Poor Me-It is
By Tricia M. Derr
How do lawyers stay motivated, engaged and enthusiastic about our professional lives … or do we? For me, some days are full of passion and vigor. Other days, ho-hum. Sometimes I leave the courthouse feeling proud to be a lawyer. On occasion, I indulge in self-pity, insecurity and fear. I get angry at those who sing the gospel of “work/life balance” or even purport to understand what it means. I feel guilty for missing “Muffins with Mom” (conveniently scheduled at 10 a.m. on a weekday). I suffer from “stress dreams,” where I can’t find the classroom for my final exam or forgot to study for it. “Poor me-itis” settles in and undermines everything I am and everything I do.
During these unfortunate episodes, I remind myself that pessimistic and overwhelming feelings are normal, but grossly exaggerated -- much like sleepless nights in junior high worrying about “mean girls.” The healthy part of “ups and downs” lies in the ability to recognize, rehabilitate and recover. My “poor me-itis” is usually rooted in selfishness tinged with entitlement. Recovery, on the other hand, is pure gratitude.
One way I resurrect gratitude is by considering the challenge and success of others. Stories remind me that no matter how “down” I might be, I have much more to be thankful for. While stories in books are helpful, books just take too long. Besides, I read all day and prefer to relax with mindless activities (Candy Crush comes to mind).
The age of technology delivered a new tool for meaningful inspiration in short intervals with little effort, incorporating the ability to multitask. TED, a nonprofit corporation, is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Through international conventions, TED invites speakers to give the “talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).” These “TED Talks” are posted online free of charge. There are “TED Talks” on just about every topic imaginable. They are touching, inspiring and thought provoking. TED.com replaced the morning news at my house and has become the antidote for “poor me-itis.” Having been a TED fan for a few years, I wanted to share six of my favorites:
#1: Ernesto Sirolli: Want to Help Someone? Shut Up and Listen!
In this talk (my very favorite), Sirolli recounts his experience as an aid worker in Africa in the 1970s and the futility of unilateral problem solving.
#2: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story.
Adichie, a novelist from Nigeria, describes the dangers of stereotypes and the role of an author in creating a character, rather than an impression.
#3: Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud.
Mitra discusses the concept of “School in the Cloud” and describes his “Hole-in-the-Wall” research project. Literally creating a “hole” in the physical boundary of the “untouchable” community in New Delhi, Mitra provided children with an internet accessible “learning” computer. His project documents the incredible ability of children to teach themselves and each other through curiosity, rather than instruction.
#4: Dan Palotta: A new way to judge nonprofits.
Palotta uncovers chilling realities about socioeconomic hurdles to nonprofit success. His insightful speech provides insight to parallel fundraising challenges experienced by our local legal nonprofits, including Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont and the Council for Children’s Rights.
#5: Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave.
Steiner corrects misconceptions about domestic violence victims; explaining that domestic violence is not a “choice” suffered by only those who are too weak to leave.
#6: Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share.
Solomon explains that the “opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality” and describes his long term battle with depression. He highlights the lack of resources available for our indigent population suffering from mental illness.
In 2014, let us all respect “poor me-itis” for what it is – and appreciate the opportunity to regenerate gratuity. Happy New Year to you all!