Sunday, September 28, 2014

Truth and Freedom

Today is a hard day for me: it's the seventh anniversary of the due date I was given when I learned Ben and I had gotten pregnant. On the one hand, I am grateful that there is no permanent bond tethering me to Ben. On the other, I feel the loss of the child that is not here.

For a fleeting moment, I thought of reaching out to Ben because he's the only other person who might remember the significance of this day. This is an old (and bad) habit. I've given into this type of impulse in the past at times when I was not clear on malignant nature of his behavior. From those experiences, I've learned that contacting an abuser in a weak moment is a terrible choice that opens the door to manipulation and invites further abuse.

It was easy to reject the impulse to contact him this year because I have access to truth. Knowing the extent of his lies and betrayal, and recalling that he has also leveraged other women's personal misfortune or tragedy (e.g., divorce or death of a loved one) to start or attempt to start abusive relationships, made the right choice glaringly obvious. On days like this, it is easy to appreciate how fortunate I was to see Emily's text message in June. Pulling on that string unraveled his fabric of lies and provided much needed clarity.

That I ever thought Ben was the only one I had to turn to for consolation about the lost pregnancy, when he was the very person who decided it must end is absurd. It speaks to how much perspective I lost and how isolated I let myself become. I'm working to make sure I never find myself in a comparable position in the future.

Recovering Expat

During the time that I was in Tokyo, I lived in a corporate apartment. The downside was that it was a small studio apartment with sterile decor that never felt like home. The upside was that utilities and housekeeping services were included, and everything (even rent) was direct-billed to the firm.

Now that I'm a recovering expat, I'm adjusting to fending for myself again. It took a decent chunk of time and money to arrange the logistics for my move and to set up services in Austin. Before ordering internet, I remembered to check with Ebates (affiliate link) and got a great cash back deal.

(With the holiday season coming up, I thought it would be worth mentioning Ebates to those of you who do a lot of online shopping. Basically, you visit and then click through to the site where you want to shop. If you make a purchase, you'll receive a percentage of your purchase as cash back in a quarterly payment sent to you by Ebates. I've been using Ebates for more than five years and it's fun to get a check in the mail every once and a while.)

In addition to setting up basic services, I'm back to driving and all that it entails--new driver's license, car registration, maintenance and gas. It's time, money and mental bandwidth that I wasn't spending before. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the return to independence, but I can also appreciate how effectively the firm tailored my life in Tokyo so I had just one thing to worry about: work.

Here's to returning to the real world!

On the issue of setting up services, I'd appreciate some reader input on mobile data usage. I terminated my unlimited data plan with AT&T before moving to Asia and decided to rely solely on my firm-issued Blackberry. In the intervening years, the big firms have started offering bring-your-own-device plans. I'm considering the BYOD option offered by my new firm, but haven't the faintest idea (i) how much data I use personally and (ii) how much data the firm emails will eat up. I will do some more research, but if any of you have opinions about mobile usage or the BYOD option, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Giving Notice

In case you are new to the blog, a little context might help with this post. I am a fourth year big law associate. My relationship with the firm started as a summer associate in 2008 and continued with a second summer associate gig in 2009. I started full-time in San Diego. Since that time, the firm relocated me to LA, sent me on a secondment in Orange County, relocated me to Tokyo, and then sent me on secondment in Tokyo. I've viewed all that moving around as highly disruptive to my professional and personal development. This is why I didn't have to think too long before accepting an offer from another employer.

The funny thing about big law is that you don't really have one boss. As a result, depending on the size of your group and the number of offices that you work with, you might end up having to say "I quit" over and over again. My process went like this:

(For obvious reasons, this is a highly restrained telling of the sequence of events.)

First, I met with the relationship partner for the secondment. This was a contentious conversation. I had assumed that because (i) the secondment is a longstanding and continuous arrangement--with a new associate rotating in each year, and (ii) the work I've been doing did not include any long-term projects, it would not be unduly burdensome if I were to give notice and quit. The partner did not share my view of the situation. I gave him a longer notice period than I had intended, but he was not satisfied.

Second, I spoke with the administrative partner for the office. This would have been the first conversation had I not been out on secondment. No problems here.

Then, I emailed the partners in LA. If I hadn't quit, I would have been returning to LA to work for them beginning in January. These are good guys who gave me a place to work when I needed it the most. Replies included "I'm terribly sorry we couldn't give you a better experience" and "we have the highest regard for you."

Next, I emailed the partners in SD. These guys aren't concerned about my whereabouts, but they were the ones who hired me in the first place so it seemed right to let them know I was leaving. Replies included "thank you for being so gracious about the... relocations" and multiple replies along the lines of "I want to apologize... for not providing... the [expected] work opportunities."

Finally, I met with my GM at the secondment. I wish I could talk about this conversation in more detail, because it was interesting from a Japanese business culture point of view. What I can say, is that:
  • Japanese companies like this one offer "permanent" employment to their employees in exchange for extreme loyalty. At-will employment is strange to them. Quitting is scandalous (for the permanent employees; I've seen many secondees quit during my time at the company).
  • My GM had to submit an application to HR, who then granted permission for me to quit. This was bizarre to me given that I do not have an employment relationship of any kind with the company. The firm has an agreement with them to provide a secondee, but I am not a party to a contract with either the firm or the company.
I struggle with disappointing authority figures so there were some pangs of guilt and sleepless nights after the conversation with the secondment partner, but quitting was the right to do.