Next month, I start a new job that I’m beyond excited about. There’s a greater point I want to make but, as many of you come here because you love movies, I’m going to pimp this new job for a hot second. As of the new year, I’ll be part of the team over at Atom Tickets, a company focused on making the process of getting to and going to the movies a simpler and more pleasurable experience. The app itself has a beautiful interface, kicking Fandango’s garbage 2004 look to the curb. But it also allows you to pre-order concessions at many theaters and will be offering a variety of unique merchandising opportunities. There is a great social element that makes it easy to arrange to go the movies with your friends and, hopefully, you’ll eventually even get discounts for going with a group (they also hope to offer you discounted tickets on theater down-times). There are a lot of other things in the pipeline and I hope you’ll all go download the app and check it out. (App Store link here, and Google Play link here.)
OK, with the self-promotion out of the way, I’m getting to Atom Tickets by leaving a corporate law firm job I’ve had for nine years. For most of my time at this firm I was a part of my office’s recruiting committee, actively involved in the process of finding, wooing and hiring new associates. It was one of my favorite things about the job and I was really good at it. Over the years, I also tried to be a good mentor to the younger associates in my group, and I think I was decent enough at that when my gnarly Philly personality wasn’t getting in the way. I was similarly involved in recruiting and advising for my college honors program, but why did I care so much about helping the students behind me and a program that I would soon no longer be a part of? And at this law firm, why did I care about the younger associates, even when I knew for a number of years that I would eventually be leaving this place once I could figure out where I wanted to go?
It’s because these are places that I enjoyed being a part of and because I was thankful for what they gave me. That college honors program taught me about life. It’s where I learned that of course I’m a feminist. It’s where I learned to come to a proper peace with my mother’s death of almost a decade before. And it’s where I learned to appreciate both rationality and spirituality from professors (who would eventually become dear friends) with seemingly diametrically opposed PhDs in religious studies and astrophysics. That time is what made me into an actual person, as opposed to a hormone-driven idiot (although the jury is still out on how much of an idiot I still am), and it started me down a lifelong path of inquiry and growth.
My time at this firm may not have been as foundational, but it did make me into a Professional. I learned patience (mostly). I learned how to build and manage teams, how to gain the trust of and return trust to those teams. And I learned how to be a god damned good lawyer. But it was also a surprisingly fun place to work. Working at a corporate law firm is a grind. I always told recruits that most of my complaints about this firm weren’t about this firm, but are inherent in the structure of big corporate law firms. And unlike at a lot of firms, this Los Angeles office was full of great people. The kind of people who would come together for an amazing Halloween costume like this, allowing me to play the role of Pinkie (full name: Pinkamena) Pie:
Which brings me back to why I care about recruiting and mentoring. It’s because when I’m someplace that I enjoy, someplace that gives me so much, I want to help by giving back, by building up those who will follow behind me. I’ve always thought it was simply about ensuring that the environment remained what I loved about the place. But as I went around my office to let folks know I was leaving, I was struck by a sentiment told to me by several of the younger associates, along the lines of, “You’re the reason I came here,” “I specifically remember interviewing with you,” “you’ve been a great teacher” or, as one friend put it in a way that cuts right to the chase, “because of the people you helped bring here and how you train us, you’re really leaving a mark.” This all touched me more than I thought it might, what with my black heart, and I realized what was really at play here.
There are jobs where the work is its own reward. Through my pro bono work, I had a taste of that at this firm. But most of my corporate law practice was not truly rewarding, which is why I’ve known for some time that I’d eventually leave the firm. But without quite realizing what I was doing, I was finding much of my reward by creating this sort of legacy, helping to build and grow the associate ranks behind me. I’ll leave this office and soon be forgotten by most, but there is this weird piece that will live on because of my small contribution in helping to build things. And man does that feel rewarding.
As many of us have been trying to figure our heads out in this miserable new political landscape of ours, I recently wrote a little about my conflicted feelings over taking this new job rather than throwing myself, whole commitment, into the important efforts that will be focused on the 2018 state elections. And I realize now that that, too, was as much about legacy than anything else and what I want to impact and leave behind. So as I now look ahead to my new job, I wonder how and what my legacy there may be. I certainly don’t know yet, but I find myself thinking about what Ray Bradbury wrote in Fahrenheit 451:
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.
Here’s hoping I can continue to find a way to be a gardener.