed to vent and to feel frustrated for not being "normal." I think that you are amazing in doing all that you do - working full time (more than full time?), keeping up with your treatments, exercising, having a new puppy around. :)

    It isn't fair. You should be able to have a job you can emmerse yourself in if that is what you want to do.

    But I wanted to say a couple of things.

    First of all, I think it's possible for all of us to live within our means much more than we think (not monetary means, but health wise.) It just takes some creativity. I know it's possible for you to be happy with your job and still have enough time to take care of yourself. Maybe that means cutting back (I doubt your co-workers would resent you if they know why) or finding something that would be a better fit for you.

    Secondly, maybe your having to slow down a little with work at times isn't necessarily a bad thing. Our world is so go-go-go and most of the important things in life happen only when we slow down.

    And lastly, the more you are able to pace yourself now, the longer you will be able to be around later to work - that is something I'm sure your co-workers will appreciate.

    Take care,

  3. I am sorry Piper! I obviously don't have CF, but I do know how hard it is to focus on taking care of yourself when you have pressure at work. And I know that attorney drive thing :) Taking care of yourself is going to be better for you in the long run though. I hope that you can find a good balance!

  4. I'm sorry you are going through this. I know how you feel. Even after transplant, i've had issues that have prevented me from working full-time. I've adjusted, but it's hard to explain to other people (not that I care what they think) that I don't work full time, or have kids. Keep your head up!

  5. I can really relate. I'm trying desperately to not let depression overwhelm me right now. I've been sick since May, I just wanna get stable again. I hate the couch at this point and feel like a prisoner in this house. I wish my non- sick friends understood, alot of em don't.

    Thankfully you have a puppy! :)