how do I reconcile my heart and my brain when making big career decisions?

A reader writes:

I want to leave my job, and possibly my career.

I’m a 30-something attorney, but quickly into law school realized the dream wasn’t what I thought it was and moreover that I’d probably not be an attorney forever.

Fast forward eight years. Unfortunately my husband and I experienced an unexpected and tragic late-term pregnancy loss last December. Since that time, I can’t muster the engagement in my work that I once did. I’m now through the insanity-causing, hormonal grief spiral that had me questioning all of existence for the first few months after our son died, but my malaise for work is enduring, and my dread going into the office increases by the day. I’m actively avoiding taking on new projects, I work from home as much as possible, and I can no longer get through a five-day work week — I’m out sick or not working at least one day a week. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about the law, my clients, my boss, my work. It all means nothing to me.

In my spare time I study Spanish, and I’ve gotten quite good, but I’m still not fluent. With everything going on at the border, I would love to volunteer my time helping refugees and asylum seekers from Latin America, so I really want to improve my Spanish skills. Every day I fantasize about quitting my job and moving to Spain (for Zika reasons) for three months to immerse myself in the language, culture, and to take intensive language courses. My husband’s job would allow for this, as would our finances.

There is really no reason not to do it but this awful, nagging feeling of not being “responsible.” It’s not “responsible” to quit my job and follow my whimsy. It’s so irresponsible to leave a solid career and job behind, with great leave, insurance, and a boss who trusts and respects me. What happens when I get back? I’ll have a gap on my resume. I might not be able to find a job. I’ll burn bridges. I’ll screw over my boss and my colleagues.

But my heart is telling me to do it.

How do you reconcile your heart and your brain when making big, life-altering career changes?

When what your heart is saying isn’t terribly risky and your brain can find ways to make it work … listen to your heart.

Go to Spain.

You’re talking about three months, not a lifetime. And you have a career and professional skills to fall back on if you need them/want them later.

Leaving a job is not burning a bridge, assuming you give reasonable notice and don’t send a scathing all-staff email as a mike drop as you leave. People leave jobs all the time! It’s normal. It’s not a betrayal or a burnt bridge. It’s not screwing anyone over. It’s normal, truly.

As for having a gap on your resume … a three-month gap where you lived abroad to learn another language is not in any way a problematic gap. Frankly, a three-month gap where you stayed at home to clean the garage and catch up on sleep isn’t problematic either. Gaps become problematic when they’re much longer and indicate that your skills may be stale, or when they turn out to be because of repeated firings, inability to hold down a job, prison time, etc. But they’re not inherently a bad thing — and really, three months isn’t even the sort of gap people are talking about when they talk about resume gaps. It’s not going to be a problem — and if for some reason it were (but it won’t be), you’d explain you were doing language immersion and that would be that. I promise you.

As for leaving behind a solid job with great benefits, you can find those things again. You found it once, you’ll find it again.

Who knows, maybe you could even find it at your same company if you ever decided you wanted to go back. (Although it sounds like you might want to move away from this type of work more permanently.)

In fact, if it makes you feel more secure, you could see if you can negotiate this as an unpaid sabbatical from your current job, especially if you can spin it as having benefits to them. That might not be realistic if you’re a high-pressure law firm, but in other contexts this is a thing people sometimes do. Of course, only do this if you think you’d want to go back at the end of the time away, which it sounds like you might not.

There are other options, of course, like continuing to study Spanish without moving to Spain and perhaps applying to jobs helping refugees and asylum seekers. That doesn’t need to be just volunteer work; it could be your full-time job.

And before you decide anything, I’d make sure you’ve thought through what you’ll do once you return from Spain. Will you look for jobs similar to the one you have now? Or go in a different direction?

But if it’s just that this doesn’t feel “responsible” to you … assuming you’ve had a pretty stable job history up until now, I don’t see what’s irresponsible about it at all. You can really do this if you want to.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 392 comments… read them below }

  1. Fortitude Jones*

    I second the “Go to Spain.” You don’t want to do your current job anymore, and you and your spouse have the finances for you to do this. You are actually in the perfect position to pick up and go right now, plus, if learning Spanish so that you can go help with the border situation will help you to heal from your own loss, you absolutely should do this. Time away may give you the ability to reset and come back home in a better space mentally and emotionally.

    Good luck to you, OP, and I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. ten-four*

      Thirded, and I’ll go further and say that the RESPONSIBLE thing to do is quit. You’re much more likely to burn the bridge at your current job if you just continue to punch the clock while taking lots of PTO and being completely disengaged. Just rip the bandaid and go!

      Also, I’m sorry about your son.

      1. KC Sunshine*

        This. Quitting might be the best thing for everyone right now. Do what your heart says. Anyone who wouldn’t support you in this choice is irrelevant to your life.

        Your letter brought tears to my eyes. I’d wager that nearly every mother or prospective mother has thought about how our career would change if we became childless not by choice. If anything happened to my daughter, I would probably quit my job and go volunteer in high-risk areas, because I would no longer fear for my own safety and would want to give of myself completely to other children who needed me. This might be different if I were young and still had the heart to try for additional children of my own.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I had this thought as well:

        At your current pace, you are actually in danger of messing up your reputation.

        Make a change now, not later.

      3. Sans*

        Same thought here. Do it now while your boss still respects and trusts you. Give a decent amount of notice and there should be no problem. Waiting too long might burn a bridge way more than if you do it now.

      4. jezebela-jones*

        OP here – not sure if it shows up?

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I hadn’t considered that my attitude and lack of drive might actually impact my reputation while still there! My boss is so desperate to keep me (I’m one of the only attorneys in my practice group) I’ve only been considering the impact on him and my colleagues if I left; but if I’m honest my attitude is pretty negative and has been affecting my work product, so I could definitely see an advantage to “ripping off the bandaid” now!

        1. Julia*

          If your boss is desperate to keep you, leverage that for a sabbatival, go to Spain, see how you feel once you’re there and away from work, and then decide whether to quit or not.

        2. Teapot lady*

          go to Spain! This is clearly what you want. It really isn’t a crazy decision. You won’t regret it in the long term. Go to Spain.
          Another option might be to apply for a fellowship like a Fulbright or a language immersion program. Then you’ll have something prestigious on your resume – but even then, I think it’s unnecessary if what you really want to do is just go to Spain.
          Go to Spain. rent out your place while you’re gone. travel a bit. heal.

      5. LilyP*

        Came here to say basically this! OP you sound like such a generous and wonderful person and I don’t mean to be harsh, but continuing to try (and quite possibly fail) to maintain this status quo that is no longer working for you is not a risk-free option. There is actually a very real risk that someone will pick up on your low output or the grace period they’re giving you to deal with your grief will run out and you could end up harming your reputation or even getting fired

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Go to Spain, but also maybe think about seeing a counselor/therapist. What OP’s describing sounds like textbook depression. There’s no harm in taking medical leave (keeps your job open, but also lets you defer the stressful choice of whether or not to quit) and going to Spain, and it’s what I would do.

      But even if OP just quits, it sounds worth it. Now’s a great time to invest in self-care, and it sounds like this trip may be part of that.

      OP, I’m very sorry for your loss.

      1. Turtlewings*

        Totally agree that counseling is a good idea. It’s one thing to be over a job or even an entire career field, but the level of “nothing matters” the OP is reporting sounds more concerning than that, to me. A big change might help! Or she might find it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem.

      2. meryldactyl*

        Seconding seeing a counselor/therapist and also, of course depending on your medical professional’s opinion, maybe take a 12 week FMLA leave (assuming this is applicable in your case).

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Depression, that’s the other place I’ve seen this! I posted below about PTS, but maybe I confused it with depression.

      4. Mom of 5-6 kids*

        I am so very sorry for the loss of your son. However, I agree, if you aren’t already seeking counseling or therapy, now might be a good time to start. A counselor or therapist can help you with the head and the heart. You are really dealing with a lot right now and your symptoms do sound like depression. “I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about the law, my clients, my boss, my work. It all means nothing to me.”
        You definitely have a lot on your mind and heart right now, you are still in a postpartum phase (PPD), and have experienced an enormous loss. Again, I am so sorry you are having to go through with this. I wish you peace and a giant, warm hug.

      5. Else*

        Yes, this is a very good point. A grief counselor with experience with this kind of loss, if you can find one, and FMLA or whatever else your office provides. Use that to decide what you want to do next. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

      6. DerJungerLudendorff*

        Agreed. The general apathy OP described is often a sign of some pretty heavy mental health issue. And between the general aftermath of a pregnancy and the heavy and recent trauma, it would be utterly unsuprising if the OP is suffering from depression or some other kind of mental malaise.

        The sooner she gets help and starts the healing process, the better. And a three-month vacation to recover while shifting your life to something you deeply care about sounds like a good start.

    3. What day is today?*

      Re-think Spain as the choice of where to become more fluent in Spanish. Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish are just enough different to make a difference if you want to help on our southern border (yes!). Mexico is an obvious choice, but Costa Rica would also be a good choice and it’s a lovely country to spend some time. Both countries have lots of Spanish immersion programs.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It sounds like OP is concerned about Zika, though.

        (Although I agree that it’s a different kind of Spanish than Castellano when working with Latin American refugees and asylees.)

        1. Risha*

          I just checked the CDC’s Zika map and Chile is marked as safe (no mosquitoes) and Uraguy as having mosquitoes but never any Zika infections. So I don’t know if the OP is working under restrictions other than “primarily Spanish speaking” and “no Zika” (or, for that matter, if the Spanish spoken that far south is again significantly different than the language spoken in Mexico), but it sounds like there might be options.

          1. jezebela-jones*

            Thanks for the recos! Actually my husband and I have considered the other options in depth. Unfortunately because we’re trying to get pregnant any Zika-impacted country is out, and our research shows that the internet in Chile and Uruguay isn’t reliable enough for my husband to be able to work from home (he’s in tech and has serious download/upload/connectivity needs).

            1. Latin América*

              Then your research is incorrect. People work from home in Latin America. You just need to haver a good internet package.

          2. Rosario*

            Uruguayan here. No issues with Zika (and there are mosquitoes only sometimes during the summer, and not in the city, where I’d expect OP to be). In fact, you also can’t discount large countries like Argentina on Zika concerns (there may be in issue in the North, but head South and it’s fine).

            However, Uruguayan Spanish wouldn’t really be much of an advantage over a neutralish (i.e. not deep Andalucían, say) Castillian Spanish. The accent and pronunciation are just as different, and so is the vocabulary, just in different ways. And I’d say the same goes for Chilean (they also speak freaking fast!).

      2. WebDev*

        I would also advise learning Spanish in a Latin American country if you want to help at the border. I also know enough Latin American Spanish to know that it is very different than what is spoken in Spain. And my sister, who is fluent, has issues understanding people when she travels to Spain. I have been to Chile multiple times and it seems to be safe from Zika, though actual Chilean Spanish uses a LOT of unique slang. I would imagine that they teach a more standard version in language schools though.

        1. Trying a New Name*

          I’d also recommend learning K’iche or another indigenous language, if you can find a program! A lot of refugees coming in only speak indigenous languages, and they are in significant need of translators for those languages.

          But whatever you decide, you are not being irresponsible if you quit your job. Taking care of yourself is an important responsibility we often overlook. And I’m very sorry for your loss, OP.

        2. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

          It is not. Peninsular Spanish and Latin American Spanish are as different as British English and American English. Certainly you will have a few “uh?” moments, like if you get asked “Do you want to go out smoke a fag?” by a British person, but that’s about it. The idea that Latin American Spanish and peninsular Spanish are very different is a myth.

          1. LizB*

            +1, and in my experience, the differences between Latin American Spanish and peninsular Spanish are pretty easy to identify and adapt to (it’s mostly a pronunciation difference in one consonant and having an extra verb form in peninsular Spanish that you might not use anyway in a professional context). There will be vocabulary differences as well, but those will exist no matter what, because the refugees at the border will be speaking a number of different dialects anyway because they come from a number of different places. You’ll pick up the vocab you need in the course of your work.

            1. Sally*

              I agree that the OP will pick up the vocabulary she needs once she starts working with people.

          2. Gringa*

            +1 to this as well. They’re mostly not actually that different. I studied abroad in Spain for a summer in HS and for a semester in college and have no issues conversing with Spanish-speaking people mostly from Latin America at home in NYC.

            There are some Latin American accents that are harder to understand if you mostly studied in Spain but Mexican Spanish is NOT one of them. Argentina? I have some trouble understanding people from there. Uruguay? Last time I met someone from Uruguay, I barely understood that they were speaking Spanish (to be fair, it was a long time ago and my Spanish has improved since then). But most Mexican & Central American accents aren’t too hard to understand.

            I would recommend attending a language school in Madrid, Salamance or the general central/northern areas of Spain vs. Andalucia or Barcelona. There’s a lot of Catalan in Barcelona which might make it hard to practice as much outside of school and Andalucia has a stronger overall accent than say, Madrid.

            Also, consider supplementing the classroom stuff with consuming media/pop culture from Latin America to make sure your ear is attuned to other accents. Listen to Mexican music or watch Netflix in Spanish, find a podcast from somewhere that isn’t Spain, etc.

            Madrid has a HUGE Latin American immigrant population and it might be possible to find someone from Mexico or Central America who wants to be your “intercambio” (language exchange partner–you help them practice English, they help you practice Spanish) or even to pay an immigrant to tutor you in the vernacular from their area. Of course, you could also make an effort to socialize with Latin American immigrants in Spain as well but it’s often hard to find local friends if you are only there for a little while and you don’t speak the language fluently.

            If you are getting the grammar, most of the vocab, etc from a language school, it isn’t too hard to find opportunities to attune your ear to other accents, slang, etc.

            It sounds like a GREAT idea to do this and you can make a real difference given your legal training. Can you try to get up to speed on immigration, etc law as well? Maybe there’s a language school that you can find that has a “legal Spanish” module (I know “business Spanish” is pretty easy to find but that but learning legal vocab would be very useful–obviously the actual law is very different in Spain than the US). So many of the kids who are separated from their parents are sent ALL OVER the country to foster care families so you might not even need to go to the border to make a difference and be an advocate for these families.

            1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

              +1 One of the biggest mistakes people make is going to study Spanish in Barcelona. Barcelona is in Catalonia and they speak Catalonian there, not Spanish. Obviously everybody is bilingual, but the language they use in their everyday life and that you are going to hear around is Catalonian, not Spanish. Same goes for any other Spanish region that has a second language (Navarra, Basque Country, Balearic Islands, Valencia, Galicia…)

            2. jezebela-jones*

              Thank you so much for this thoughtful and thorough reply! I also appreciate the recos on location – I was thinking Sevilla because I’d been there before and it’s lower-key than Madrid.

              I have regular conversation exchanges online with Latin American Spanish speakers (mostly from Mexico and Central America) and I learned Latin American Spanish in high school and college, so the immersion will just be to really internalize grammar and speaking (relatively) fluently :)

              1. Else*

                Plus, there’s always TV and movies to add to your comfort with accents if you have a solid grasp on the language. Mexico produces a LOT of movies and television, and that big distributor Televisa has stations in Spain, too, just like in the US (I checked).

