“As a woman who has made her own way in the world,” the comment began on a prior post. The implication is that I am not a woman “who has made her own way in the world”. In fact, that could not be farther from the truth. I was raised by a mother who worked my entire life – first as a teacher, then as a psychologist and then as a lawyer. She and my father instilled in me a strong sense that I needed to “make my own way in the world” and not be dependent upon a man for my financial well-being. Forget being dependent on them: in 1990, when I graduated from NYU School of Law, I was essentially “cut off”, not in an effort on their part to be mean or petty, but in a bid to teach me to “make my own way”. So, I needed to buy furniture for my new grown-up rental studio apartment? I had to take out a line of credit. I wanted to go on vacation? I had to keep it within the continental U.S., or I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Thinking back now, I realize that it wasn’t upon my graduation that I was booted ass-first into the world. It was a year ealier, when I was called upon to pay for a significant portion of my own legal education with student loans. I paid those back to the government within four years after graduating from law school (big bonuses were paid to baby lawyers in those days).
I practiced corporate law in major international law firms (and one major life insurance company) for nearly 12 years (1990 to 2002). I represented large investment banks, smaller investment funds, entertainment companies, as well as individuals. My legal research on Intellectual Property Rights in Art Installations was published in two different legal publications in three installments. I was quoted in Art in America as an expert on the topic. For the first seven or so years of our marriage, I made more money than The Husband. We were able to puchase our first piece of real estate shortly upon marrying thanks to my successes, although he was well on his way.
In 1999, I became a trailblazer at my law firm – the first woman to work part time as an attorney and still be considered a full-benefits, salaried employee. I negotiated the deal on my own terms and was abe to do so because I had a track record of solid smarts and work ethic. By the end of my stay at that law firm, I was making well into the six figures and working roughly 30 hours per week. I also had the foresight to do some financial planning and investing, including purchasing a disability policy that enabled me to take significant time off when I was ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36.
I have a husband who would have rather liked having a housewife that home, who would have liked to have seen me dress in slacks and tops with ballet flats and lunch with “the girls” at the Atlantic Grill and Mezzaluna (Third Avenue Girls Who Lunch staples). But he got me instead. And he grew comfortable with the situation. He hasn’t been very happy about the way things have turned out in the years since 2003, when I quit the law, officially, forever, and threw out every legal book, every deal toy I ever was given from a client, and every bound volume that bore my name, had a moving company remove them from my office on Third and Fifty-third and place them on the curb for pickup by New York City Sanitation.
But this is what S.A.T. scores in the 1300’s, serious studying in college (I graduated from a top University in the top 10 percent of my class, Phi Beta Kappa and with High Honors), going to a top 10 law school, securing a big-firm law job upon graduation and sticking with the program for more than a decade will do for you. It enables a woman to make her own way in the world until she decides it’s time to take some leisure time afer two children, a life-threatening illness and its debilitating treatment.
Yeah, I am rather leisurely now. But it wasn’t always that way: I front-loaded the hard work.
I’m not a woman who never had to make her way in the world. No. Rather, I’m a front-loader. And now, I’m enjoying just hanging out, the summer sun shining upon me as the warm breezes keep me aloft.