OK, I've posted a lot in the past few months about how happy I am in my life. I've also not posted a fair bit because my life has been so rich and full that blogging has simply taken a back seat. So, I guess it's time for one of those soul-searching (baring?) posts. Warning, this is a long (-winded) post.
First, some basic facts.
I have to go to work after law school. That may not seem like such a remarkable statement, but I felt it was worth clarifying. At one point in my not-too-distant past I thought that I might not need to. But, divorce, law school and other factors have contributed to my present need for an income.
As it turns out, my girl is very tired of her job and is ready to do something else. She can afford to do this because she's been very careful and conscientious in her life with respect to spending and saving. She owns her own home -- a lovely home -- and is debt-free. I don't want to say more than that, because I think it borders on violating her privacy. But, it's important to understand that to get to what I'm trying (badly) to say in this post.
The dilemma, then, is where do I go to work? As I reported earlier, I was awarded the Perry Watkins fellowship, so that I am constrained to work for an organization advocating for LGBT rights. That, in and of itself, is not much of a constraint on me; it's what I want to do. But, there are no such organizations in Michigan -- at least none with legal staff. I've contacted several other organizations, mostly national but a couple state-wide or regional in nature.
This past week I've received two offers. One was from a statewide organization in Michigan that has no current legal staff. The ED of that organization believes that, with my combination of business experience and legal training that I would be ideal to help establish a legal services arm for his organization. I would work with their outside counsel as a legal supervisor for the summer. This could be powerfully fulfilling in that I would be helping individual people with real problems on a daily basis. Plus (and more importantly in my own mind) I could help move this organization into becoming a force in the judicial process as opposed to being exclusively focused on the legislative process. If I do my job well during the summer, I could probably write myself into a significant role after graduation.
The other offer I got was from a national organization, based in D.C. This organization is well-respected and well-connected, albeit single issue focused and relatively small in staff. It has full-time lawyers and is involved in impact litigation, legal aid, and policy/legislation advocacy. The opportunity to get some real legal experience in this organization is far superior to the MI based firm. Add to that the real networking opportunities it presents and it is, hands-down, the logical solution for a summer job.
So, what's the problem -- and how does this tie to "gender training"?
The problem is two-fold. First, of course, the DC job is in, well, DC. Which means it is NOT here. Although we initially discussed the possibility of the Girl moving with me (remember she won't be working) for the summer, last night it finally hit her what all that entails. Most problematic is the fact that we have 3 cats and a dog that is senile. No apartment in the country will accept us with that menagerie. This is not a small problem. These pets are her kids and she loves them desperately (indeed, it's not a far stretch to imagine that Lady, the 15 year old Cocker Spaniel, might not live through the summer. Can you imagine how horrible she'd feel (we'd both feel) if we weren't there?). So, if I take the DC job, we will have to live apart for 3 months, commuting on weekends. I suppose that, in the scheme of things, that's not such a terrible sacrifice. But, you know, I just really don't want to do that. Still, I do think the experience would be better there than it would be here -- and would be translatable to other things, including doing the initial work here after I graduate.
Still, that's not the biggest problem. The biggest problem lies in the question of what do I do after graduation? The Girl really is content here. She loves her house and now that she's found love and companionship again there is nothing (aside from a fulfilling job) that she needs or wants. She doesn't want to leave. The cost of living here is low compared to most parts of the country, we live on 3 acres of land where we can enjoy wildlife year-round -- deer, raccoons, birds, etc. and garden in the spring and summer. But -- and I completely get that this is my issue -- I don't feel like this is my home. This is the home that she bought with Carolyn, it is the home where Carolyn died and so much of her stuff is still everywhere, her presence is still tangible. I still feel somewhat like an interloper.
Plus, I feel as if I've contributed nothing to US. That's where the gender training comes in. When I was young and newly married, I found it difficult to understand why my wife felt like she contributed nothing to our life together (Please understand that I get that "nothing" is a gross over-exaggeration; it completely belies the emotional and psychic contributions that are the very foundation of a relationship). She felt that I contributed everything. I was the "bread-winner". I was responsible for providing whatever was necessary to sustain life, in a physical sense. I bought the house, I bought the cars, I bought the food and the clothes and paid for the girls' activities and education. And, although I understood the importance of those things (indeed the necessity of them) I did not understand why she didn't see that I thought her contribution was equal to, or even more than, my own. What I provided, I argued, was just "stuff". She was the glue that held us together, that shaped our family into all the good that it was.
Now, suddenly, I feel as if the roles are reversed. And, for the first time I have complete empathy with my ex's concerns. I didn't help to pay for this house; how can it be "ours"? When we go to Valentine's Day dinner, she pays. When I protest, she says that it's "us paying" as its "our money". That cannot be. I contributed nothing to that.
So, going to work is important to me to feel as if I've made a contribution to us. But, it's also important to me that she be happy. She is happy in this house. Can I get there? Maybe it's just a matter of time. Can I work somewhere where I can commute from here? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that I have to make a decision -- at least with respect to this summer's employment -- this week.