            3. Rosario*

              >Uruguay? Last time I met someone from Uruguay, I barely understood that they were speaking Spanish (to be fair, it was a long time ago and my Spanish has improved since then).

              LOL! That’s because we speak Spanish with an Italian accent, just like some Argentinians :)

          3. BananaPants*

            Correct. Two colleagues are native speakers of Latin American Spanish (from different countries) and work on projects with our team in Spain. Aside from a slight difference in accent and some vernacular words, there’s zero issue in understanding what everyone else is saying in their meetings.

            If OP wants to go to Spain to learn Spanish, she should! I don’t get why some folks almost seem to be trying to shame her into going to Latin America rather than Spain.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It depends on your state, but in California, the schools tend to teach Mexican Spanish (although many schools say they’re teaching castellano, I’m pretty sure they’re not). My friends from parts of the northeast learn Caribbean Spanish (Dominican/Puerto Rican). Friends in Florida tend to learn/speak old Cuban Spanish.

          The pronunciation and vocab are way different between all Spanish-speaking countries, and they can also vary by subregion and SES. I’m fine with Mexican and Central American Spanish, but as soon as I hear someone speak Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Venezuelan Spanish, I feel like I’m listening to Swiss-German (which I also cannot follow).

          And the slang is pretty tricky, especially because what’s slang/vulgar in one country can be totally neutral in another. But the non-slang vocab can also be super challenging.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Which is all to say that structurally and grammatically, there is very little variation. I agree that it comes down to some vocab words (although probably 80%+ of standard, non-slang words overlap) and pronunciation. The analogy to British English is apt.

            1. Princesa Zelda*

              +1 to this; I have mostly learned how to speak Spanish in Arizona with Mexican and Centroamerican friends and Argentine teachers, and when I lived in Florida and spoke mostly to Puerto Ricans and Cubans it was a struggle — but more of a American vs British English struggle than, say, American English vs Scots. It’s the same language, just slightly different vocabulary.

              The major difference with castellano is the informal plural you (vosotros) since I’m fairly sure the *only* dialect that uses it is castellano, but I doubt that will be a problem in just about any context.

          2. SV ME*

            I learned Spanish in the California school system and it was both Mexican and Castilian (this varied by teacher, and we had both). The upper levels tended to be Castilian and the intro classes were Mexican, but the teachers also made us aware of the difference. We were not educated in any of the rioplatanese dialects (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay); those I have learned from having Chilean relatives.

        4. jezebela-jones*

          Hi! Thanks for your reco. My husband and I have researched Latin American countries extensively, due to cost and familiarity with Latin America. Unfortunately our research indicates that the internet in Chile is not reliable enough to support my husband working from home (he’s a software engineer and has extensive upload/download/connectivity needs – as it looks like you may understand WebDev ;)) which is why we were looking at Spain (aside from Zika reasons).

        5. Classroom Diva*

          I know others disagreed, but I am a teacher and, in my experience, WebDev is correct. You may *understand* one another if you study in Spain, but the parents and kids you are working with will not respect you.

          In schools, back when they were very short on Bilingual teachers, they tried bringing in teachers from Spain. It didn’t work. The cultures are different. The Latin American parents saw the Spanish teachers as being snooty and speaking Spanish incorrectly. The teacher from Spain saw the Latin American speakers as being uncultured and speaking the language incorrectly. The whole program failed.

          If your heart is truly with helping people on the border, you should learn the language they speak and the culture they have. While there is nothing wrong with going to Spain for fun, there are plenty of Latin American countries (also not all the same, but closer) and programs in Mexico you could attend.

          Conflating their language and culture with Spain’s language and culture is as misguided as assuming that all Native Americans live(d) like the plains peoples or that all Black people are from Africa.

        6. Alex*

          fwiw, as someone who is currently long-term volunteering at the border, I second this, if only because sometimes Central American accents (esp. rural ones) are difficult to understand even for someone who is used to Mexican Spanish. While it’s true that being proficient in Spain-Spanish won’t preclude you from understanding someone from, say, Honduras who is speaking clearly and doesn’t have a strong accent, you might find it a big adjustment to talk to someone who speaks with a very strong accent, who is speaking in detail about sensitive topics, or whose first language is an indigenous language and who is not a fluent Spanish speaker themselves. It’s not the hugest deal in the world, but if you’re learning Spanish specifically to jump into this type of work you might as well get the most out of your time by acclimating to the accent and vocabulary used in the environment. It’s also very useful to come in with some context of Latin America-specific culture and terminology (decent knowledge of geography, different social groups, political situation and climate). Also, Latin America is way more affordable than Spain, which is a nice plus.

      3. Jessica*

        I lived in Madrid for two years and LOVED it. I had a strong Spain Spanish accent when I got back to the US, but it didn’t really impede communication. That being said, Mexican Spanish would be more useful at the border, and there is no risk of Zika in Mexico City or Puebla, two major urban centers with lots of language-learning opportunities. (Overall, there haven’t been any reported cases of Zika in Mexico in 2019, but Mexico City and Puebla are above the altitude where those mosquitos live anyway.)

      4. MM*

        I guess I’m not sure exactly what your concern is on this front. Of course it’s a different dialect, but it’s not like a Castellano speaker can’t communicate with Latin Americans (see, for example, the significant immigrant workforce in Spain coming from Latin America; a bodega near me run by Hondurans seems to always have a soap opera on in the store where the actors definitely have Iberian accents), and it’s not too hard to pick up different accents and slang once you have the basic foundation. (I did my immersion in Mexico, and have been mistaken for a Spaniard in Spain and a Peruvian in Peru a few times after having a little time to adjust.) For OP’s purposes, what matters is being able to communicate, and studying in Spain will work just fine for that. If she does then start to work at the border, she’ll be exposed to plenty of other dialects pretty immersively too. If anything, the main concern I can think of is indigenous languages, which she certainly won’t get any exposure to in Spain–but I don’t know that she’d get any in a Spanish immersion program elsewhere either.

      5. Anon here*

        Mexico City is safe for zika, so far as I can tell. Just don’t go to lowland areas. And it’s my go-to destination for a holiday, as it’s such a fantastic city. Consider getting two separate Internet plans perhaps, but people do all sorts of tech in CDMX, so reliable Internet should be possible. Not that Spain isn’t a fantastic idea too, but if you are wanting to volunteer with Latin Americans, being in Latin America will help. (And of course people in Mexico City have some cultural differences compared to, for example, Honduran refugees, but I think it’s culturally closer.)
        I don’t have the same motivations as you (my deepest condolences for the tragedy you have endured with your son’s death), but I have thought of something similar myself. I’d love to hear an update from you!

  2. Observer*

    Would you consider trying to get into a job with a Legal Aid type of organization? It won’t have the same pay and perks, but if you can afford it, it could be a really good move for you. It’s more financially viable than just quitting so feels more “responsible” on the one hand. On the other it would feed your need to do something that MATTERS. And providing legal aid (even for pay) is probably a lot more valuable to asylum seekers than almost anything else you could do. You have a set of skills that is in scarce supply.

    It’s also not something that is a “forever” move. On the other hand it could be your path into a different type of work altogether.

    1. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

      Seconding this – my state has several organizations dedicated to providing legal support to immigrants and refugees. The work is hard, but critical – and at the very least, it’d be taking your skills and passion and putting them together!

      But as an aside, you’re clearly burned out – at least, take some time to rest and consider your options.

      1. Busy*

        I am thirding this, but also adding – ya know what advocacy needs more of? People who understand law! And you know what immigrants and refugees need? People knowledgeable in the law who speak their native language.

        You know what the world needs less of? Idle dreamers. (my grandpa used to say that!)

        1. Dr. Doll*

          I guess your grandpa didn’t like to read stories, huh?

          I think the world needs a hella lot more idle dreamers than it needs people making and selling useless crap.

          1. Marthooh*

            I think you misunderstand Busy’s grandpa. Writing for publication is not being “idle”.

        2. Sue Do Nim*

          I wonder if the OP would enjoy providing legal representation to immigrants, and the point above about learning a less common language is an excellent one.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Kids In Need of Defense.

      Sabbatical sabbatical sabbatical. You need to reset your clock and find out if you need a permanent change or a healing cleanse.

      Huge hugs. It’s a terrible loss and takes so long to cope with…

      1. jezebela-jones*

        Thank you! After reading everyone’s great comments I’m thinking sabbatical may be the way to go…

    3. Janie*

      Yes OP there are so many legal aid organizations out there who need good lawyers who speak Spanish. In California alone I am aware of Legal Aid, CARECEN, and CAST. Heck even the ACLU needs Spanish speaking attorneys. I have long had the dream of quitting my job and working at one of those places, except that my Spanish has not progressed beyond my 1 year of college classes. You don’t have to go all the way to quitting and making $0, you could be making something like $50k to $70k…a fraction of your current salary, I’m sure, but more than 0!

      1. La la laaaa*

        FYI (for OP or anyone else who might be interested) CARECEN is nationwide, and you can volunteer super easily without even speaking Spanish. I’ve helped immigrants practice for their citizenship interviews, and was trained to teach a class on the citizenship test to them, which is all in English. And also look into RAICES!

        (Please take my advice with a grain of salt because I seize absolutely every opportunity to shake things up but…) If I were you, I’d 100% move to Spain for as long as you can swing it, get as good at Spanish as you possibly can (and possibly seek out a teacher or friends from Mexico or Central America so you can learn some of the specific idiomatic and slang stuff that’s important to how the language is spoken in LatAm), then return and either switch careers entirely OR start working for an immigrant legal aid organization. They’re all over the country, and it’s work that’s desperately needed. You’ll be great!

        And, I’m so sorry for your loss.

        1. jezebela-jones*

          Thank you very much. This is the dream – I just need to get over this exhausting fear fo being “irresponsible” and go for it!

          1. MM*

            If responsibility is a major mental stumbling block for you, maybe you can reframe what responsibility means–namely, to what or to whom are you responsible? Because politically and ethically speaking, one could certainly argue that not making this switch and taking action in the face of our current situation is the irresponsible choice.

            A dear friend of mine is a lawyer at a leading civil rights organization, and even as she’s busting her ass every day to defend the voting and labor rights (among others) of people of color in the US, she is feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the law itself as a tool. I think it’s very understandable that you’re feeling restless and helpless right now just as a lawyer in a country where the rule of law is eroding, let alone in the wake of your loss. Therefore I also think that it’s actually very responsible to pay attention to that feeling and respond to it, rather than try to force yourself to keep doing what you’re doing even though it feels bad because it fits into a narrative of “personal responsibility” that has very little to do with the broader state of our society. A lot of people in my academic field think very hard about responsibility as a quite literal idea of “response-ability”–the ability to respond to others and to allow others to respond to you–and in that frame, I think staying the course can be seen as rather irresponsible. This isn’t to say that I think you should be condemned if you decide to stick with where you are! Just offering some ways to reframe the issue in your mind, if that’s helpful.

          2. Gaia*

            One of the most morally responsible things you could be doing right now is helping with the crisis on our southern border. If you have the skills and the economic flexibility to do so, it is the HEIGHT of responsibility to help where you can.

            I’m very sorry for your loss. I am very grateful for anything you do to help.

        2. Anon for this*

          CARECEN is great! My husband and I volunteered with them to help with practice for the citizenship test.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I want to strongly discourage OP from volunteering to assist with refugee and asylum cases at this time. There’s a very high risk of exposure to vicarious trauma, which is incredibly difficult to process when you’re feeling well, nevermind when you’re in OP’s current state. (I say this as someone who does Flores visits.)

      Instead, I would ease into this slowly by assisting with lower-commitment efforts (e.g., naturalization workshops, DACA applications). In addition to the organizations mentioned, Catholic Charities, American Friends Service Committee, and the Mexican Consulate often hosts legal assistance workshops for its nationals, as do law school immigration clinics. All of those groups take on volunteer attorneys for their less complex cases, and your likelihood of being given real work is higher than if you try to volunteer for the ACLU as a non-expert in immigration law.

      Additionally, California, Texas, D.C. and New York have pro bono programs that match attorneys with folks pursuing refugee and asylum petitions, as well as U- and T-visas. Some of those are administered through the State Bar, and they’re nearly all well-designed to train and support folks without prior immigration law experience.

      1. Catwoman2*

        I would highly recommend volunteering at a VITA clinic (although this is tax season specific). In the area I’m based, Spanish translators are needed. You get to help people who really need and appreciate the help, it’s adjacent related to law (law firms in my city count this as pro bono).

      2. Briefly anonymous*

        IANAL, but I do some work related to asylum applications, and I’d like to second this thoughtful comment about dealing with people in traumatic circumstances. PCBH’s suggestions for other related work that OP might find rewarding are excellent, and there are a lot of ways that non lawyers can be of use in this context as well.

      3. jezebela-jones*

        Wow, thank you so much for this really thoughtful comment. I actually hadn’t thought of the secondary trauma aspect. When I was in law school I actually volunteered with NLG at a U-Visa clinic so that’s potentially a way I could help and use my skills without the risk to my ongoing mental health. Thanks for the reco!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s my pleasure! I support going to Spain 100%. That sounds restorative and exciting, and goodness knows that you deserve time to recover, grieve, and become reacquainted with joy.

          I was just thinking of how working on confinement cases affects me, and I cannot adequately describe how profoundly it can mess you up. It’s of course nothing compared to what migrants have/are experiencing, but I have to put some mental distance in, or I would be swamped in hopeless nihilism. Even then, I sometimes go weeks not being able to sleep. Sometimes these cases feel like having someone rend your grip on human dignity.

          That doesn’t mean you can’t do good or take them on in the future! I just think you should invest in you, first, so you can help others in a way that’s sustainable for your psyche.

          I’m wishing you joy and healing!

        2. Spero*

          I will also echo this. I worked with sexual assault survivors up until shortly before losing my son at 38.5 weeks, and though I was asked to return to that work soon after I declined due to the vicarious trauma. In addition, if you are able to get pregnant again pregnancy following late term loss is a constant and overwhelming trigger. I was able to make it through my daughter’s pregnancy only with counseling, supportive husband, Zoloft, and the knowledge that my work was such that I could deliver at 10% on my worst days and that was enough (in part because I could make up for it on other days by delivering 100%). My daughter brought light back to my life but the months prior to her birth were hellacious. I agree you should go to Spain and work in this area in some way, but a job with flexible hours may be best so you can take mental health days as needed if/when you are in a future pregnancy.

    5. Legal Beagle*

      As a legal aid attorney…I don’t think this is a great idea. It’s hard work. It can be extremely stressful. Burn-out and compassion fatigue are common. Long hours, difficult clients, and low pay are to be expected.

      Not to discourage anyone who wants to do this kind of work – it’s wonderful in so many ways – but it’s not the “easy track” for lawyers, and it’s definitely not right for someone who wants a break from the law and needs to be focused on caring for their own mental health.

