Thoughts of an ADHD careerist

I’m halfway done with my degrees (IR and History) and starting to look forward rather than reminisce (a little too early for that) about my undergrad years. I’ve gained a lot if leadership experience (most of them de facto), networked, had an amazing internship at a great startup, found my passion, matured… But so what? More of my friends were graduating seniors this year, giving me more than a glimpse of what I needed to see for what I would have to face by the time I am in their shoes.

Yes, panic ensued.

Having recently changed my major from the most practical (Business administration) to the most ambiguous (History) to a potential employer, I had ample reasons to be anxious. Yes, parents, I am aware that Accenture would be more inclined to put their bets on an undergrad who knows her managerial accounting than the French Revolution for their purposes. But then thoughts of going to law school or to grad school trumped my ridiculous ideas. And really, I’m just happier (and better) in the realm of humanities. In addition, I have already established myself as a researcher in organizational behavior and maintain a great relationship with my advisor who is so supportive of me in venturing into my own areas of interest.

Sidenote: I’ve changed mind about my major about ten times so far. Political science, economics, art history, philosophy, anthropology, you name it, I’ve been there. Indecisiveness comes to mind. But it might be less pathetic if you see it from my perspective. The majors I’ve touched on are very similar in material and explore the same world through a different lens. For the first grouping, Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology. I was most drawn to cultural anthropology because for me it was so Nietzschean in its way for explaining the cultures, and personally helped me get through a period which I call “cultural crisis.” I thought it would be important in this age of accelerated globalization. And, I practically fell in love with writings by Malinowski and Durkheim. Similar thing happened in Sociology. Both of the classes helped me articulate what I wanted to express for so long in nice eloquent phrases about how the world operates.  For instance, the cultural theory by Levi-Strauss about mythical structuralism which juxtaposes opposing ideas in order to make sense of a thing leaves me with a feeling of satisfaction of having grasped human behavior to a certain extent. Intellectual and Cultural History was the answer to my ADHD-ness in my polygamy with the disciplines in humanity. While it overlapped a good deal with my IR degree, it covered all the great thinkers/ideas in the social sciences! This is what I call good planning. I’m quite clear about now and 20 years from now (become a Madeline Albright), but what will the gap between now and than entail? Peace corps? Research fellow? Entry level job in Wall St.? Office administrative assistance at the White house? Teaching English at $200 an hour in Asia?

Besides the black hole which awaits me, I’m little bit nervous. My GPA is not as high as I want it to be (almost everyone’s problem), I’m not sure if I’ll get 179 on my LSATs, I don’t have a concrete idea for my research…

And do I want to go to law school or grad school? Should I enter into politics or academia?

With this thought in mind, I had some time to kill and I have an internship in 18 days in the legal field so I decided to take an old LSAT on my own. First ever. I mean, what am I going to do for 2 1/2 hours? It turns out I should not spend that much time on a single logic game, but everything else was pretty decent. Then I stumbled upon this law blog after I finished taking the test. I’ve lost faith in the profession since a law school was sued (imagine that!) for not being able to deliver its advertised 90-95% job placement rate. However, what I read from the Lawyerist, gave me a bit more hope:

How has the sluggish economy during the last three years impacted your law practice?

My consumer law practice suffered during the last three years, but not much. Debt collection problems were on the rise, which meant my intake got steadily more busy. At the same time, the poor economy hurt the collection industry, which meant collectors were more stubborn about settlement, despite a general worsening of the abuses I was seeing. A sharp rise in jury verdicts across the country helped things get going, though.

I also started a business practice representing tech startup companies. Since I started it last year, I don’t have much to compare it to, but 2009 was a record year for new business filings, and we experienced healthy growth.

Of course, my experience may not be the norm, but overall, it seems like solo and small-firm lawyers did okay—at least those that were already in practice before the slowdown. New solos are a different story, which I will touch on later.

The main takeaway was that a) lawyers don’t make a lot of money practicing law, b) only good lawyers can survive nowadays, c) it’s not just lawyers, it’s the economy.

Next idea. Find a university that will grant me a fellowship. I haven’t done much research into this yet since I’m still not sure what I want to study in grad school (Foreign policy, History or East Asian studies?), but asking for money is not easy.

I should probably wrap this up since the ideas presented in this article are pretty much written in a stream-of-consciousness style and may not be useful to you. My parents (both graduates of B-schools) are becoming more and more skeptical of their investment towards their idealistic, intellectually curious and stubborn daughter. What am I to do? I just can’t help myself.

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Summer reading list.

As of 7/14/12

Read so far:

  • The Man Without a face: the unlikely rise of Vladimir Putin, Masha Gassen
  • Reborn, Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963, Susan Sontag
  • Leading Teams, J. Richard Hackman
  • Love’s Body, Norman O. Brown
  • Law in America: A Short History, Lawrence Friedman
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow
  • Phenomenology of spirit, Hegel
  • Ender’s Game (Ender, Book 1), Orson Scott Card
  • Common Sense Economics, James G. Gwartney et al.
  • The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek

Reading:

  • Our Divided Political Heart, E.J. Dionne
  • The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Bleak House, Dickens
  • On Suicide, Durkeim
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost
  • The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot and a guide for the poem by Nacy K. Gish
  • In America, Susan Sontag
  • A failure of capitalism : the crisis of ’08 and the descent into depression, Richard Posner

To read:

  • Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith
  • The Portable Atheist , Christopher Hitchens
  • Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman (re-read)
  • Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
  • The bottom billion : why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it, Paul Collier
  • The Savage Mind, Claude Lévi-Strauss
  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  • Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles, Rushir Sharma
  • The Nine

Recommendations for fiction, and non-fiction (i.e. East Asian and Middle Eastern politics  and the economy, sociology and anthropology) are welcome with open arms!

The reality is this.

The reality is this.

Think back to the how much of your day you’ve spent living in the present. You must discount the hours you’ve spent reading books, concentrated your attention to the news on the radio and stay glued to the TV as well as the time spent reminiscing about your past (via flicking through Facebook photos etc.) and writing in your agenda about the people you’ll meet tomorrow. Critically speaking, no one has the time nowadays to truly live in the present. To live efficiently we meticulously plan and  mull over our past so that we can live to the fullest. Mottos such as YOLO and carpe diem provoke us to think about the quality and the content of our lives. But then we reach the dilemma of spending our lives planning and contemplating to live better tomorrow instead of living by trial-and-error, spontaneously.

It would be fair to compare this dilemma to the stereotype of the Asian tourists taking pictures of their kids in front of Disney World than letting their children go on the rides because they believe that they will have something tangible to reminisce about when the kids grow older. (I’m not suggesting that this is not come from a personal experience at all, ahem.)

With so many choices and so much information available, it’s easy to get stuck in moments of distress like the one I mentioned above. But that’s when you need to take a moment and step back and think about what your purpose was in the beginning.

I hope all this did not sound too much like a “be true to yourself!” bumper sticker.

-A