Journeyman Journalist, 1979: Passing by the bar

Reading Time: 2 minutes
A colorful sunset ends July 19, 2023, in North Hero, Vermont. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

In the year after I took a leave of absence from law school to start exploring other careers, I rarely looked back. But one fall day in 1979 I couldn’t help it. My “hometown honey,” who had guided me through applying to law school in the first place, had passed the bar. Should I go back to school and follow suit?

Barbara Jean … is a lawyer, having passed the Bar Examination of the State of Connecticut. I have been toasting her with cognac-[and]-maple syrup (not nearly as bad as it sounds; the syrup takes the edge off the bad cognac) since her phone call this evening.

This event, or announcement, calls for some introspection, although I’ll be damned if I have anything insightful to say. Which is itself indicative; I don’t believe I have the necessary devotion, interest, motivation, or drive to continue my legal studies at this time. The fact may well be that I have subconsciously decided not to return to the law.

The fact, at this moment, is that I am very happy — very happy — doing what I’m doing. Certainly, there are aspects of work that are disturbing, but on the whole I’m enjoying myself, establishing a local reputation, drawing out trust, confidences, and indeed contacts, surviving with a regular income, and devoting time to my creative efforts. Certainly I applaud, toast, even envy — sort of — Barb’s success. But the most important thing for me is I’M NOT JEALOUS! I’M NOT ENVIOUS! I’M NOT MOTIVATED TO GO OUT AND DO IT, TOO!

This represents not only a significant maturity of my own emotions — always driving to achieve, to be as good as, if not better — but also a significant understanding of my own emotions — and motivations.

Journal, Volume II
28 September 1979

Howard, a tip based on communications etiquette some four decades hence: If you want to emphasize the significant maturity of your own emotions, DON’T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!

All-caps is the 21st century equivalent of shouting. If you want to understand your own emotions and motivations, do it quietly, in the privacy of your own journal.

To rave in ALL-CAPS about not feeling something is, in essence, an admission that you are feeling exactly that. Admit it, you were a tiny bit jealous of an opportunity you knew you were throwing away.

But the truth is, you were indeed happy. All the things you list in that paragraph were things you wrote in your career workbook that you wanted. Things that you wouldn’t have had if you continued on to a legal career. Still, they came at a price: the price of keeping up with your friends.

Two other points: Cognac and maple syrup does sound awfuld, but it’s not unheard of. Hennessy offers a recipe for 1 part Hennessy Black, 1/4 part maple syrup, and soda water. You took it straight, about 50-50 cognac and syrup. Yeesh.

And remember, it’s important to get names right, especially if you’re going to use them in the future. The newly minted lawyer’s middle name was spelled Jeanne. It still is, on the marriage certificate you share.

What do you think? Let me know here. Comments are moderated, and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.