    6. Jaydee*

      As a former legal aid lawyer, I totally agree with this, but with a few caveats:
      1) First, go to Spain. There is no good reason not to go to Spain.
      2) If you aren’t already seeing a therapist and doing whatever you need to for your mental health and well-being, do that. There’s a really fuzzy line between burnout and depression (a line with which I am intimately familiar) and only you and a mental health professional can parse out where you are relative to that line. The fact that you can find *something* to be passionate about is a good sign that you’re mostly on the burnout side of the line.
      3) Be aware that not all legal aid organizations can do immigration work (programs that get federal funding from LSC have very strict restrictions on the immigration-related work they can do) and many legal aid organizations have a similar level of work pressure to private practice. Screen potential jobs accordingly. Also, volunteering can be a good way to get familiar with an organization you might want to work for.

    7. Rebecca*

      Yes! My field is teaching, not law, but I think the point stands: volunteering is not a sustainable way to provide good services and help to people who need it. Most people can’t afford to volunteer full time long term, and so organizations find themselves with a really high turnover. But you know Spanish and the law – you could totally find a job that would pay the bills and allow you to devote yourself to what you think is important long term. Go to Spain! Learn the language and take the same time to relax and recover for burn out, then look for those jobs that might make you feel that usefulness.

      1. Rebecca*

        I think I replied wrongly here. I meant to reply to the person suggesting job in legal aid.

        But I agree that it’s not an easy way out or to be taken lightly. I worked in Haiti for a year and it. was. hard. But I also felt super useful, and that helped.

    8. Lavender Menace*

      It’s also not mutually exclusive with going to Spain. You can go to Spain for three months, learn more Spanish, immerse yourself in the culture, and then come back and do legal aid work or work as an immigration lawyer at a nonprofit.

    1. infopubs*

      My deepest condolences on the loss of your son. I hope you listen to your poor, battered heart and that Spain is a place of healing for you.

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    I started with reflexive caution, and the rule about after a big loss don’t make changes for a year. But then I got to this.

    My husband’s job would allow for this, as would our finances.

    So yeah. Do it. You don’t have to wait for the perfect time. A big change that gets you out of the routines that remind you of your loss would probably do you a ton of good.

    Also, you’re taking 3 months to do something you are passionate about. That’s pretty straightforward to explain on resumes and in interviews.

    1. Kiki*

      You only have one life to live and it sounds like this is actually a relatively responsible choice. Doing THE most responsible thing all the time isn’t living. Everyone has different levels of risk-aversion, but at some point there will be something worth doing that ins’t the most 100% responsible thing.

      1. jezebela-jones*

        Doing THE most responsible thing all the time isn’t living.

        Yes! Thank you for the reminder!

    2. Bagpuss*

      I agree. I think you need to have the conversation with your husband, and assuming that he is on board, then go for it.

      And once you have taken your 3 months and gained the language skills, take stock and see what you want to do next.

      It maay be that that involves looking at potential paid jobs which elt you use your skill and move into the area you are interested in, or it could be looking for a part time or lower stress job leaving you time available to volunteer as well (if you and your husband feel that giving up paid work entirely might be burning too many bridges)
      Lots of people do change careers or take a while to settle on the right career for them, so if that’s the outcome then it’s nothing to be ashamed f, and it isn’t irresponsible.

      That said, you ,might also find it worth while looking into other legal jobs – I don’t know what type of law you currentyl practice, or what size firm you are in, but you could give some thought to whether a change of field or move to a different size of firm might work for you, in the longer term.

      You might find that mocing t oa smaller firm or to one which does legal aid work allowed you to do work which you felt was more meaningful or directly useful to others .
      If not, lawyers have a lot of trnsferrable skills – an ability to read and digest large amounts of material, reasearch skills, ability to identify the relevant information from a sea of documents , negotiation skills, ability to present information well both verbally and on paper, and to think on your feet, attention to detail – all of those things can stand you in very good sead if you do decide to change careers.

      During your time away from the workplace it would probably also make sense to try to identify which elementsof your legal job you enjoyed, and which you didn’t, and what specifcicallyappels to you in relation to the voluntary work you are considering, and use the answers to help you work out what will b a good fit moving forward.

      Good luck, and I am very sory for your loss.

    3. Slartibartfast*

      With most things in life, the perfect time will never come. So if you keep waiting for the perfect time, you probably will never do it at all. And not to get too cliche, it’s the chances we don’t take that are our biggest regrets.

      So add me to the chorus of “do it”. Go to Spain. Take some time to breathe, heal, and do this thing for yourself. Let your spouse do this thing for you, he’s probably feeling pretty powerless right now and this could be really good for his mental health too.

  4. ceiswyn*

    Milliionthing ‘go to Spain’ – with one caveat. The Spanish spoken in Spain is rather different from the Spanish spoken in Latin America, so do make sure that the language and culture you’ll be learning is actually what you want/need.

      1. bunniferous*

        While this is true I assume she already knows this and would adjust for it. Her reasoning (avoiding Zika) makes sense.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yes, this is really my only qualm with the OP’s plan. It isn’t mutually incomprehensible, but it is different.

    2. Choux*

      Came here for this comment. My high school taught “Mexico” Spanish and my college taught “Spain” Spanish. There were of course similarities, but it was quite the learning curve.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I went to Spain a decade ago and tried to speak the Latin American Spanish I learned high school and it was…interesting. The accent is very different.

        1. JediSquirrel*

          My grandfather was from Spain and hearing him speak Spanish around all my Mexican relatives was a bit like having a British grandfather. It was…interesting.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            LOL, I love that. I was watching something that was produced by an English production company, and one of the lines said something to the effect that Americans would enjoy watching English TV so we’d learn how to correctly pronounce words – that made me laugh when I heard it, and your story reminded me of that.

          2. Bee*

            It’s even more drastic with Portuguese – I was watching Love Actually with a girl whose parents are Brazilian, and she asked what language they were speaking in the Portuguese scenes! We made a lot of (gentle) fun of her, but it really does sound SO different from the language she’d grown up with.

      2. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

        This is because the Spanish they teach in many schools in the USA is blatantly incorrect. We call it “Spanglish”, as many times it is just a collection of senseless literal translations from English. For example
        Vacuum the carpet
        In “Spanglish”: Vacunar la carpeta (note that it sounds almost like in English) –> literally means “vaccinate the document folder”
        In correct Spanish: Aspirar la alfombra
        Call me back
        Spanglish: llámame para atrás –> lit. “call me from behind”
        Correct Spanish: llámame de vuelta.

        There is no learning curve if you have been taught Spanish correctly, no matter from where. The only thing would be the accent, but that’s all.

        1. blackcat*

          This was…. very much not my experience with learning spanish in the US.
          Maybe it’s because I’m a California native, but I never had a Spanish teacher who was not a native speaker. Even the vast majority of subs I had in Spanish class were native speakers. The only exception I can remember is when one of the French teachers subbed and everyone was like “WTF you speak Spanish and WTF is with this vosotros thing?!” (Teacher was Swiss, we knew she spoke French, German, and Italian, but we did not know about the Spanish, but she spoke Spain-spanish.)

          I only had to make very minor adjustments when I spent three months in Andean South America, and those are clearly regional slang/pronunciation stuff. I did have difficulties in Spain, but those were highly analogous to the trouble I have in most of Quebec (not Montreal, but smaller cities). I’ve never had a problem in France. In fact, my Spain-spanish was bad enough that several times, the Spaniards understood my French much better than my Spanish. Accents are non-trivial, and there is quite a bit of regional differences in how words are used (English has these, too. I searched for a cooler in New Zealand for like an hour before someone said, “Oh do you mean a chilly-bin?” See also: asking for about a rubber in the UK vs US.)

          1. MM*

            I think it is regional, yes. I had mostly non-native speakers as teachers growing up in Massachusetts. One lady in particular had a just abominable accent; I spent that whole year baffled that she was even allowed to teach the language. I was fortunate that my parents were able to send me on a volunteer summer program in Mexico, so a couple of months of immersion sorted me right out, but I’m sure a lot of my classmates didn’t have remotely similar outcomes.

            I maintain, though, that if you have a good foundational understanding of the language, making regional adjustments does not have to be that big a deal. I suppose this depends on some level on how good your “ear” for language is, or whether you have a talent for it–but for the basic objective of communication I don’t think the dialect differences need to be such a concern, especially since OP is aware that the differences exist. You might have had to do some extra work to get ahold of that cooler in NZ, but you did get it! Putting in some time on the side of one’s formal studies to watch some telenovelas or follow some social media channels out of Latin America can do a lot to make up the difference.

        2. Princesa Zelda*

          I’m from Arizona and that was *very* much not my experience either. My teachers spoke Spanish, until the year I would have gone we took yearly trips to Mexico (because of security reasons, the school board put a stop to it), and I have never had a problem parsing the grammar of Spanish speakers. What I *have* had a problem with is: accent, alternate vocabulary, and vosotros. Through that in with my hearing problems, and castellano is basically incomprehensible unless they slow alllll the way down.

          And what I’m familiar with being Spanglish isn’t nonsense; it’s code-switching. (“Y ella me gritó, like, ‘what kind of cake is that!'” for example; “and she yelled at me, like “what kind of cake is that!”). It only works if both people know both languages so it’s actually really cool to listen to.

          Since US education is so localized, I’m very curious where these bad Spanish teachers are and what textbooks they’re using. My school used McGraw-Hill and in college all my courses have used Cengage.

    3. Zephy*

      +1 more vote for “go do the thing,” but also seconding the caveat! If helping at the border is what your heart wants to do, a Latin American country would be a better place to do this “sabbatical” of sorts to meet your stated goals. It’s still a great idea, and since you’re in a position financially to do it, do it!

    4. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, this is the one caveat I’d offer – I understand that Zika is part of the OP’s equation, but Spain is much different than Latin America in terms of culture and language. But I would definitely encourage her to follow her heart.

      1. SubjectAvocado*

        Agreed, but there are definitely areas of Latin America where Zika risk is extremely low or not even a concern, like the far Southern Cone. Especially if they would be living in a relatively urbanized area. The risk profile for Zika is definitely not the same across the entire continent.

        1. a1*

          Yes! According to the CDC Zika map, Chili doesn’t even have the mosquito that carries Zika and is safe. Uraguay does have the mosquito but has had no incidence of Zika. That said, if OP wants to go to Spain, she should go to Spain. Despite by Zika info, I think she should do what she wants and feels safest doing.

          1. SubjectAvocado*

            Absolutely! Everyone has a different risk tolerance, especially if you’re hoping to have children in the future. Spain may also be less of a culture shock, since it’s still western European.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, but if she wants to work with Latinx immigrants into America, it would be good to learn Latinx culture and idioms.

          2. jezebela-jones*

            Thanks very much for your support. I would prefer Latin America but unfortunately the unreliable internet looks untenable for my husband to work from home (he’s in tech), which is why (aside from Zika) we were thinking of Spain.

          3. Mahkara*

            Chile and Argentina also have very different accents than central America. (Typically they sound more Italian, due to the large number of Italian immigrants who migrated there.) I’d argue that the Spanish spoken there is no closer to, say, Honduran Spanish than the Spanish spoken in Spain.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      I understand why she would rather do Spain than a Latin American country with the Zika concern she mentioned, but yes, the dialects are different. However, once she learns Spanish well enough to become fluent, I assume she would then be able to listen to Spanish language courses/newscasts/etc. in the dialect she’d like to learn to familiarize herself with the accents, intonation, etc. – I could be wrong though.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I would have thought so. I learned US/Mexico Spanish all through high school, and then took that rusty skill to Spain for graduate school. At first I was totally lost but it didn’t actually take that long to get the hang of the accent. I wouldn’t let this be too much of a barrier, OP.

      2. A*

        Also – if she is currently in the U.S. I am guessing she has been learning Mexican/Central American Spanish and will be able to note the similarities and differences fairly readily. I lived in Nicaragua for a time, where they use the “sos” form for second person singular, which I had never even heard of. It was weird until it wasn’t!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My husband studied Spanish in high school & college — always Castillian. He worked restaurants, and said it was very different from what his Latin American co-workers spoke. But it’s understandable.

      3. Dinopigeon*

        I visited Spain at a time when I had reached semi-fluency (being taught Spanish in the US), and had no problems being understood or understanding others. I’m not an expert and I’m not denying there are regional variations (heck, we actually studied this in school and were required to learn several variants of certain things), I do believe this is being blown out of proportion. If OP picks up Spanish from her own studies and from living in Spain, she’ll be able to adapt just fine.

    6. kittymommy*

      This is immediately what I thought of as well. As long as the LW understands this (sadly a lot of people don’t realize this), go for it.

    7. Smithy*

      Would perhaps Argentina offer Spanish closer to the Spanish spoken in Central America without the Zika concerns?

      That being said – my advice is 100% to go to the best Spanish language immersion program you can find. I worked abroad for 5 years, and for a very sad year tried to mix working 5 days a week in English for a local organization with night classes. I have never learned less in my life. What is great about immersive language classes is the chance to truly eat/sleep/breath just the language. When you’re splitting your time working, learning a new job – especially in your native tongue – the brain power to also learn a new language is just not there.

      If you have the time and money – go to Spain or Argentina and just learn. Unfortunately jobs supporting asylum seekers do not appear to be going anywhere and if the OP dreams of working directly with clients, fluency in Spanish is an undeniable skill.

      1. Kitchen Aurora*

        Spanish dialects vary wildly from country to country, even within Central and South America. Argentinean Spanish is super different from Mexican Spanish, in a similar way that Mexican Spanish is different from Spain Spanish. You can learn any which one and adjust, just wanted to clarify this misconception.

        1. Smithy*

          Makes complete sense and is totally worth flagging. I was wondering if Argentina might be closer to Central American dialects than Spain – but truly valid.

          My main caveat is don’t try to work a new job and learn a foreign language. Programs that are truly designed to teach a language and job skills are specially designed – cause otherwise it’s just asking a lot of your brain.

          1. SV ME*

            The Argentine dialect – Rioplatenese – is very different from both. It has a lot of Italian influence in it as well

        2. Michaela Westen*

          So maybe OP can focus on the language and culture of the part of America she lives in (or wants to move to) – whether it has mostly Mexican, like the midwest, or more Cuban and other Latinx countries, like Florida…

    8. Bibliotecaria*

      I learned some Spanish in high school in Southern California, then did a bit in college, then spent a year living in Madrid before coming back to the US and finishing a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Spanish. The OP should be fine if she learns Spanish in Spain–especially if she goes to a bigger city like Madrid, Barcelona, or Valencia (there are immigrants from all over in the major cities–when I was in Madrid I regularly talked with people from all over Latin America with a variety of accents). As long as you are aware that there are regional differences in accent and dialect, you’ll be OK. I have an easier time understanding Cuban Spanish than I do understanding English with an Australian accent, and I’m a native English speaker!

      1. caffe latte*

        I’d not recommend Barcelona. I stayed there a couple of months, and while people *could* speak Spanish, they certainly preferred not to. Catalan was the preferred language.

  5. bunniferous*

    Go to Spain!

    If for no other reason than you need the time away. Not only is this NOT irresponsible I would argue it is the most responsible thing you could do at this time. Please do what you need to do and do not waste one second feeling guilty about it.

  6. Anonymous Poster*

    I’m sorry about your loss.

    My wife and I still struggle from time to time with her miscarriages from last November and a couple years prior. It’s a terrible thing to go through. Absolutely terrible.

