Losing the Privilege of Choice

All my life, I have valued education, and so my law degree, and being a lawyer, mean a lot to me. I am very proud of those things–when people ask me what I do for a living, I’m proud to say “I am a civil rights attorney.” Even though, most of what I do each day isn’t being an attorney, it’s being a bureaucrat. It’s shuffling papers and working in a system, not doing Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stuff. But that title, attorney, represents the hard work I did to get it. It represents my intellect and my knowledge too. And I am proud of those things.

And now I am losing that title, because I am leaving my job to become a full time cancer warrior. And I am having the predictable identity crisis about that.

I wrote a while ago about stay-at-home parenting not being a real choice for many women, that often it happens not because women hate their jobs and want to stay home with their kids, but because it’s financially better for them to stay home with the kids than to pay for daycare. The idea that it is a choice based in personal preference is really one for wealthy people, whose incomes are high enough that they can choose to work or not to work. It’s a privilege to have choice. I always had that privilege, and was grateful for it.

Until cancer took it away.

I’d been really burnt out at work before The Cancer happened. It hasn’t been the greatest place to work lately. Don’t get me wrong, it CAN be a great place to work, and I love my coworkers, but lately it’s been a really stressful job. I wasn’t happy at work–I came home frustrated a lot, and dreaded going there when I woke up in the morning. So I suppose leaving my job should be one of those “cancer is a gift” moments where I say “Cancer sucks but it gave me the gift of leaving that job I hated.”

Except, no, cancer is not a fucking gift. It’s a monster that eats the things that define you, even things you didn’t think about being defining until the cancer ate them. Like my eyebrows. And my breast. And my job. And this blog. And my privilege of choice.

I’m coping with this identity crisis by keeping up my law license. I will still be an attorney–just not one who is working. It’s a few hundred dollars a year to keep myself licensed, an unnecessary expense in a time when our family will have to be downsizing, but it’s my way of saying FUCK YOU to cancer–by holding onto one little bit of who I am, and not letting the cancer take it away from me.