Are You “Living the Dream”?
A visit to the courthouse to appear as a witness in a motor vehicle accident allowed me to unavoidably eavesdrop on a friendly exchange between a Highway Patrolman and an attorney. I was sitting on a bench in the hallway, waiting to be excused to leave. The State Trooper was standing at the end of the bench. An attorney whom I recognized from his regular television ads came by; he was looking for someone else. He recognized the State Trooper and stopped to speak. Here’s the gist of their brief conversation as they shook hands:
Attorney: “Hi, how you doing?”
State Trooper: “Living the dream, man. Living the dream.”
Attorney: “Me too. It’s great, isn’t it?”
They were all smiles.
Earlier, as I was waiting for the bench trial to begin, sitting in the same hallway, I observed court and legal employees walking back and forth, entering courtrooms, calling in witnesses, attorneys visiting with clients. There was one attorney who came through with his highly-styled entourage. He wasn’t a big man but he had a giant persona. Close to middle age (I can’t tell age very well), he was a dandy: slicked back, wavy dark collar-length hair, exquisite dark suit, slip on shoes with the little fringe flap on the front, and bright red socks. He exuded confidence and certainty about what he was doing. I have no idea who he was or what type of case he was involved with, but he reminded me of the super-powerful lawyers you might see in the movies. He appeared to be living his dream with great success.
This all brought back to mind, a defining moment in my work life established in a law class while studying to be a paralegal. I was working full-time as a legal secretary and going to school at night under the paralegal program. My boss (a prominent attorney) was paying for it, and because he loved the law so much, and because he was paying for it, I felt obliged to pursue the paralegal program with the hopes that my income would increase with the degree.
The defining moment came one night while sitting in a first semester law class. I don’t remember exactly what the class was, possibly Legal Logic or Theory or something. The instructor was a good-looking, hot-shot young attorney, full of fire and brimstone, probably less than five years out of graduation from law school. He exuded lawful pride and I’m sure he was very successful. But he said something in the discourse of his lecture that I will never forget. In referencing the process of interviewing witnesses, he said:
“It’s your job to get them.”
I felt a blow to my midsection, a cringing, echoing, hollow sound ringing inside me that said:
“Oh, no, it’s not!”
In that exact moment, I knew law was not to be my career. It would not be my job to “get” anyone. The young attorney had explained that, when questioning or getting information from the opposing witness, “getting them” meant to confuse and frustrate them to such an extent that they muddled their testimony and become un-credible as a witnesses.
What does this have to do with “Living the Dream”?
The conversation between the State Trooper and attorney, with their reference to “Living the Dream” in their respective fields, reminded me that every person’s dream is different. To me, their way of living the dream – as a State Trooper and a lawyer – is not a lifestyle I would want to pursue personally. The dandy-attorney didn’t appear to be someone I would want to be around regularly; maybe he was a swell guy, but the vibe I got in observing him from down the hall was a façade. As for the paralegal college degree, I finished the program and got the degree, but from the first semester, from that one statement made by a young man who was in the moment of living his dream, I knew it was not for me. The conviction of “that’s not my job, not what I want to do for a living” equated to “that’s not my dream.”
What made that experience more significant was that even in getting a degree, I was not following my own dream, but that of my attorney-boss. I let his love of law influence a decision that would affect the rest of my life. If I had chosen my ideal course of study, it would have been Psychology or English, but I didn’t want to be an English teacher and the consensus regarding Psychology for several years had been that there would be no jobs. I needed (or thought I needed) something that would guarantee an immediate income.
“Living the Dream” means different things to different people. What’s ideal for one person may be of no interest to another. We should strive to respect and accept people for their choices, without judgment. When we are “Living the Dream” that’s meant for us, we will have a sense of devotion that is not forced. We will look forward to going to work or performing our service to others. Challenges will come and go and we will feel confident and determined to overcome them.
I encourage you to live your own dream. When you let your heart guide you, you will always make the right choices.