    It’s not uncommon for these sorts of events to make people reassess what’s going on in their lives too – and reprioritize. We’re going through a major job switch that entails major lifestyle changes, including moving overseas and moving countries every 2-4 years. I make less money and my wife likely won’t be able to work consistently during this time, but it’s something I kind of wanted to do, and she wants to get away from where she was working but not without a good reason.

    You have a good reason too – you want to learn a language, and it’s hard without doing it full time. Some workplaces would allow you to go on Leave Without Pay status, or give you a sabbatical for it. That way, in case you change your mind, you still have somewhere to go back to. Many workplaces would also be really understanding given your loss in December.

    If not, there are also other jobs. As long as you can make it all work and y’all will be fine financially and whatnot, then go for it. We’re human beings, not logical automatons. Emotions are part of our makeup, and are there for good reason. Go learn that language. Go volunteer and do good things. Go be awesome-r.

    1. Emmie*

      I second all of this. Women may hesitate taking FMLA leave, or short-term disability for pregnancy loss. Take it if it is available to you. I understand why you are not engaged at work right now. I wonder if your putting yourself in a position where the decision to work at your firm may be made for you, and not by you. I recommend that you take a break. Heal your heart to the best of your abilities. Get counseling, if you can. And spend time with your husband. It does not matter what that break looks like – Spain, staying home, or something else entirely. It looks like your soul needs some peace right now, so let your brain give your heart permission to take some well needed time off.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Go to Spain.

      Seconding the above that it’s normal for big events, especially tragic ones, to stem a sea change in one’s life. I lost a parent a few years ago and decided that it was time to push myself to the type of job I was interested in (same industry, new dept). And then later on when New Job started zapping my work/life balance, I planned to make a switch elsewhere too, as I have no desire at all now to work past 40 hours/week, and now in New Job #2, I won’t.

      Best of luck to you and your husband and I hope you have a wonderful time in Spain.

    3. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I’m very sorry for you and your wife’s losses. It’s a type of pain and loss not really recognized or understood by society at large.

      I appreciate the support and also hearing you and your wife’s story — just hearing other people have taken the less traditional approach is comforting. And you’re right – I am human too, not just a worker bot. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that I can have desires other than being productive and a good employee.

      1. Katrina*

        I am so very sorry for the loss of your son. Parents should not have to bury children.

        If you can travel and find peace, please go. My second daughter was stillborn at 21 weeks and I remember the need to get away from anything familiar. I lost interest in hobbies (like reading fiction) for a long time after. Give yourself time to adjust to your new normal and follow your heart as best you can. Just recognize that grief can be powerful and it doesn’t often lessen in the timeframe that others think it should. I have been able to return to some hobbies from before, and I have found some new hobbies/interests in the aftermath. I think the desire to help others is a wonderful tribute to the love you feel for your son. Dream big and I hope you find peace.

        1. jezebela-jones*

          I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re right – parents should not have to bury children. It’s incomprehensible.

          Thank you for sharing your experience. A lot of the themes are very familiar to me as well. It’s also very difficult to read, and my grief timeline has definitely been inconvenient for some people! It’s amazing, though, how such profound loss and grief help you identify what matters and what doesn’t. I feel my son’s life was a true blessing in that way.

  7. Aunt Vixen*


    Ten years from now, what will you wish you had done?

    I’m so sorry for your loss. [love]

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      This. Go to Spain. You can afford the risk. And the risk isn’t that great. Do this thing you love.

    2. Risha*

      As a general philosophy, I prefer to regret something I did then regret something I didn’t do. (Of course I’m pretty risk adverse in general, so this has yet to put me in significant peril!)

    3. jezebela-jones*

      You’re absolutely right. I wish I could engrave this in my psyche somewhere!

  8. AW*

    I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel and work a broad and loved it, there’s so much you’ll gain from it so if you can make it work then I think it’s worth doing.

    The other thought I have is can you ask about a sabbatical so you can spend the time in Spain you want to but have a job lined up to come back to.

  9. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    An active plan, with a goal and a process (that you’ve already started) is far better for any future professional goals than crashing and burning at this job. I feel for you. I’m sure you have coworkers who feel for you. But face facts. They know. They know you are not happy, not thriving and not the person you used to be. I think most people who work closely with you will not be surprised. I think any people who work closely with you and consider you at least a work friend, will be happy you have a new plan for your life and wish you well.
    I certainly do.
    You are not quitting. You are not giving up. You are changing paths. Good luck!

    1. jezebela-jones*

      This is excellent advice I hadn’t thought of, but you’re absolutely right – they know. And my boss does too. Thanks for this perspective.

  10. AnonEMoose*

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    As your financial situation and your spouse’s job allow for it – go to Spain. You and your spouse are adults, and these are choices you get to make. If your situation allows, I don’t see how this is an “irresponsible” choice. There is more to life than making money or keeping a job because it’s the “responsible” thing to do.

    Your situation may allow you to eventually help some people who really, really need it. That’s not trivial, and it’s not irresponsible. It’s living your values in a way relatively few of us have the option of doing these days.

    1. Tony Tellier*

      Yeah go. Worth the time and (any) effort. Travel, see stuff. Do stuff. I went to Berlin circa 1998 for two years then again in 2008. When I was 70. BMW jet engine engineering job, Traveled to: Romania, Hungary (3x), Prague, Poland, Finland, Italy, Belgium (2x), France, N. Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Spain (2x … the “Gaudi” in Barcelona.) Even Tullahoma, Tennessee! In Porto as I type this. Go for it.

  11. Stephanie*

    Yeah, I’d say go to Spain. It sounds like you can financially afford to do this and you’re burnt out at your job. I’d say triple-check your finances to make sure you have enough in case the subsequent job hunt is slightly longer than expected, but you should go for it. You can recover from gaps on your resume–I’ve got a couple of long ones (over a year) on my resume myself and eventually recovered.

  12. Matilda Jefferies*

    One thing to consider, when you say you’re worried about “screwing over” your boss and your colleagues, is this:

    I’m actively avoiding taking on new projects, I work from home as much as possible, and I can no longer get through a five-day work week — I’m out sick or not working at least one day a week. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about the law, my clients, my boss, my work. It all means nothing to me.

    This is totally understandable, and I have been there lots of times myself! So no judgement there. My point is, you’re already not giving them your full time and attention. You’re already…I don’t like the term “screwing over,” but you’re clearly not your best self at work right now. From your employer’s perspective, they would probably rather know for sure that you’re not going to be there for a period of time, and know for sure that you’re not going to be doing any work for them. At least that way they can plan for it. Right now, they’re in a situation where they don’t know if you’re going to be in the office on any given day, or what kind of work you’ll produce when you are. And if they’re any kind of human beings at all, at least some of them will be worried about you.

    So, I agree with Alison. Take the break. Go to Spain, and see where life takes you from there. You’re clearly burnt out where you are, and not in a condition to provide much benefit to your current employer, so now is the perfect time to make a change. The only other thing I would suggest is try to take some time between leaving your current job and heading to Europe – you sound like you need a rest! If you could have a month off in between, in your own home with your own family and nothing to do but rest and plan your trip, I bet that would do you a world of good.

    Take care of yourself, whatever you decide.

    1. MissGirl*

      Yes, this. Leaving a job does not burn a bridge. Being a bad employee, however, does. Leave before you become a liability that will taint your references. Also that nagging voice, that it’s not “responsible” doesn’t seem to be based on fact.

    2. jezebela-jones*

      Your comment made me tear up — you really, really hit the nail on the head but in a very compassionate, understanding way. I so appreciate your response. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  13. Lynca*

    OP by your own admission- you can’t make it through a work week. You need this break. You deserve it. I think deep down you know this can’t continue.

    You’re not being irresponsible. You can afford to do it and you should. I hope you have the most wonderful time! You’re not letting anyone down.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have to remind myself: I’m not letting anyone down.

  14. Amber Rose*

    Correction: You’ll only screw over your boss and colleagues if you leave abruptly with no notice. Give the usual notice period and there’s no particular reason to believe you’ll have burned any bridges.

    If your boss is half as good as it sounds, then you needing a change after a serious tragedy should be expected and received with well wishes, rather than reviled.

  15. Czhorat*

    If you can do it, then do it.

    If you can still pay your bills, then it isn’t irresponsible at all; you’re fortunate to have the freedom to do so.

    Leaving a job isn’t irresponsible if you do it the right way! Give reasonable notice, make sure there’s a smooth transition. If you walk out in the middle of the day and don’t come back THAT would be irresponsible. “I’m leaving for a personal break from the industry” is entirely your prerogative.

    Good luck. I hope it goes well for you.

  16. C Average*

    I know this is a career advice blog/-and a great one!–but sometimes I think all the work talk, the resume-buffing talk, the career-path talk, can obscure the fact that all of us productive money-making upward-climbing machines are real human creatures with hearts and souls.

    Work is not why we’re here. Work is so we can buy food and live in houses. That’s it.

    The important question is the one Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you want to do with your wild and precious life?”

    You have the desire and the means to do something that stirs your authentic desire and has the potential to make the world a little better. Would that we all acted on such impulses; humanity and the world would be better for it.

    Lo siento for your loss.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Oof, I love love that quote from Mary Oliver – so mystic you shared it here. I try to remind myself of it often and yet here I am in this emotional quagmire!

      Thank you for the reminder and the support.

  17. ZSD*

    OP, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    The idea of moving to Spain for three months is inspiring. I wonder if there will be a mass event of AAM readers moving to exotic locales.

    1. SezU*

      I research a lot of potential places to move to but usually on a more permanent basis. This inspires me to just do a 3-month stint… what a great idea! (And I do wish OP the best in this, and all my sympathy for their loss.)

  18. Redhead in NY*

    Buy that one-way ticket, pack up your stuff, and head out! I have always wanted to spend time abroad, Portugal or Spain, and cannot wait for the day to do it.

  19. SezU*

    GO! (And I’d definitely go with you in about a year when I retire, but don’t wait for me!)

  20. Marzipan*

    Umpteenthing ‘go to Spain’.

    And you know what? Going to Spain absolutely is the responsible thing to do. At the moment, you’re suffering intensely – not in the same way as that first grief, no, but still suffering – and you can’t do your job properly. Soldiering on isn’t helping you, or anyone else. Go, and I hope you have an experience that’s restorative and wonderful.

  21. Yorick*

    You say “With everything going on at the border, I would love to volunteer my time helping refugees and asylum seekers from Latin America” and then say “I fantasize about quitting my job and moving to Spain.” Those things don’t really match up that well. Sure, if your Spanish will be better if you live in Spain for 3 months, but it will also get better and better as you volunteer (or work) with Latin American refugees. And, as ceiswyn said above, you may learn language skills and cultural info that isn’t super helpful.

    You can quit your job now (it’s not irresponsible!) and go ahead and go to the border and start helping refugees and asylum seekers. If you speak some Spanish and are a lawyer, you’re already going to be able to help.

    If your dream is to go live in Spain for a while, do that! But don’t do it to help refugees and asylum seekers coming to the US.

    1. SubjectAvocado*

      I think there is definitely something to be said, though, for ensuring that she can be as effective as possible when she does to go the border. Maybe she does need a break, but her “break” is not divorced from her desire to do good. She’s planning to use that break to make her more effective when she comes back to do work she feels passionate about. Building confidence in her ability to communicate and understand exactly what someone is saying, ESPECIALLY when it’s going to influence something as heavy as human rights and immigration, is not wrong. Maybe she can help now…but there will be a huge learning curve that may come at the expense of her clients, and that could be eased by three months away, improving.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree with this.

      And I wonder if the itch to go to Spain is actually a way to avoid the work of helping at the border. Helping at the border (a six-month sabbatical from work?) would be pretty powerful in terms of submersing yourself in something that matters–that affects real, live people. But boy is it daunting!

      I don’t know you, but boy do I feel you–I have seen the world in which nothing seems important anymore. And all the unspoken pressure of “be responsible” are weight, and not a ladder.

      So I worry that going to Spain won’t actually get you engaged; it’ll just be another thing that seems so superficial and unimportant.

      But only you know; I’m just a person on the Internet.

      here’s my suggestion:
      Pick one. Then live with the idea for a day or two, mentally solving logistics, etc., before you speak of it to other people. See how it feels.

      Then you’ll know which you’d like.

      (Oh, and I also think that what you describe is classic depression. Consult with some mental-health pros, and get the help you’re entitled to.
      But getting involved outside yourself, which Spain may not be, is one of the most powerful ways to combat depression ever.)

      1. NOK*

        She says in her letter that her reason for going to Spain is primarily Zika-driven. At certain times of the year, people who are hoping to become pregnant are advised to stay above certain latitudes.

        1. Yorick*

          But there are lots and lots of Spanish-speaking places that don’t have that much risk of Zika. Including areas in Texas.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I think your suggestion that OP is trying to ‘avoid helping’ seems a bit unfair. She’s just gone through a period of grief and depression.

        It would be wise to work through that before she starts taking on additional commiments, especially in a high-stress setting like the border is likely to be. It’s easy to over-commit yourself when it comes to volunteer work, but that doesn’t serve anyone, so it’s best to ramp up thoughtfully, especially if you’re dealing with a major life transition.

        In addition, I think there’s a lot of wisdom in working on her communication skills before she tries her hand at the border; compassion is at its best when coupled with competence.

    3. Psyche*

      Honestly, jumping right from burnout to a high stress situation is probably a bad call. I think a three month break is a fantastic idea. Maybe she then decides to volunteer and maybe not, but the break from stress seems pretty important. Using that three months to do something that could help eventually if she decides to volunteer seems like a good way to give the vacation structure and not feel aimless.

      1. OhNo*

        Agreed. While I understand the folks above who are hesitant because of the dialect/culture differences the OP might learn, I think it’s worth it. Go to Spain, practice Spanish, give yourself and your spouse time to process your grief, and then if you come back and feel ready to do the work, jump in with both feet.

        It sounds like the situation at the border isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Put yourself in the best possible position to help by taking care of yourself first. If that means going to Spain, go for it!

    4. Smithy*

      I strongly disagree with this. Volunteering or a job is not the place to learn language skills. I posted earlier about living abroad for 5 years, and having a job where for a year I tried to take night classes. It was the worst idea.

      You’d think that working with native speakers and living in the country and taking language classes – it’d all be a fit. However I was hired for the work I could do in English. I focused long hours in English to learn that job and do it well. Other staff there were hired to do their jobs – not improve my language skills.

      If the OP wants to help immediately – then there are certainly legal jobs available where English only or English/intermediate Spanish is fine. But if job of the OP’s heart includes fluent Spanish – then this kind of language immersion makes perfect sense. Particularly if the OP already has intermediate Spanish.

      These types of jobs are hard and can be emotionally draining. Mixing in learning a language isn’t a great move.

      1. Yorick*

        I guess what I’m asking is this: Do you want to work on your language skills, or do you want to help at the border? Going to Spain for a language immersion is a fine thing to do, and OP should do that if that’s what she wants. But it’s strange to hear “I want to help refugees and asylum speakers at the border, so I’m moving to Spain.” There will be a disconnect there for future interviewers, too.

