August 13th, 2014
I woke up late. After the last two days, it was a relief not to be suiting up or rushing to the airport. Morning had drifted into the early afternoon before I had showered and dressed. As relaxing as it had been to laze about, there was an undercurrent of anxiety running through me. Today was call day for the 2015-2016 Toronto articling recruit. I had obviously been through a few call days already, but it never stopped being thoroughly nervewracking. Like previous articling/summer job call days, conventional wisdom dictated that an offer of employment would be made at 4 PM, or very shortly thereafter.
By 2 PM, I had sent a thank-you e-mail to every employee of a firm that I could recall meeting during the last two days. It was difficult to avoid ruminating on my chances. It was even harder not to constantly watch the clock. I was living at home with my family at the time and they all knew what time the calls were supposed to start. As much as I value the love and support that I have always received from my family, having them know the outcome of my interviews at the same time I would just added to the considerable sense of pressure that I was experiencing from this entire ordeal.
3:45 PM arrived and I shut my laptop, checked my phone for reception and headed upstairs. I wordlessly passed both of my parents in the kitchen and headed to the upper level of my house. I figured that, if I heard nothing from any of the firms, a suicide attempt might have a marginally greater chance of succeeding if I flung myself from the second storey of a house instead of from the first. In all seriousness, I just wanted to be alone when 4 PM came. I picked our TV Room to be my fortress of articling solitude. Shutting the door behind me, I sank into the sectional couch and checked my watch again. Ten more minutes.
Those ten minutes were an odd mix of hope, self-loathing, anxiety and mild resignation. It was impossible not to mentally revisit all of my interviews in detail and wonder what I could have or should have done differently. I also re-ranked (for probably the 97th time) the firms in terms of where I wanted to work, what I thought my chances were and how I would handle multiple offers. It’s funny, right? After all of this, I still devoted some thought to the prospect of landing more than one offer. Even after all of the failure and my total lack of any offers up until that point, there was still some nagging feeling inside me that prompted me to consider strategies for having to choose between firms.
The last minute ticked away with a mundane sense of finality. The whole house seemed suddenly and eerily silent. The clock struck 4 PM. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Tick, tick, tick, tick. I shut my eyes and envisioned working downtown, going to court, meeting new friends and colleagues and finally being able to tell my friends and family that I had landed a job in the heart of Toronto. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Patio nights with friends after the sun went down, passing the bar and getting called, being hired back. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Buying a condo, meeting someone, building a life, being a success. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
Very rarely does anyone get exactly what they want out of life exactly when they want it. After reading all of this, I truly wish I that could tell you that this time would be different. If nothing else, it would finally make for some type of tonal shift in these memoirs. But, the articling search was a long, twisted road. I had not come close to reaching the end of it by August 13th. I cannot recall exactly when I broke my self-imposed exile and took the walk of shame down to the main floor of my house. It was probably no later than 4:30 PM. As I descended the stairs, I heard my parents’ voices lower to a hush. I took a quick, deep breath and composed a calm-looking outward veneer before walking into the kitchen to tell them the news.
They were lovely about it, as they always have been. Mom told me that it sucked, Dad said that I would find something eventually. Both maintained that I had nothing to be ashamed about. I nodded mutely and pretended to agree with everything they were saying. Inwardly, I felt nothing but a dull sense of disappointment. I knew there would be other opportunities, but having struck out in this, particular branch of the process felt like a death knell. I had failed to secure articles in time for my third year of law school to begin. Furthermore, I had not been able to snag an offer in Toronto through a process that was supposed to facilitate the easiest access to jobs. As if the process had not been arduous enough before, I realized that I now had to go hunting for job postings in a city where most positions had just been spoken for. It would only get harder from here.
Keeping away from social media for a while was my goal, but, for anyone that knows me, such an aspiration was a joke. In failing to stay away, I subjected myself to that exquisite torture of reading about many of my colleauges landing jobs. The fact that these bright, deserving applicants had achieved success initially brought me nothing but jealousy and bitterness. I am not proud of that reaction, but I suppose it is just human nature. It’s important, I think, to be patient with yourself during the beginning of an unpleasant or jarring event. As such, I tried to tell myself that I was actually happy for my fellow applicants and that this jealous fit would pass with time.
Pass it did, but not overnight. As soon as I was sure that Toronto call day was a failure, I messaged a friend who lived downtown. I didn’t tell her what was going on or why that day was shitty for me. I just asked if she wanted to hang out and watch movies. She was good enough to oblige, so I left the house and went downtown. The rest of the night was spent eating ice cream and getting lost in horror movie gore. It was oddly therapeutic.
Despite all of the foregoing, there remained a small, sliver of hope. Call Day for Vancouver (and for the job I had interviewed for with ICBC) was not until the next day. I will spare you the suspense: I did not get that job, either. With that said, the interviewer from ICBC was good enough to e-mail me, inform me that I was not successful, and encourage me to keep plugging for jobs wherever I could. The firms in Toronto, by contrast, were utterly silent. I never received a single response to any thank you e-mail that I had sent, nor did I ever receive any kind of “thanks but no thanks” correspondence following my macabre call day experience.
Not that I am some kind of special snowflake that feels he deserves special treatment, but I found the complete silence from my prospective employers off-putting. It reinforced the unfortunate analogy that I have tended to draw between the interviewing process and the leading on that goes on in shitty romantic situations. I think a simple e-mail to unsuccessful interview applicants would go a long way in maintaining positive relationships and ensuring continued interest in a firm or practice area.
As shitty and depressing as all of this was, failure has tended to temper me. I bounced back and did not hold onto depression or inadequacy nearly as much as I had earlier in this process. I more or less enjoyed the last few weeks of the summer. My friends were supportive and down-to-earth about the whole situation and we even started making self-deprecating jokes about the whole thing. They’d ask me how soon after graduating with my law degree could I work at a grocery store again (my first ever job) and the like. It really goes to show how much growth and maturity can spring from what seems like a poor outcome. I would not go so far as claiming that these repeated misses were actually successes in disguise, but they did have certain intangible benefits.
Before much longer, I was off to the west coast again for my last year of law school. My previous year had ended in pain, bitterness and a desperate urge to escape. I was still a little hesitant about going back, particularly with so many of my colleagues already having landed articling gigs. Regardless, I figured that I was in a better place than I had been at the end of second year. At worst, I told myself, I would just put my head down, keep to myself and get through the next eight months relatively unscathed. I was prepared for such an ending to my law school career, as disappointing as it may be. The reality would turn out to be quite a bit different.