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Being an attorney and then not

Recently I was visiting a grave site at the Mount Hebron Cemetery. I have photographed some historic cemeteries in the past but it was the first time I was in a cemetery on personal business. As I walked through the cemetery, I found myself looking at the age of death, noting that some people had a long life while others died when they were young. It made me think that I should exercise more often and try to eat better.  (No, I am not talking about artisan ice cream versus the cheap stuff.)  

Many of the grave sites were marked with a description of the role that person played in life. Some said "father," others, "husband," "wife," "daughter," or "son." I was surprised when I found a tombstone that indicated the deceased person was a "lawyer," although I was pleased the role of "father" was more predominantly displayed. I wondered who decided that the word should appear on the person's tombstone and, more importantly, why.  

As I face my retirement, I know I have decisions to make. Do I retire and give up all work or do I work part-time? My answer depends on who asks me the question and how I feel on any particular day. One thing I have learned about retirement is that people quite often face a loss of identity. After all, I have described myself as an attorney for well over 40 years now and it has become an essential part of my identity. At least, it is or was essential to me. It's hard to give up that role, even if I have other things I want to do and other identities that describe me.  

For the most part, I have enjoyed being an attorney. I have loved helping people and I know there are other ways to help, but it just feels so odd to no longer tell people I am an attorney. Okay, I will admit my ego is wrapped up in this question but I don't want to be defined by a role. I want to continue to help and care about people but it may not always involving handling an appeal. Sometimes just listening and caring is enough.  

I thought it would be easier to transition to another role in my life, i.e., artist, but it is hard to let go of being an attorney. It's been an honor and a privilege but I have other things I want to do.


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