        1. SubjectAvocado*

          Would you be comfortable working with someone in a legal context who didn’t speak/understand English competently enough to understand you clearly? Where you would need to clarify what you were saying and repeat yourself quite a bit, especially if you have suffered some sort of trauma you are trying to articulate? If her language skills are not up to par, this is EXACTLY what will happen when working with asylum seekers and refugees at the border, and it will be to the detriment of her clients. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break while working for something that will enable you to be effective when returning to work you feel strongly about.

          I feel like your comment assumes she can only do one or the other, or that she is using her desire to help refugees as a reason to take a vacation to Spain, which is not at all how most of us are reading her letter.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I think what Yorick may be trying to get at here (and correct me if I’m wrong, Yorick) is OP needs to work on the framing of this decision here, especially when she speaks about this trip later on down the line should she decide to go back to work. There is a disconnect between the two ideas of wanting to help asylum seekers and migrants at the border and wanting to go live in Spain to immerse herself in the language. As many others have stated upthread, Spain Spanish is not the same as Mexican Spanish. Additionally, some of the migrants may not even speak Mexican Spanish, but an aboriginal language that OP wouldn’t know and understand. So saying, “I moved to Spain for three months to become fluent in Spanish to help migrants at the Mexican/American border,” is going to be awkward for some people because the migrants aren’t Spaniards from Spain. However, OP can frame her decision like, “I already began taking Spanish lessons while working as an attorney, but really had a desire to work with asylum seekers at the border, so I moved to Spain for three months to get fluent in foundational Spanish. When I came back to the U.S., I then resumed my study of Latin American Spanish, and began looking for opportunities to help” or whatever.

            1. Smithy*

              I think that the reality of learning a language is that language immersion is far and away the best way to level up one’s skills. Spending essentially a school day’s worth of language study, plus homework, plus living in a city where it’s spoken is a great way to improve quicker. Should the OP be an intermediate speaker, then it’d be a great way to make it to advanced. If this was coupled with language classes on return focusing on more advantageous dialects – then even if the overall process took 12 months (three months in Spain, plus further language study in home city) – then I think the overall resume narrative/career switch would make a lot of sense.

              While I have nothing to add about Spanish – I do know that Arabic study presents an interesting challenge of the difference between written vs spoken dialects. What is and is not most useful and then what programs are and are not well considered. At some points in time going to the best academic program is the most important. At some point being among the dialect you want to speak is most important. But they can all fit together.

              1. Yorick*

                All that stuff about language immersion is correct. But OP is not really saying that she wants to learn better Spanish. OP is saying that she wants to help at the border. And then I saw her plan to move to Spain, and I said, “huh?” And other people will do that too, especially if this is discussed during an interview or something.

                1. SubjectAvocado*

                  What part of “I really want to improve my Spanish skills” makes it sound like she doesn’t want to improve her Spanish?

      2. jezebela-jones*

        Thanks very much for this – I totally agree, and that was exactly my thought. I would be nothing but a drain on any organization if I try to leap into this type of high-stress, high-risk volunteer situation without being fluent enough to communicate and translate – which I can’t right now, hence my initial focus on acquiring the language ability.

        1. Smithy*

          Yes – I currently work for a nonprofit that works with asylum seekers at the border and who are now in other US cities – and putting aside the issues of leveling up your Spanish in Spain and then converting to the specific dialects spoken by asylum seekers in the US – just agree with this 100%.

          As an attorney, you could likely find work – paid or as a volunteer supporting the legal pieces right now. However, if your long term professional goals involve bilingual communication – focus on that now. The needs for many kinds of the bilingual assistance you want to provide will (unfortunately) be around in 6 months and quite possibly years from now. Taking time to be fluent is no different than taking the time to take courses to increase your legal expertise on immigration issues.

          All I can say – is that the task of starting a new job and language classes is just a poor idea. In my case my language studies suffered but I could have seen a case where my job suffered. I lived in the country, worked with native speakers, and lived with a language teacher – but after long days working for a nonprofit that I cared about and wanted to do well – I wanted to shut off my brain.

          So yeah – definitely go for this and take the time you need. Longevity wise, if this is the switch you want to make, give yourself the time!

    5. Batgirl*

      I think that is a very strange read; as though people are not allowed to want more than one thing, or to have breaks or preparation periods.
      As a career changer, I know interviewers usually look at how a person considers, transitions and preps. Jumping straight in the deep end without even knowing the language isn’t actually an impressive look.

      1. Yorick*

        There are many lawyers working on this that don’t speak any Spanish at all. They have translators. I don’t think anyone would think it was a bad look to quit your job to start giving legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers (unless they’re jerks who generally look down on working for humanitarian causes).

  22. Christmas*

    OP – I had quite a similar experience, although I ended up in China!

    My career had hit a plateau, I felt unsatisfied… (I won’t rehash everything, but it was quite similar to what you described.) Long story short: I had a great interest in Chinese language and culture, and soon after I began learning the language in earnest, an opportunity came up for a 1-year contract position in Beijing!

    Change can be terrifying, and there were days that I started to question my decision and stress out because I had never even left my region of the US, much less the country! However, more than anything, I was so excited and eager for this new chapter and new challenge. I signed up for one-year contract; applied for my passport, work visa, etc., and within a couple of months I was on a plane to China.

    That year was the most incredible experience of my life, and I’m so glad I did it! I learned so much about the world, and about myself. I grew more in that one year that I had in the previous TEN! If a bumpkin like me can handle an entire year alone in China, you can certainly do this! What you’re planning to do sounds absolutely incredible and I hope that you pursue it, and if possible, follow up with us!

    Regarding your concerns about this hurting your job prospects: This is usually the kind of thing that looks great on a resume, and can set you apart from others! But more importantly could open up even more doors and opportunities for you to pursue a line of work about what you are more passionate in the future! I can’t say it any better than Allison did, about how between your head and your heart, and seems totally doable. Whatever happens, best of wishes to you. <3

    1. jezebela-jones*

      This is so reassuring! Thank you for sharing your experience and your story. I’m so glad to hear it was a meaningful experience for you – it sounds like it had an incredible impact! I hadn’t thought about the prospect of any such trip actually opening up doors for me – although that makes perfect sense. Thanks for the encouragement and the heartfelt reminder.

  23. Colorado*

    Following your heart and vetting it with your brain IS being responsible. Grab your partner and go! You will never regret it, I promise you. It will open so many new doors you can’t begin to comprehend today. I’m excited for you!

    I’m very sorry about the loss of your son.

  24. Lucette Kensack*

    I have two reactions, which (unhelpfully) pull in potentially opposite directions.

    I love Alison’s reminder that leaving a job (or career) isn’t so risky that it must be avoided at all costs. I’ve done it. I left my job in 2008 to take a self-designed yearlong sabbatical. I lived and studied at a religious retreat center and thought that I’d be changing careers at the end of it. It changed almost everything about my life… but not my work.

    It took me another year to find a full-time job in my profession, but I did. It was 2009 when I left the retreat center, and I’d moved cross country and didn’t have a network in my new region, so it took longer than I’d planned. But I got a decent part-time job in the interim, and when I eventually found my next full-time job it was a step up from my previous work and came with a big salary increase. I would do it again a million times over.

    But: I also want to acknowledge that you suffered a profound trauma — both in your soul and in your physical body. Go to Spain to cut yourself a break, but don’t do it because you want to blow your life up right now. You are in the trenches of suffering (or maybe starting to poke your head out a little bit, since you’ve come through the insane grief) , and that’s not the moment to make life-altering decisions. Maybe you’ll come back from Spain ready to go back to your same work, even if it’s not a lifetime career for you. Maybe you’ll want or need to go back to lawyering to keep your financial house in order while you take another year or two to figure out what your next step is. Keep yourself open to those possibilities.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. ceiswyn*

      I also took a year out of my career to pursue my passion. After which I decided to stick with my career :)

      I don’t regard that year as in any way a mistake; now I won’t always be wondering, and spending a year with my passion was absolutely joyous. Despite the expense, I have no regrets.

      1. jezebela-jones*

        Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad it was a positive experience for you.

    2. Oh So Very Anon*

      I did something similar. I started volunteering as a peer grief counselor in an effort to heal my own grief over several deaths in my life. It was deeply satisfying. One day a job came available at the center I was volunteering through. Much (MUCH!) less pay, but something told me I needed to do it. I worked for them for 3 years, until they merged with another agency. I returned to my former profession, but chose to pursue it in non-profits, as opposed to the start-ups and high techs I was working for before. It changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I think of my life as “before” and “after” this time period.

      One way or another, there are no guarantees. You have no control over anything other than your own life. Take control, and guide your own ship.

      DO IT!

  25. Liz Thaler*

    Immersing yourself in this language IS responsible because it can set you up for jobs that work directly with people whose first language is Spanish. It’s a hugely valuable skill I wish I had.

    Do note, as others have said, that Castilian Spanish is different from the various Latin American forms…but also Spain is wonderful and I would spend three months there in a heartbeat. (Latin American countries are wonderful too I’m sure! I’ve just never been. Apparently there’s no Zika in Chile?)

    (Just realizing that I actually want to spend 3 months in Barcelona, which wouldn’t help you with Spanish much at all.)

  26. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    +infinity for “unpaid sabbatical”

    Either you come back with a completely different outlook on life, or you come back with a great skill that could be put to use in, say, immigration law.

  27. insert pun here*

    Several years ago I made a career move that was not irresponsible (or “irresponsible”) but was pretty baffling to a lot of people I know. (Not as dramatic as this one, and not animated by deep tragedy.) I have never once regretted it. Go to Spain.

    It might help to think about what true irresponsibility would look like: walking out in the middle of the day, or doing something like this without a financial plan, or whatever.

  28. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    This part of your letter concerns me:

    ” my malaise for work is enduring, and my dread going into the office increases by the day. I’m actively avoiding taking on new projects, I work from home as much as possible, and I can no longer get through a five-day work week — I’m out sick or not working at least one day a week. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about the law, my clients, my boss, my work. It all means nothing to me.”

    This is a pretty big waving red flag for depression, not caring about anything. I think it would be prudent to get an evaluation by a psychiatrist, and complete treatment, before making any big decisions that could affect your financial future.

    1. Wing Leader*

      I disagree. I feel the same as the OP because I also hate my job. But she passionately cares about other things, like helping the refugees. It would only be worrisome if she cared about absolutely nothing, but that’s not what’s happening here.

      1. Parenthetically*

        That’s… not how depression works — it certainly was not how it worked in mine. In the darkest part of my depression I was still totally passionate, bordering on crazed, about my career/calling and 100% did not care at all about anything else. It’s pretty unhelpful to say “I don’t think you’re really depressed/really need help because you still care about some things.” Whatever the diagnosis, anyone who’s been through major loss such as OP has experienced is going to, in my opinion, benefit from some objective, professional guidance, and I hope she’s getting it.

    2. Yeah, same*

      Possibly. But, I will add my own anecdata here – I read the OP’s letter and nodded throughout. My field is different, and by personal health crisis is different. But I have to say that as soon as I got my diagnosis, I honestly stopped caring about about work. It does all mean nothing to me. I’m only at my job for the money and the health insurance. But once I get through my crisis, I’m thinking of doing something entirely different — I’m scared to lose out on the (very good) money, but I don’t know how to ever bring myself to care about the work I do now again. I need something more meaningful.

    3. Mr. Tyzik*

      I agree. I saw those same red flags.

      OP, without addressing the malaise, you risk getting to Spain and finding that the change of location doesn’t change how you feel. Don’t get me wrong, I think you should go to Spain as soon as possible, but make sure you are taking care of all of you, not just the heart and the brain.

    4. Stitch*

      I really think LW shouldn’t be jumping into a new legal field right now, particularly a soul crushing one, without getting some counseling first.

      Asylum law is tough stuff. Really tough stuff. You lose a lot. I have a friend who had to shift off of it for a while because she was so worn out.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Depression, or totally normal grief? Given what the OP has been through I would hesitate to pathologize it.

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        The thing is, this is something that should be pointed out the the LW before she goes, so she can get it looked after before she changes anything. It could be Postpartum Depression, it could be Greif-depression, PTSD (I’ve seen people say they’ve been diagnosed after a miscarriage). The thing is, if it’s not just her trauma triggering an eye oppening, changing where she lives is unlikely to change how she feels, just make it worse as she won’t have familiar settings grounding her. She’s likely to feel more isolated, especially since she won’t know the language.

      2. JSPA*

        If something is having a problematic effect, it’s not wrong to check if there’s a solution. Depression is not only “real,”–nor only treatable!–if there’s no identifiable trigger or reason.

        It doesn’t negate the “reasonableness” of someone’s pain / sorrow / trauma to say, “Following a traumatic event, your mind may be coping less well than it could be with help, and your body may have fallen into a biological state that will tend to self-perpetuate, without active intervention.”

        After all, PTSD is, by definition, caused by some major event; but it’s still a condition (and to some degree, a treatable condition). Feeling unable to face a job that one used to excel at is not intrinsically pathological–but it certainly can be a symptom. So, too, the wish to make a dramatic change, following a trauma.

        A lot of us are saying, “sure, go to Spain” because there’s literally almost no potential downside, compared to barely going through the motions from a position of despair. If Spain is a place for healing and learning, that may be as restorative as any medical treatment or CBT or talk therapy, as well as training for many additional paths. So sure, try it!

        But if the despair follows OP to Spain (where there’s presumably less of a support network) or if it waits for OP back in the US upon return? That would not be unprecedented. So OP should be clear-eyed about the possibility, and have contingency plans in place.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes. Too many doctors forget to mention that post-partum depression can follow a miscarriage.

      1. Observer*

        Too many doctors don’t think about PPD at all, and too many simply don’t know enough about it (and often don’t care to).

        And, yes it CAN last this long

        1. Properlike*

          Mine lasted 17 months, and no one caught it because it was more anxiety and not crying every day.

          OP, you can do all these things. There’s counseling you can do over Skype or the phone. You can go to Spain, too. Three months isn’t long at all. Get immersed in a language, get perspective, get a break. Make no promises to anything long-term. This is regrouping time. Figure it out three months from now, when you’re stronger.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Some research is starting to show that postpartum anxiety may be more common than postpartum depression. I had it!

              1. Make a Comment*

                Same here. I have an anxiety disorder and when I noted the awful effects, I was dismissed as just part of my makeup. But this anxiety was different, difficult to explain. I was hyper aware of the baby and everything that could happen accidentally, and then actively working to remove the potential disasters, no matter how disordered my thinking was.

      2. Risha*

        I went through a partial hospitalization program in the same group therapy as a woman who had had a late term miscarriage. Her grief was constant and absolutely terrible to behold, and (once I emerged sufficiently from my own depression to be able to do so), she was the person there that I worried about the most.

    7. blackcat*

      It’s certainly normal grief, and it may also be post-partum depression, generalized depression, and/or post-trauma depression.

      I say go to Spain, and find a good English-speaking counselor there, or even one here who will do skype sessions.

      I found counseling when grieving to be extremely helpful. I’d recommend give it a shot.

