Every few minutes someone would pass my desk and give me a "why the hell are you still here?" look that was part astonishment and part pity. I was feeling a fair amount of both.
It was my last day at work.
Two weeks before I had accepted an offer from a law firm and promptly given notice, relishing the prospect of ten low-stakes days of coming in late, leaving early and two hour lunches.
But reality was far less glamorous.
I got the job I would be leaving seventeen months after I graduated from law school, and I graduated from law school two months after the Bear Stearns collapse and four months before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Not a good time to be a new lawyer in New York City if you aspire to more than doc review.
A big investment bank was starting a private wealth management group, and I would be a lawyer on the trusts & estates side. It was the job I had been waiting for, with only one catch. Since the group was new, they couldn't hire both a junior lawyer and a secretary, so for awhile at least, I would have to be both.
I was grateful for the job, and didn't ask a lot of questions about how long this dual role would last. I just jumped into the position, eager to finally be a lawyer.
Only I wasn't.
What legal work there was was handled by my boss while she lectured me how to answer the phone, file to her satisfaction, and properly format the agenda for our weekly meeting.
Every now and then I would do some legal research, but the bulk of my time was spent as a secretary and I was too busy worrying about the legal job market to stand up for myself and ask to do the work I had been trained to do.
The months dragged on. Every time my boss dropped a business card on my desk to add to her contacts I fantasized about throwing it in her face. Every time the phone rang I considered not picking it up, something I had been warned never to do.
So when the law firm came calling, I jumped at the opportunity.
After I gave notice I was handed a list a mile long of everything I had to finish before I left. So instead of spending my last two weeks shopping and lunching, I spent it writing a manual for my successor on how to do this legal job that contained virtually no legal work.
Which was how I found myself sitting in front of my computer at 4pm on my last day, instead of having drinks to celebrate my fancy new job.
I shifted in my chair and began the final section of the manual. As I typed the words "booking a flight," the stupidity of one lawyer instructing another how to properly book a flight for a third hit me.
I was done.
I shut down my computer for the last time, and headed for the door, leaving the manual unfinished.
I had a career to start.