I described in my previous post the various classes I have been taking in Q2 – the second three months after quitting BigLaw. Taking miscellaneous classes that amount to no degree or diploma feels decadent. I never did this before: every class I took, even electives, always served to land me onto the next step of the StairMaster of predictable professional life. But these classes, in addition to stretching me beyond my default self, serve an important purpose of establishing a routine that forces me to be up and about.
When choosing my classes, I tried to spread them over as many different days as possible, a big departure from my lawyer days when I squeezed everything back-to-back to the extent possible to avoid any stop-and-go inefficiency. This strategy has been working out, especially during these frigid, ugly winter months. Knowing I have some place to be to do something I enjoy, I can easily cajole myself out of the warm bed surrounded by warm furry bodies even on the coldest of mornings.
For the days I don’t have any class, I have found other activities to help maintain a routine. One activity I started in Q2 was becoming a volunteer dog walker for the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA), a non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to needy seniors in and around New York City. One service is helping seniors with physical of financial difficulties care for their pets. Without JASA’s help, those seniors would likely be forced to surrender their beloved pet companions of many years.
I love animals and have always had a soft spot for the elderly – God willing, we all get old one day – so I take this cause seriously. Every Wednesday, I have been visiting a lovely elderly lady with limited mobility and means, to walk the Shih Tzu that’s been with her for 12 years. (Other JASA volunteers help her on other days of the week.)
I have been so happy to be able to resume my dog walking duties. While in London a few years ago, I was a volunteer dog walker for The Cinnamon Trust, a charity helping the elderly and their pets. Every weekend, I walked a champion-racer-turned-brood-bitch-turned-abandoned-greyhound that was luckily rescued by Jeanne, a near-blind elderly lady with a heart of gold not far from our apartment. Bonding with this gentle dog while keeping Jeanne company was fulfilling. When we moved back to New York, I passed on the torch (without much convincing) to a work colleague. I still get updates on both of them.
After returning to New York, I was eager to find a similar volunteer opportunity. To my surprise, none of the animal-focused non-profit organizations in the City provided this kind of service for the elderly. Then work got busy and my good intent fell to the wayside. When I was deciding to quit law, I seriously thought about starting my own non-profit in this area. One day, I was looking through Simpson Thacher’s alumni database and came across Jane Hoffman, the President of The Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, a non-profit, public-private partnership between the City of New York and over 160 local animal rescue groups and shelters, all working together to help solve animal care and control issues in the City. An ex-STB lawyer with a passion for animals?! I had to meet Jane.
I reached out to Jane a few months ago, and she responded right away. Over lunch, I picked her brain about my project. She suggested that I should look into JASA’s Pets and Elder Team Support (PETS) project first. Lo and behold, JASA’s PETS project was exactly what I was looking for. After completing the necessary paperwork, background check, and interview, I got back to doing what I love.
Q2 also marked the beginning of my pursuit of becoming a local business owner. While stuck in my BigLaw office during those eerily quiet wee hours of the morning, I fantasized about owning fifty Subway franchises, an idea first seeded by my husband who was exploring investing in local businesses as an alternative to buying stocks and bonds. The idea didn’t really click for me until I watched the movie “The Blind Side,” in which the Tuohy family’s small fortune came from owning more than 80 fast food chain restaurants. It dawned on me that it is possible to make big bucks operating ordinary businesses – not just from the cross-border deals I was working on in BigLaw. This appealed to me, as I’ve always been attracted to the straightforward nature of buying and selling things at a profit.
The idea of owning a local business has moved from fantasy to possibly reality now that I’ve left BigLaw. I actually don’t want to own a Subway franchise because I hate fast food from both human health and animal rights perspectives. But the idea of managing a brick-and-mortar business has taken hold in my mind, and we’ve been seriously looking into buying a small business with decent cash flow for me to manage. I’ve been scouring business-for-sale sites looking for suitable prospects and conducting stealth on-site due diligence all around the city. Many of the skills I learned from my days working on private equity buyouts have come in handy. Risks are still risks whether it’s a billion-dollar multinational corporation KKR is looking to buy or a peanut-size mom-and-pop shop fit for me.
It is entirely possible that I may be naïve thinking buying and running a business is doable. We’ve just started this process, so we shall see.
My plate’s been full these days with my classes, volunteer dog-walking, and the business acquisition project. I find it increasingly challenging to squeeze out sufficient time to write my blog. It still takes me several uninterrupted hours to write a post, and I have a backlog of ideas to write about. I thought about doing video blogs, but decided against it because writing is the best way for me to sort through my thinking. I wish I were a more efficient writer; the process of organizing my thoughts can be frustratingly long.
In my Q1 report, I talked about my “addiction” to blog stats and how I felt the need to write a new blog post when visits dwindle. I am glad to report that I have quit this addiction, but the urge to write a new blog post is still ever present. I want to write for myself, to record my thinking and my transformation to keep myself accountable. I want to write for you, my dear readers, to share my journey with you, to get your thoughts and learn your stories. It is great knowing that I am not alone in this adventure and I deeply appreciate all your support and encouragement. I even appreciate the skeptics out there because you keep me on my toes and help me develop a thick skin.
The future teeters between glorious promise and falling flat on my face. I don’t know what Q3 will bring. But stay tuned with me.