    8. automaticdoor*

      Agreed 100%. This letter had all sorts of alarm bells to me as a chronically depressed person. I think she should take unpaid leave (if at all possible, so she has something to come back to if need be), still go to Spain, get some therapy, and re-evaluate future plans after Spain and therapy. This is a huge life decision to make while grieving.

    9. jezebela-jones*

      Thanks very much for your concern. I am in therapy (since before my loss) and I’m really active in my spiritual community. I have a lot of support and emotionally I feel like I’m improving every day.

      My malaise does seem specific to my work, and the meaninglessness of it all. I attribute it to what other commenters have said – after a life-altering loss, you reevaluate your life and your priorities, and what I’m doing no longer feeds me. But I’m definitely taking care of my mental and spiritual help. Thanks for your concern.

  29. GlassShark*

    OP– nothing about your plan screams “irresponsible” to me! Quite the opposite! You can afford it & you will use your experience to help people who could REALLY REALLY use someone exactly like you. I think what you want to do is absolutely amazing. I wish you the best of luck, no matter what you decide to do!

  30. Anne Elliot*

    Sometimes what huge life changes and tragedies do for us is realign our priorities, our values, and our desires. Not always and not for everyone, but it’s not uncommon. If the professional life you had before your loss is not the professional life you want anymore — that’s real and legitimate and there is nothing wrong with exploring your options to pivot to doing something different, something that may inform you and sustain you in a way your current job no longer does. People change. You have changed, and the first thing to know is that that’s okay.

    Beyond that, I think what may assist you is to re-frame the issue in a less judgmental way than you are currently framing it to yourself. You describe leaving as “whimsy” and staying as “responsible” but what if those are not the most accurate adjectives? What if leaving is courageous and staying is settling? Why isnt’ the responsible decision is the one that moves you towards health and personal satisfaction? Please note that I am not making these judgments for you, but only pointing out that you sound like you are already pre-judging your own choice in a negative way, and you don’t have to do that.

    All that said, I would be remiss not to mention that sometimes people make major life changes thinking that they will fix existing problems (like a broken marriage, or emotional work that needs to be done, or health concerns) and then they find that they have the same exact problems in a new location and really are NOT better off than they were before. So please understand that while Spain can be part of your path back to health and professional satisfaction, Spain can’t make you healthy or professionally satisfied. You have been sad where you are now, and you will be sad in Spain. But if you are clear-eyed that you are working on your own solution, of which Spain is a part, instead of relying on Spain to be the solution — then I think you should go.

    My condolences, and best of luck.

  31. addiez*

    So sorry for your loss – I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve gone through. I don’t purport to be an expert, but wanted to throw out there that therapy can be incredibly helpful. Assuming your husband needs to stay home for that job of his, it could be helpful to get some professional support as you deal with this huge grief before you start off on your own for a huge adventure. I know, not what you came here for, but I had to say it. Getting therapy has made my life so much better.

    1. addiez*

      and FWIW, I’ve traveled in both Spain and Central/South America and while it’s different, you’re certainly understandable. If you’d be more confident interacting with folks who don’t speak English with some Spanish under your belt, enjoy Spain! I lived there for six months and had an amazing experience.

      Based on what others have said, I see it as a foregone conclusion that you’re off on this adventure :)

    2. JSPA*

      Along those same lines, and slotted here for removal as it’s not a “work thing” directly–be aware of

      1. your support network and how you’ll stay connected (or whether you are in effect going on a “retreat among people” by cutting yourself loose, briefly)

      2. your husband’s support network, and how it will shift, with you away, and what the ripple-on effects may be, for you (how will you feel if you hear from a third party, how he’s coping?)

      3. whether you’re hoping that throwing yourself into something new will be primarily a short-term distraction and a chance to regroup (it likely will) or whether you’re assuming that a massive change in your life will continue to distract from the pain you currently connect to your life-at-it-was-when-the-thing-happened (this only goes…so far)

      4. on a very practical level, the language in Spain sounds dramatically different, and word use is also dramatically different than the Spanish spoken anywhere in Mexico or Central or South America (which in turn have some striking regional differences from each other). It’s not like Maine vs Tennesee; more like India vs either of those. Immersion in Spain followed by (briefer?) immersion in a Spanish-speaking area of the Americas–including any of many neighborhoods in the US where people can and do speak Spanish at home (including in your very own city, quite likely) would be very useful, if the intent is to work with migrants who don’t speak “schoolbook spanish” nor “the Spanish of Spain.”

      More generally, on the topic of Zika; Zica has an outsize emotional component to anyone who has suffered a pregnancy loss. I don’t intend to downplay either the real risks* to someone currently possibly pregnant, nor the emotional resonance. But Zika risk is generally local, seasonal, and subject to being managed by mosquito control, mindfulness of where and when you wander outside, and what you wear, and repellants. If that’s a sort of mindfulness you can’t currently handle, that’s entirely understandable. (Writing off entire continents is less defensible. Head far south into South America and you will have very pleasant winter temperatures now–or next year, around this time of year–with attendant low-to-no Zika risk, depending on area. After all, the entire US is now shown as a “risk area” on the Zika risk map, along with almost all of South America; this does not mean there is any actual risk in the vast majority of the US, in most or all seasons of the year–and the same is true for many or all of the other regions so-indicated.) Compared to other risks (flying, with its attendant slightly heightened radiation exposure; living in an area with a lot of radon, ditto, etc.) an intensely disproportionate focus on Zika does not serve anyone well.

      *The CDC suggested waiting at least 8 weeks after symptom onset to conceive, and still suggests waiting 8 weeks after possible exposure if asymptomatic, but that’s meant as a safety margin; the current CDC guidelines (June 2019) say, “There is no evidence that a fetus conceived after the virus has cleared the woman’s body would be at risk for fetal Zika infection. Current evidence suggests that Zika virus infection prior to pregnancy would not pose a risk of birth defects to a future pregnancy.” (There’s a separate risk if your husband accompanies you and becomes a potential carrier, in that he could then infect you up to 6 months later.)

      1. JSPA*

        zika risk in the US, for example:

        2018 US States
        74 Zika virus disease cases reported [of which]
        73 cases in travelers returning from affected areas
        0 cases acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission
        1 case acquired through laboratory exposure; 0 cases acquired through sexual transmission

        2019 to date, US States
        3 Zika virus disease case reported [of which]
        3 case in a traveler returning from an affected area
        0 cases acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission
        0 cases acquired through sexual transmission

        This is equally true of many countries shown as “having Zika” in South America.

      2. jezebela-jones*

        Unfortunately despite the contested data Kaiser limits fertility treatments for 3 mos. if you’ve been in any Zika-impacted area, so we’re operating outside of our control here. Aside from that, as I’ve mentioned above, the internet reliability isn’t sufficient to support my husband working from home in Latin America.

        Your other points are very thoughtful and important to consider – thank you for taking the time to type out.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            I don’t think she is – I think she’s planning to use Kaiser when she gets back from wherever after three months, and if “wherever” is a Zika-impacted area she’ll have to wait another three months before Kaiser will allow her to begin fertility treatments.

  32. Stitch*

    I would recommend taking it as a leave of absence at your job. Going to Spain may be great, but I will say asylum law can be heartbreaking and may not be what you need right now. My friend just had to take a mental health break from it.

    You need a break for sure, but don’t commit too hard to anything at the moment.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Oh, that’s a good point – we don’t know if the OP is in any kind of support group or doing individual grief counseling, and asylum cases don’t always end with a happy ending no matter how good the attorney handling it is. I would hate for OP to do all of this positive self work in Spain, then come back and have an asylum case that ends badly, which can threaten her emotional wellness.

      1. Stitch*

        Especially right now. You lose and lose and lose. You get to celebrate the wins, but a lot of it is screaming into the void.

    2. jezebela-jones*

      I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Some of the other commenters have noted that too, and honestly it’s an important point I had not considered, so thank you for sharing.

  33. CupcakeCounter*

    A law degree could be a huge asset to the people at the border – instead of quitting full stop, maybe look into working for an organization that specializes in working with those currently in border detention facilities (a previous poster mention Legal Aid).
    If, due to your location and other factors, that won’t necessarily work for you and your husband long-term, there are other firms and companies that could use your skill set. Find a non-profit that specializes in assisting new immigrants and other socioeconomically depressed populations. Maybe look into starting your own firm with a few like-minded people where you can dedicate your skills to a population/cause/etc…that will be fulfilling for you. Bilingual lawyers are a luxury many new residents cannot afford and that puts them at risk.
    Either way…go to Spain or wherever and first look into the sabbatical/leave of absence option because I think having that cushion of a job to come back to will give you some peace of mind. There are a lot of things going on in your life right now…your outlook on your career might change after the trip and some more time to heal.

  34. Mayati*

    Hey, so, I’ve represented asylum-seekers. And I suffered from burnout. So…

    Dip your feet into some asylum work where you are before committing to it, OP. Burnout is a *huge* concern among asylum lawyers. If you go for it, it’s a good idea to work with a therapist in order to handle secondary/vicarious trauma. And you will lose cases, or win Pyrrhic victories. THAT SAID, some people can handle that sort of work relatively well. I was not one of them, but there was still work I could do with less exposure to trauma and less of a psychological impact on me — research, for example, either legal research or country conditions work. If you speak Spanish and can analyze law in Spanish-speaking countries, even moderately well, this might be a better idea than directly working with clients.

    I don’t mean to discourage you from following your passion, and I do think you can do a lot of good. It’s just that right now, immigration work is like being an emergency room doctor or nurse during a disaster, only that emergency rooms have disaster protocols, and public health disasters aren’t set up to deliberately make doctors’ and nurses’ work harder and less successful. Volunteer, sure, but don’t jump in with both feet unless and until you know you can handle this particular kind of stress in a sustainable way.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I’d agree with this. Almost every city that receives refugees and asylees is in desperate, dire need of educated volunteers.

    2. Pippa*

      Seconding. There are ways to help on a pro bono or volunteer basis in individual cases to get a feel for what the work is like. I do volunteer expert witness work on certain types of immigration-related cases (I’m a subject matter expert and not a lawyer, but one of the subjects I can address is certain foreign legal systems). There’s as much of this work out there as you want, it makes a real difference to real people in difficult circumstances, and you learn a lot about immigration and asylum. You can also choose not to work on cases that would be particularly distressing for you, and it’s easier to regulate your degree of involvement while still doing something worthwhile.

      Mayati, your analogy of emergency room work during a disaster is a really good one.

    3. jezebela-jones*

      Hi, thank you so much for sharing your experience! It makes a lot of sense that refugee/asylum work is in full triage mode, and how could anyone not suffer vicarious trauma?? I appreciate your perspective and I’m sorry to hear you feel burned out. I’m sure you did amazing, meaningful work while you could do it in a healthful way.

      1. Mayati*

        Thank you, that’s very kind! I am proud of the work I did, but my clients deserved someone who could represent them sustainably over time, and that wasn’t me. Some of my colleagues are still at it, fighting the good fight, and they need funding, so I donate instead.

  35. Wing Leader*

    I can’t stress this enough, OP. GO TO SPAIN! Sometimes our mind really gets in the way of what we’re really yearning to do. As cheesy as it sounds, follow your heart!

  36. JMAB*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. All the hugs to you.

    I think what you are doing is not that risky and is probably better for your career in the long run. I have been in a similar situation, although I have not suffered the same loss as you.

    A little while ago, my fiance got a great job in the city we wanted to settle down in, 4 hours away from where we were living. We decided that we would do long-distance while I job searched in that city, since we had both been raised to believe that you should never, ever quit a job without another one lined up. But it ended up being really tough for me to job hunt while working full-time and driving back and forth. I struggled a lot with the idea that our lives were on hold until we could resolve this. A year later, I was totally burnt out and exhausted. I had done almost no networking and applied for very few jobs. Our relationship was strained. I found it really hard to concentrate at work and give my all and my performance began slipping. I dreaded going in and I took a lot of sick days.

    A few months ago, my bosses sat me down and told me they were concerned that I was not living up to my potential and that they wanted to push me to jump up a level. They said they had great expectations and believed I could do it. I went home from that meeting and realized that I was not capable of putting in the effort and the work required with my personal life the way it was and that I was never going to get a new job the way things were. If I stayed, my performance would continue slipping and I would ruin my relationship with my bosses. After a few days of thinking, I quit my job and moved. It was amazing how quickly all of that passion and ambition and energy came flooding back to me. I brushed up on some skills, did some interesting volunteer work and began applying in earnest two months after the move. Almost every application I sent ended up in an interview request. I even turned down the first offer I got (which was not great) because I was confident I would get something else–and I did.

    Burnout is real, and sometimes the only cure is to shake up your life. If you have the financial means, and you have a plan, I think it can actually be a really good thing to do something like this. Think of it as an investment in the rest of your life.

    (But as a near-fluent Spanish as a second language speaker–I would echo the concerns that Spanish as spoken in Spain is extremely different from Latin American Spanish.)

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Wow – this was extremely helpful. I’m so grateful that you shared it. I feel exactly the way you do – I am TERRIFIED of quitting a job without having another one lined up. But your very real experience of burning out and having it impact your work so concretely is a cautionary tale. It’s amazing how much space in your life gets freed up when you stop doing things your heart no longer wants you to do. That sounds like exactly the experience you had. Thanks again for sharing.

  37. Andrea*

    I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that you make the move to Spain and that it helps with healing the cracks in your heart. All my best wishes for you.

  38. Akcipitrokulo*

    You will not burn bridges or screw your colleagues if you give the expected notice period and assist in a smooth handover and prepare documentaion for whoever takes over. This is a normal thing that happens.

    I hope you enjoy Spain!

  39. Abogado Avocado*

    I am really sorry for your loss, and hope you are getting all the support you need from family and friends.

    I, too, want to encourage you to follow your heart, which must be made of gold. I live in Texas, am fluent in Spanish, and have worked with a number of undocumented migrants in my legal career. The need for lawyers who want to assist these migrants is large and you will be doing God’s work if you choose to do this.

    Rather than going to Spain to become fluent in Spanish to use at the U.S.-Mexico border, might I suggest you consider stying at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico’s branch campus in San Antonio if you do not want to take an immersion course in Mexico (because of Zika)? Mexican Spanish is inflected with a ton of Nahuatl (Aztecan) words and Central American Spanish with Mayan words that you will not learn in Spain. You will learn those words at the San Antonio branch campus of UNAM, which brings linguistics professors from its Mexico City campus to teach via the immersion method.

    Additionally, if you do migrant work, many of the migrants you will meet do not speak Spanish as their first language, but as a second language because their first language is an indigenous tongue. By way of example, the majority of Mexican migrants to the U.S. come from the rural parts of the state of Michoacan because there is no paying work there. Understanding them in Spanish often requires understanding that they’ll be using a dialect likely inflected with words from their first language.

    I hope this information is helpful to you as you go forward. Many, many hugs and good luck!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Oh, that’s wonderful advice and maybe even something OP can consider doing after a Spanish tour (presuming she has her heart set on Spain). I want to begin learning Spanish for my job, and I may even take a look at this school you mentioned. Thanks!

