I read an article in the Texas Lawyer yesterday:
The Graying Tsunami: As Baby Boom Lawyers Reach 65, More Choose to Work Into the Sunset
“In the past 10 years, the state’s over-65 lawyer population has grown from 8 to 15 percent. In contrast, in the 10 years before this boom, the over-65 lawyer population grew from 7 to 8 percent.”
“People drawn to the practice of law tend to be overachievers who like to be in control and have always been driven to succeed . . . . They’re not attracted to the prospect of getting a gold watch and then spending the days playing golf or tennis . . . .”
How sad is that? These lawyers have been practicing law for forty years so presumably they have plenty of cash. And yet they can’t walk away. I expect it’s because they don’t know what to do with themselves if not achieving some outwardly meaningful goal.
Case in point. I spent some time trapped in a car with the partner for whom I work a couple of weeks ago. Somehow we landed on the issue of retirement. He confessed, at 61, he doesn’t have much desire to retire. What would he do to fill the time? I said, “Are you kidding me? I can think of a dozen things I enjoy doing other than working. I would have no trouble at all filling the days.” He seemed a bit despondent for the remainder of the drive. (Maybe that’s because he realized I’d be retiring before him, and he’d have to find another junior lawyer to make money off of.)
I think a lot of lawyers end up in law school due to this same mindset. They want, need, to achieve big things. They need to always be chasing some goal. Goal accomplished? Now what? On to the next. And the next. And on and on it goes. What they don’t understand is that the sort of riches that fill the empty spaces aren’t gotten this way.
For most of my life I’ve been an overachiever. Driven to do more. Be more. Have more. This feeling settled in early. I went to a shrink for the first time when I was fifteen. I told him I felt I hadn’t accomplished much in my life. I thought I should be doing more. When he pressed me about what more I thought I should be doing (I was, after all, fifteen and in high school), I admitted I didn’t know. I may have quoted Tom Petty:
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life
He sent me back to my mother in the waiting room with a couple of prescriptions for antidepressants. That was in 1978 before antidepressants were in vogue. It seems my ennui made an impression.
I’d spend the next thirty-five years trying to get somewhere else.
Now, finally, I realize all I truly want is to just be.
Here are a few photographs of how I intend to spend my retirement years.