Monday, November 5, 2012

The woes of a public defender

I have long had a wish list of things that I would love to improve about my house. Like fixing that cracked wall, rebuilding the stairs and removing the living room carpet, replacing the dishwasher with one that actually washes the dishes. And then there's the whole sloping floor in the kitchen thing, which doesn't seem to be getting any better on its own, but is just part of the charm of owning a home that's over 100 years old. Right?

But now there's something fairly major and important that needs to be fixed. Unlike the foundation that I fixed 4 years ago ($5,000) and the siding/paint job of 3 years ago ($5,000), this job can't just be paid out of pocket 'cause I'm fresh out. Turns out when you write large checks, that money doesn't just magically regenerate in your account. Huh.

And then there's my car, which pretty desperately needs new tires and brakes and quite probably some work on the suspension system as well. Oy. And then there's the student loans and the mortgage and the electricity and heat and water...

Which all leads to the big question: why oh why did I have to be a public defender? Why did I have to be one of the bleeding-heart liberal do-gooder types who puts doing a job she loves ahead of financial security? This trait seems awfully connected to the trait that made me want to buy an ancient house rather than some new construction that wouldn't have so many issues and might even have an HOA to address some of them. Public defenders are naturally pretty anti-authoritarian, so we don't take well to busybody neighbors telling us how short our grass must be or what colors we can put on our homes.

I couldn't have been some civil lawyer who can charge $400 an hour. Or a transactional lawyer or a trust lawyer. Someone who can just take on as many clients as necessary, adding new ones when some big bill comes up. No, I had to take a salaried job as a lowly state employee with no opportunity for raises or bonuses or taking on outside work if money gets tight. Because it's the work I believe in, finances be damned.

If I were the lovably neurotic heroine in a Sophie Kinsella novel (please allow me the courtesy of believing that my neuroses are lovable), I would fit about now have some fabulous meet-cute incident with a ridiculously attractive and remarkably single multi-millionaire. But real life doesn't work like that. So I will continue to be a devoted public defender who can never, ever gain financial security but can't stomach the thought of taking any other kind of job. My house may well fall down around my ears, but at least I will still have my soul.

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