    2. Mephyle*

      Seconded. Following on what Abogado suggested, if you want even fuller immersion, you could consider going to the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico’s home campus in Mexico City (where there is also no zika risk at all) and studying at the CEPE (Center for Teaching Foreigners) where they offer intensive language, culture and history courses.

    3. jezebela-jones*

      Wow, thank you for this incredible recommendation! I had not heard of this institute and I will definitely be looking into it further. That would definitely solve the Zika problem and the Spain-Spanish problem!

      Aside from that, thank you for sharing your experience doing work with undocumented migrants. It’s heartening to hear of the many, many people in our field dedicated to easing their pain and trauma just a little bit. It’s incredible, important work, just like you said.

      Thanks for your warm wishes and really thoughtful response <3

  40. animaniactoo*

    OP, I would like you to reframe what “irresponsible” means in your head if you can – and assuming that you’re already talking to a therapist, bring this to them to talk about. If you’re not, therapy can be an excellent place to just talk through the struggles you’re having with yourself and get an objective opinion from somebody who isn’t invested in your life in some way – which pretty much everyone else you would ask is, yeah? It’s a place where you can say all the crap you can’t say to anyone else for fear of feeling/looking horrible, and say it out loud so you can sort it out and deal with it.

    Towards that: I would argue that it is more irresponsible to stay in a job that you don’t care about, and are struggling to do, than it would be to step back from it, take some time to re-evaluate your life, and do something productive that you’re passionate about to boot. And can afford to do. That you might be leaving your colleagues and your boss more in the lurch by doing this half-hearted effort which is all you can currently bring yourself to manage when you don’t need to. It’s all a matter of which angle you look at it from, isn’t it? So, take a step back from your current view of what the “responsible” thing to do is, and take a look at why sticking with your current course might be the irresponsible one. For you. Maybe not for everybody, but maybe for lots of people in ways – one of them being you.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Question, because I haven’t seen you mention this other than to mention that your finances and your husband’s job would allow for it. What does your husband think in this? Is he supportive, are you at odds about it, have you even talked to him about it? That’s not a question to answer here necessarily. But just to think about because you both suffered this loss and it’s the kind of thing that can make people feel really alone as they struggle to figure out how to deal with it.

      A lot of people don’t figure out how to lean on each other and deal together, for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from trying to save each other the pain when they’re dealing with their own to thinking (whether correctly or not) that it doesn’t matter as much to the other person and resenting that. Maybe you’re on top of that already and just didn’t mention it here because it didn’t seem relevant to the job and co-workers question. However, when you’re figuring out your life on this level, I would argue that this kind of committed partnership and how it plays into stuff is always part of the equation.

      1. jezebela-jones*

        My husband is 1000% supportive, and we have frank conversations about these and other possibilities almost daily. Our partnership is very strong.

  41. EPLawyer*

    Just want to put this out there, you do NOT need to be fluent in Spanish to help at the border RIGHT NOW. They have interpreters. So if this is what you want to do, contact KIND (someone put the link up already), RAICES or even the ABA. They can help you decide if you ready to go down there or not.

    But, if you really want to go to Spain first, GO TO SPAIN. The Border will still be there with all the current issues in 3 months.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Mayati*

      There are also a bunch of nonprofits nationwide that can use lawyers’ help from basically anywhere with an internet connection. The Advocates for Human Rights, for example, occasionally has legal projects needing volunteers to do research projects and briefing. So OP could go to Spain and also help the cause.

  42. COBOL Dinosaur*

    Go for it!

    As a side note… I did a google search on US Spanish Immersion programs and I see a few in Texas where you go live with a Spanish speaking family. Could that be an option?

  43. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Go to Spain!

    You’re still young and you have the means to do so. You can always get another law job later, once you’ve got your feet wet and have 8 years of experience, if you decide to come back home, you should be able to get another attorney position or something adjacent.

    Take care of yourself and mend your heart. Xox

  44. Meh*

    I applied for and took a 6-wk sabbatical from a job once for stress reasons & it really helped, so I was going to second the suggestion of a paid or unpaid sabbatical. Or, you could request FMLA, they are sometimes granted for mental health reasons just like for physical ones. 3 months goes by in the blink of an eye and life is too short to worry about what other people might think about your decisions or actions you take for your own sanity and happiness. Regret though lasts forever; I wanted to move to Europe when my marriage ended and the company I worked for went bankrupt in the recession & we were all laid off. I was so close but just didn’t do it, and I’ll regret it forever now, because I’m essentially trapped here now by family obligations (aging parents, etc). Go and be free.

  45. (Still not fully) Recovered BigLaw Atty*

    I feel compelled to echo everyone’s “go to Spain” hopes. I am a recovering biglaw attorney and while I’m in an amazing position right now, I have such a huge regret that after my layoff, I did not just go to Mexico City to really LEARN Spanish and do basically exactly what you want to do.

    This was a couple years ago, so I’ll caveat this with saying that I’m not sure what the job market looks like now, but at the time, I couldn’t get through a first round interview for the legal aid/etc jobs without much better Spanish than I had. So I would say that the Spain plan is DOUBLY the responsible move.

    Sending you good luck and strength to get through this. Biglaw is so SO brutal and is designed to make people question all their instincts. Believe in yourself! You can do this.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Awesome – thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you now regret the decision you made, although I understand it intimately! I appreciate the support and vote of confidence.

  46. KP*

    Go to Spain. Rest your heart.

    Just wanted to clarify though – you’re avoiding the southern border for now because of concerns about Zika and (possible?) future children, correct? Don’t worry about going there now. I know people are trying to help by telling you that you could be helpful/useful there now…..but don’t feel guilty about that. Rest.

    There might be opportunities where you can volunteer from a long-distance capacity, but please don’t feel like you need to add more to your plate right now.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Yes, because I cannot receive fertility treatments for a certain amount of time from my provider after being in a Zika-impacted area, for 3 months. Thank you for the reassurance and the permission. I agree with you I don’t need to be at the border right this second!

  47. Where’s busy bee?*

    There a populations of Central and South Americans who live in Spain, so despite language differences in the country I’m sure OP would be able to find a language swap buddy/ tutor with the appropriate regional accent and dialect that would be more helpful in US border work. Plus OP may find it fulfilling to help someone with their English while she is learning Spanish. You can help people even in Spain if that’s where your heart is! OP, follow your dream and I hope you find healing and peace.

  48. Corporate Lawyer*

    Addressing the resume gap concern: I’m a lawyer who took six months off between jobs about 10 years ago, and it caused no problems at all when I was ready to start working again, either at the time or since. I’ve interviewed for and gotten several lawyer jobs since taking my break, and not many interviewers even asked about it. For those who do ask, I simply say that I had an opportunity to take some extended time off so I did, and the responses I’ve gotten to that answer have been uniformly positive (“that sounds wonderful” or occasionally “oh, I did that once, and it was great”). YMMV, of course, but with my experience of taking extended time off, I personally wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you for sharing your experience! That definitely eases my mind. And it makes sense extended time off would be universally envied :)

  49. OhGee*

    I am (currently) a very risk averse person in terms of my career, and you know what? Go to Spain. Go, go, go. For all the reasons other people have already posted here. I hope it’s fabulous and healing and helps you choose the next turn in the path of your life.

  50. Buena suerte!*

    Go to Spain!
    It’s only three months and while yes, the Spanish in Spain is different than Latin American Spanish it’s Spanish nonetheless and you will adapt and get accustomed to the differences. I say that from experience. You will not regret going!

  51. SubjectAvocado*

    GO TO SPAIN! Do it! The only thing keeping me from saying “go to Spain!” 100% is that the Spanish you will learn there will be quite distinct from the Spanish you will use to help those at the border (not necessarily accent-wise, but also vocabulary/commonly used terms and idioms), and there are definitely areas of Latin America where Zika risk is enormously low (think Southern Cone, especially). Then again, Spanish will vary from country to country– I just have noticed a much bigger gap between the Spanish from Spain and from Latin America than between LA countries themselves, though am by no means an expert. Immersion could be a bit more difficult there, as well, since many more people know English.

    I lived in Argentina for about two years, and Paraguay for six months, and when Zika became a Big Deal in the US, I asked some of my friends (very common people, native to the area) who lived in areas with elevated Zika risk according to the CDC maps if that was a concern at all for them, and they said no, chikungunya and dengue were WAY more on their radar. That said, you know your own risk tolerance, and I would never deign to suggest that Spain is an inferior choice.

    Spanish is probably my first love, as well, and had I not fallen into regulatory work, I would have pursued it further. I always hesitate to say I’m fluent, since I learned it as an adult, but am proud of my level of fluency for someone who learned as an adult. Immersion is definitely key to comfort. I feel a deep level of compassion for you and hope you every happiness. Suerte y exito con todo! <3

  52. Fellow Attorney*

    Letter Writer – burn out for attorneys is more common than you realize. I think you should go to Spain and I don’t think it will hurt your future prospects. However, even if you don’t go to Spain, I think you need to take a break from the practice of law. I have seen so many attorneys that are going through hard times make serious mistakes, which can lead to defending an ethics complaint or malpractice case. Those will harm your future prospects. Take a break. Also, I really encourage you to reach out of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. They are a wonderful resource for attorneys and not just for people with substance abuse issues. I am so sorry for your loss. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

  53. Ms. Anne Thrope*

    What Allison said x 1000.
    Also, I love this space and the comments and commentators.
    Best of luck, OP – and best wishes to you no matter which road you choose.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      The commenters have been marvelous and so compassionate and helpful. This space is awesome.

  54. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I would weigh all of the options but I’m leaning towards going to Spain. If your finances allow it, and your husband is on board (and before I get people jumping on me, I’m not saying you need his permission, but this is a big decision so it’s important to have his support) I say go for it. You may find a new path, or may realize you just needed a break from your current one. Good luck!

  55. rageismycaffeine*

    I have so been there with not feeling “responsible” if I wanted to leave my job behind and do something to take care of myself. I know it can help to hear from someone outside of yourself, so I want to chime in with Alison and all of the commenters: please do it. Five, ten years from now, what’s more likely: that you regret doing it, or that you regret not doing it?

    I am sending you all my good vibes and healing energies.

    1. MtnLaurel*

      Please remember that your primary responsibility is to you and your husband. also, it sounds like you might be waiting for the right time to do this. A perfect time really doesn’t exist. I’ve found that NOW is the right time….often.

      Sending hugs and good wishes…please update us.

  56. CarrieAnn*

    I’m so sorry to hear about your son – my thoughts are with you and your husband.

    Another vote for what Alison said x1000.

  57. TootsNYC*

    a total aside to Alison:

    I’m so glad to see this spelling from time to time.

    a mike drop

  58. ImmigrantJustice*

    Because you specifically referenced wanting to help asylum seekers – please, please look into doing pro bono representation for immigrants!! I work for an immigrant rights/legal aid non-profit, and consistently the thing we need most is more attorneys to represent immigrants in their cases. Particularly right now, when the immigration system is so hostile and confusing, legal representation can be life or death or asylum seekers.

    Additionally, if you’re looking to change careers there are a lot of organizations like mine – look up one in your area (or the area you would like to move) and see if they’re hiring.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you very much, this is exactly the type of org I’m looking for. I hope to be able to contribute near fluency soon-ish so I can be more of service to the clients!

  59. AppleStan*

    Please take Alison’s advice and GO TO SPAIN! If there was ever a time to do something different, especially if your finances would allow and your spouse supports you, this is it.

    On another note…my comfort to you and husband for your loss.

  60. Michaela Westen*

    OP, I’m very sorry for the loss of your child.
    Assuming you were engaged and found your work meaningful before this happened, this
    “I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about the law, my clients, my boss, my work. It all means nothing to me.”
    is a symptom of post-traumatic stress. It might also be a symptom of other emotional problems, I don’t know.

    I think you should go to Spain and learn Spanish since you are able to and want to, and also see a therapist if you’re not, to make sure you’re processing your feelings and able to move forward.

    Good luck! I also love Spanish and wish I could do more to help immigrants. I love my Latinx friends and stand with them. One of my friends was actually stopped by the ICE. It turns out she’s Puerto Rican.

  61. Stitch*

    I am going to not we that I have one hesitation about going to Spain. How would your spouse feel? He is going through a lot too and might feel a bit abandoned being left alone for an extended period after a tragedy. Is there some break the two of you can take together? I encourage you to take time off, but I don’t think jumping into a particularly high stress legal career or leaving the country without talking to your spouse a lot is a good idea.

  62. Mandible*

    I can’t address the first part of your letterl, except to say I’m truly sorry for your loss. As to the second part, i’m actually about to embark on a 3-month long unpaid sabbatical from my job to move to Italy. We’ve been studying Italian (husband and I) for the past year, and have wanted to live abroad for a while. I’ve had lots of emotional and anxious moments about this, as I felt like i may be holding myself back career-wise by doing this, but, honestly, most people i’ve talked to at work and elsewhere are 1) Envious, as they would like to do it themselves 2) Mention how great it will be to unwind and recharge to come back to work refreshed.

    Do it, move to Spain

    1. jezebela-jones*

      That’s amazing – I hope you and your husband have the best time! I hope you get everything you’re hoping for out of it. Thanks for sharing your story; others doing similar things helps ease the stress of it all feeling like too much.

  63. Booksalot*

    Leaving for Spain sooner will probably be better. The later it gets in the calendar year, the less shot you have of meeting your billable hours. Go for it.

  64. Bertha*

    I was trying to think if there is any possible reason you should not change your current situation. I love to play devil’s advocate, and yet, I literally can’t think of any reason why you should stay at your job. I am sure it’s a little scary to abandon the path you’ve been on, but you clearly have an excellent map that you’ve been making to take you along a different path. Go for it.

  65. Whatever Happened To Yoga Jones*

    I really love Alison here for not doing the traditional advice columnist “only you can truly make the right decision for you” bit but straight-up giving the OP permission to go to Spain. Go to Spain OP! Change your life and change the world, you only have one of each

  66. Anomalous*

    After practicing law for seven or eight years, my wife left to follow her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She has said repeatedly over the years, “Becoming a lawyer was not a mistake, but continuing to be one would have been.”

    It is okay to change careers if that is what you want. Your legal background will be useful regardless of what you decide to do.

    I just discovered recently that one of my engineering colleagues also has an M.D. It is okay to switch careers.

    When she needs a shorthand way to talk about her switch from lawyer to vet, she just respond, “I likes puppies and kittens better than sharks and weasels”. (Apologies to any lawyers out there.) She also likes to say that she is in the only field of medicine where it is okay to give kisses to your patients.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Fun fact. I know a few MD’s who are not practicing medicine [some never have, some have opted out early], it’s not ultra common but after awhile, you just cannot deal anymore. Especially if you specialize in things that are the most emotionally exhausting [surgeons, man, surgeons.]

    2. missannethrope*

      And the best part is, vets get to give cookies to their patients! I wish my doctor would give me cookies!

    3. jezebela-jones*

      That’s brilliant advice from your wife – thank you for sharing! At some point soon, if not right now, I think it will definitely become a mistake to continue. I appreciate hearing her experience.

