The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Burned-out lawyer resigns, but second-guessers won’t quit

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I recently resigned from my position as a partner at a law firm. I killed myself to make partner, but once I made it I began to realize it just wasn’t worth it. I’m so burned out that I’m not even looking for another position. I want to take the next six months or so to recover.

My husband is ecstatic about my decision since he's seen what this job has been doing to me, but everyone else is questioning my decision — even when I have made it clear their input is unwanted and unwelcome.

I need a break and frankly we can more than afford it. I have three years salary banked, and that’s in addition to our joint saving and investments. I’ve told people this, but they don’t let up.

I don’t know how to respond without shoving my bank account in their faces or being way too personal with people I’m not comfortable sharing things with. They’re making me feel like a complete failure when I say I’m simply taking time off. How best to answer these people?

— Happy to Drop Out

Happy to Drop Out: With questions. “Why are you more worried about this than I am?”

Meaning, stop explaining yourself — it's not your responsibility to justify yourself to others — and instead turn the questions back on the questioners. “Why do you ask?” “You're questioning me about my own career. What's that about?”

If they give you actual answers, then note your question was rhetorical.

As for the “making me feel” issue: No. That's not how it works. They can “make” you want to run screaming from their nosy entitlement, but they can't introduce feelings that aren't credible to you.

So, you have your own grain of doubt somewhere, yes? The interrogations won't let you ignore it? Nothing wrong with that — most decisions are more complicated than we give them credit for, even small ones — but it does mean you might not feel better until you look straight at that grain for what it is. Own it, and other people's comments will lose a lot of their power to unsettle you.

Good for you, by the way. It's hard to walk from something we've built a life around — hard to admit it wasn't working, hard to act on that admission, hard to flip a work-centric culture the bird.

Dear Carolyn: I know at least four people who have published books on Amazon. All have asked me to please leave a review. Three of the books were good (one was great), but one was a slog. Three would have benefited from being trimmed to half their length. I can find something honest and positive to say, but what do I do about star ratings? They’re pretty black-and-white. I won’t lie, so should I decline to leave a review at all? So far I’ve just put it off, but I’ll be asked again.

— Honest

Honest: People are asking you, to your face, more than once, to review their books?

That's not cool.

If you're being asked at arm's length, by email or social-media blast, then just ignore the requests when you're in a two-star kind of mood. That's easy.

If you’re being put on the spot, then go sympathetically noncommittal — "Such a raw deal, that authors have to do their own marketing. I’m swamped, but I’ll try.”