Whew. I just learned something about a colleague and friend, and then talked to him about it. My heart now aches.
My friend is a young man, a paralegal, law student, husband and father. Most of our talks had been about lawyering--the techniques he was learning, books on the law, the challenge of the logical argument and jury persuasion. His enthusiasm for the law was palpable. His eyes sparked with intensity when he talked about being a trial lawyer. Not just any kind of lawyer, a trial lawyer. I don't really know why he talked to me, except that I try cases, and I listened. I was happy for his enthusiasm, his passion for the law (which so many lawyers lose.) He was excited that he was about to join "us," the members of this small and civil bar, here in this close-knit jurisdiction. I was happy for him, and I knew he'd fit right in.
Today, by chance, I brought in a book I though he might be able to use for bar prep, and eMailed him to stop by. I hadn't spoken to him for a few weeks, but I thought it was just vacation schedules, end of his semester at school, etc. I learned that next week he will be moving back to his wife's home town and her parents' home, more than half way across the country, due to her severe medical problems. He's decided to leave his friends and employment here so his new, small family can survive with help from in-laws in another state. He'll have to look for another job in this over-stressed economy, in a place which isn't exactly booming. All of his former plans were crushed, and he was no longer light and enthusiastic. His sadness and disappointment were barely below the surface, and the spark of enthusiasm was gone.
We talked a little about his plans, and how he and his wife were going to manage. I encouraged him as best I could, while not parting from reality. But more importantly, I needed to find out if that spark was gone. Could it just be extinguished by a harsh blow of reality, changed circumstances, dashed dreams? We talked a bit about what he wanted to do as a lawyer--wherever he might be living. Despite all that had happened, the spark was still there. We talked about how good it is to be able to help people, and about the complex competetiveness of the law; the satisfaction and happiness it could bring. Thankfully, his spark was tempered a bit by circumstances, but not out.