  67. Tabbythecat*

    I sense this has been building up before your sons death. From experience after a death of a family member it feels as if you are pushed to make a change. Maybe you loved law once but you outgrown it. It happens your soul if you like wants something else. Have you felt something pushing you to leave? Id do it. Id go to spain not just for career purposes but to help you cope with your sons death. You got all the doors open, what are you waiting for? Please give us an update in twelve months.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      You’re absolutely right. It was never going to be a forever gig for me, even before our loss.

  68. Laura H.*

    Go to Spain, but I offer this; even if you don’t go into asylum law, there are likely plenty of Spanish speakers who are like you are right now but reverse the languages. English isn’t easy to learn and having someone who is fluent in the language they may be more comfortable using would be a huge help to their peace of mind.

    Enjoy the immersion, but keep the possibilities open for what to do after. We humans aren’t completely rigid in our “programming.”

    And my deepest condolences on the loss and sadness you experienced.

  69. Newlywed*

    just wanted to add this since AAM mentioned sabbaticals — I used to do work with a great company that helps coach companies and employees on sabbatical leave and here is their FAQs for employees link, in case anyone finds this helpful: yoursabbatical . com/learn/employees/faqs/

    and I hope that you will follow your heart, whatever that means for you during this time.

  70. JD, Bar, Never Practiced (never will)*

    Go to Spain! Your license will be waiting for you, as well a whole host of options to fall back on (should you need them). Don’t wait another minute in a soul-crushing job.

  71. Susana*

    I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your son … and so amazed that even in your grief, your inclination is to help other children at the border. Thank you for that. There are some pretty impressive and inspiring people who read and comment on (and write! ) this blog, and you are one of them, LW.

  72. Missy*

    I will go one step beyond saying that you should go to Spain, to say that staying in your current situation is actively BAD. Attorney code of ethics require that we offer diligent representation to all our clients, and part of that is knowing then we are getting to the point where mental health or life stress is preventing that. You have experienced something profoundly tragic, but even if you hadn’t burnout is VERY COMMON in the legal field and something that attorney’s need to be aware of and manage before it starts impacting their clients or their practice of law. There is an ethical duty to stop practicing when your diligence is beginning to be in doubt. I know many attorney’s who felt they couldn’t take time for their own mental or physical health because of fears of letting down their clients, but continuing to work when you are not giving those clients your full attention is as bad. So don’t think of this as a choice between staying at work and being responsible vs. following your heart. The responsible thing to do is to take the time and space for yourself so that you can come back and continue to represent clients, in whatever form that might take. In addition, legal translation services are always in demand. Knowing how to speak Spanish and also having legal experience will not make you look less desirable to employers.

    As a practical matter if you aren’t current on CLEs or your reporting deadline is while you are out of the country you might want to look into placing your license on inactive status while you are gone. You will still have to pay your bar dues but you won’t need to complete your CLEs until you re-activate. I’ve had a few colleagues who went on open ended sabbaticals thinking they would do their CLE and pro bono work during that time who forgot, and then they are dealing with a temporary suspension of their license instead of reactivation.

  73. Kiwiii*

    Not all, but some states are creating/bolstering their refugee and related social services teams right now (with the recent wave of slightly more liberal administration related to a certain president who must not be named). It may do to look into options related to that sort of work — most departments I’m familiar with keep a legal team on staff, even, if it’s just the topic of your law-work that’s distressing you. Otherwise, I know lots of specialist and coordinator level individuals in state-level social services work who have law degrees that they just didn’t want to keep using after 5-10 years (or who come to do this work for 5-10 years while their kids are little for the generous leave policies and then transition back out afterwards). It likely won’t pay anywhere nearly as well as what you’re doing currently, but you mentioned being able to go without working for a short amount of time, so maybe a decreased paycheck could be an option?

  74. SoloTraveler*

    From a career and financial standpoint, it sounds like you are perfectly set to go to Spain. But I think it might be best to test this out first.

    I would take a two week vacation to Spain (or another Spanish speaking country), and look into volunteering for asylum seekers. You should certainly give yourself permission to quit your job and do something for yourself. But being away from your entire support network (I assume your husband won’t be going to Spain with you?), creating a life where you don’t know the language, and meeting new people is hard. Going to Spain is not going to be easy, and will not magically fix your issues (which sound quite a bit like depression, so it might be worth speaking to a therapist/psychiatrist). There’s a reason expat communities are a thing – adjusting can be difficult and hard. When you are already struggling, it might be too much.

    I also agree with the others here that point out that this sort of advocacy work often burns people out, as I know people involved in immigration that have had this sort of burnout.

    So give yourself permission to not worry about the job or finances and take some type of sabbatical. It sounds like you are set there. But these sort of experiences are often more difficult in reality than when we are sitting around imagining them (I can attest to this personally), so it might be worth testing things out before making a bigger commitment.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thanks very much for the thoughtful reply. The support system aspect is very important to consider, although luckily my husband would come with me, so we’d at least be together :)

      1. SoloTraveler*

        That’s great! I think that makes a difference. I would still think about what is best for you, though. It’s much easier to imagine how great Spain will be from the job you hate, you know? But there will be struggles there just like there are where you are, too. It might even be helpful to just get out of the job and see how you feel without it.

        I 100% believe that you should quit your job and do something. I can also personally attest to the amount of freedom you feel from saying “I don’t need to stay on this track I imagined with my job and career” and living the life you want!

  75. Syfygeek*

    OP, I have never wanted to hug someone so much. You are not irresponsible. Irresponsible would be emailing your company on a Monday morning and saying you’re not coming in. Ever again. Irresponsible would be cleaning out the joint bank account, leaving your husband eating ramen for 3 months while you pretend to be Holly Golightly in Spain.

    Responsible is realizing you need a break and that you have options. If you can take off work for 3 months without leaving your spouse destitute, do it. If immersing yourself in Spanish is a goal you want to realize, do it. There are so many ways that being bilingual can be a huge asset. Hospitals need translators, immigration lawyers, legal aid, so many places where you can make a difference.

    Hugs from an internet stranger, and I hope you find your peace.

  76. Richard Hershberger*

    “quickly into law school realized the dream wasn’t what I thought it was”

    Too late for LW, but advice for people considering law school: Work in a law firm first. Not as a lawyer, obviously, but there are lots of support staff in varying capacities. They aren’t lawyers, but they can see what it is that lawyers do.

    The thing is, people outside the profession have little idea of what the actual practice of law is like. What we see on TV is pure fantasy. The same is true of doctors, but most of us see our own doctor at work. This is a small reality check. How much interaction do most people have with a lawyer? Then there are the economics of law school. If you have a Bachelor’s and a pulse, there is a law school somewhere eager to take your money. The same cannot be said of medical school. But the financial commitment is there for both.

    There are people who totally thrive practicing law. But there are many, many others who hate getting out of bed in the morning. They went to law school with no idea what they were getting into, and were stuck. Anyone considering law school owes it to themselves to perform their due diligence.

    1. Stitch*

      FWIW, I am a transactional attorney and love it. I spend all day writing and have a flexible schedule. Litigation would be my nightmare.

    2. Tom & Johnny*

      “advice for people considering law school: Work in a law firm first. Not as a lawyer, obviously, but there are lots of support staff in varying capacities. They aren’t lawyers, but they can see what it is that lawyers do.”

      I cannot second this enough. I have worked in multiple law firms and now work in-house. I started working at firms as the first step on my carefully planned and documented path towards law school. I’m so glad I did because it was a major factor into not going to law school.

      Yes, few people know what lawyers do day in and day out. And law school has almost nothing to do with the practice of law. Law school teaches a person how to reason, think, argue, and cite from the law, along with legal theory, history, and philosophy. It does not teach a person how to practice the law whatsoever. Law firms do that for the first 3-5 years of an attorney’s professional life. At immense personal cost. One indentures oneself to a law firm, in effect. The indentured servitude is grueling and can break people much like the early years of becoming a physician, no matter how handsomely it may be paid. That is combat pay.

      Some attorneys go into the profession knowing this and with a well-thought out plan of how to move through it. Many don’t, and a large number don’t know what’s in front of them. It’s not like doctoring where we’ve all heard what residents have to go through. Lawyering is not for the faint of heart. It’s a Type A profession where you need to have the drive and zeal of an extreme go-getter capable of staying at the top of one’s game for 12-16 hours a day, 6+ days a week. Week after week. Year after year. It’s an endurance profession. And it’s expensive to one’s family as well. Lawyers are not the only ones paying the price. Their spouses and children pay it too.

      All fantasy aside, what lawyers do is act as customer service agents for the law. That’s it. They interface between you and the giant, faceless world of law that you might find yourself up against. Whether that’s the world of family law in a divorce. The world of corporate law when starting a business or resolving a dispute. The world of criminal law when calling from the jail. You don’t call an attorney until you need them, and when you need them, you need them urgently. They solve your problems, hold your hand, explain the facts, advocate for you, help you, and then go away again.

      It’s a glorified customer agent position. And unless you enjoy working for Sprint, AT&T, TimeWarner, or your local utility company as a phone agent, solving the sob stories and rage stories people have when they call in, then you probably will not enjoy the practice of law.

      You’ll be paid well to act as a customer service agent, and you’ll occasionally get to dig in on more interesting and rewarding projects. But the majority of the time you’ll be running interference between the client and the law.

      Work for a law firm for a minimum of one year before going to law school. Do it during your junior/senior year of college. Just work as a file clerk, a front desk receptionist, a mail room clerk, anything really. You don’t need to have some substantial title. Just get a law firm job and do it for 9-12 months. It will look great on your law school applications. And you will know for yourself whether or not this work is something you can see yourself doing.

      Yes there are other kinds of practice than law firm work. But make no mistake that the majority of lawyers pass through the training grounds of associate years at a firm before striking off to do their own thing. Because it’s essential to learning the practice of law. It’s boot camp and secures admission to the types of law that one might actually want to do instead.

  77. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I am so, so sorry for your loss.

    Another vote for Spain. It will be a valuable experience even if your later plans change.

    Very best of luck for your future endeavours, whatever they turn out to look like.

  78. Jay*

    We had two terrible losses as we tried to expand our family, and boy howdy do I wish I’d taken some time off work afterwards. Instead I took antidepressants and tried to behave “responsibly,” because that’s what I’d done all my life. I was very invested in behaving as if none of this had thrown me at all; I roll with things! I take things in stride! I am resilient!

    Wrong. Well, not entirely wrong – I am resilient – but my priorities were way, way, way out of whack. I was the primary wage-earner but my husband made a decent living and we would have been fine if I’d taken some time off. We would in the end have been much better off, because my failure to deal with my emotional state contributed to the spiral that came dangerously close to ending our marriage (and would have ended it if not for the child we already had). I also derailed my career – I’m a doc, and I did OK with my patients but was so depleted that I could not be professional with colleagues or office staff and I paid dearly for that.

    I switched career paths and put my personal experience of grief and loss to good use practicing hospice medicine, but I kept pushing myself professionally until I started to physically break down. The losses were 17 years ago and I am just now learning how to care for myself effectively. The culture of medicine does not support self-care; from what I can see, the culture of law doesn’t do any better, especially for women, since we still have to be twice as good and twice as driven to make the same progress as men.

    Take time off. Go to Spain if that’s what you want. I agree with the other recommendations for therapy if you’re not already engaged; find someone with experience with pregnancy/childbearing losses and grief work. Take time to breathe even though I know it hurts. It hurts me now to even remember that time – I’m tearing up at my computer. Be gentle with yourself. People at the border need help – and you deserve to be nurtured and cared for as much as anyone else. I have little patience with the oxygen mask mantra; I think women deserve to care for ourselves even if it doesn’t make us more capable of caring for others. You deserve it because you, too, are a human in pain.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you so much for your compassionate and heartfelt comment. I am deeply sorry for the losses you’ve suffered. I know they stay with you forever, long after everyone else has forgotten.

      I appreciate hearing your experience, and think we probably share a similar experience of those thoughts of being strong and resilient and responsible, and how sometimes those qualities don’t serve us. You’re absolutely right, too, that there is a gendered aspect to all of this, and to my future prospects, which is where some of my fear lies. But one of the gifts of this grief is it’s driven me to the point of laser focus on my priorities, of which my job is no longer one. Which is freeing on the one hand…I just need to permanently reside in that place!

      1. Jay*

        You may or may not permanently reside in that place. You can make decisions from that place and trust them.

        Thinking of you.

  79. Parenthetically*

    Tears and condolences for your devastating loss.

    Please update us, OP. We’re all cheering you on.

  80. Melissa*

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I too recently went through a late miscarriage of my twins. I understand how it can impact your concentration and commitment to your work, and potentially drive major life decisions. I was told to practice “extreme self-care” – there is no real limit to what you must do for yourself when overcoming a traumatic event. I second the notion that if there is no huge risk to going to Spain for 3 months (e.g., you can afford it and your husband’s job can accommodate it) then I think it’s important that you do this for yourself. Best of luck to you in this and future endeavors.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      I’m so sorry for your losses. It’s something you never truly “get over.” I hope you got good really at practicing extreme self-care, and that you are recovering as best as you can.

      Thank you for the advice and guidance. I feel like us loss moms have a unique perspective on all the rest of life once the worst thing has happened to you. <3

  81. MAC*

    My husband and I have an immigration law firm. He is an attorney and realized pretty quickly that his personality is not well-suited for most traditional law firms, so we started our own! We chose immigration because of the human rights component and because there was a need for it in our area. My husband’s Spanish is conversational, which is great for establishing a rapport with clients. However, when getting into the details of a case (interviews, declarations, etc.), we found that he still needs an experienced interpreter to work effectively with clients. Even our bilingual employees have struggled because being fluent in both Spanish and English does not necessarily mean you can interpret between the two languages or deal with various dialects and legalese . This might not be the case for every law setting, for example he has successfully filled out simple N-400 applications without an interpreter, but if your goal is to do legal work with asylum seekers without an interpreter, you really need a high-level of fluency in Spanish and English and interpreting practice. That being said, we don’t expect that level of fluency from our attorneys, which is why we have interpreters, and I suspect other organizations are similar :-). If/when you are interested in working with asylum seekers in a legal capacity, we’re happy to share our experience and advise! If you respond to this comment, I am sure we can figure our a way to connect. That all being said, I agree with Alison that you should go to Spain — I have so many friends, especially women in professions that required lots of school, who struggle with the decision to take time off of work because they will not be “working” or “doing anything”. However, you can create value you or others with your time even if you’re not going to an office and getting a bi-weekly paycheck.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Wow, that is so interesting! Thank you so much for sharing you and your husband’s experience. You sound like you’ve solved a lot of language barrier issues really practically and in a way that truly serves your clients. Bravo for that. And thanks for the offer! I just might take you up on it when my head’s on a little straighter ;)

  82. Tom & Johnny*

    Dearest Letter Writer, I was fired from a high pressure Big Law job earlier this year because I Just Could Not For A Single Day Longer. Yet I continued to go in. I continued to wander into work. Lost, angry, resentful, existentially absent, and broken under the weight of a postpartum depression I could no longer carry.

    I am not an attorney but they put up with my butt for much much longer than they needed to. They finally broke down and fired me. Honestly I’m so glad they did. I found another job within 30 days and I’m fine, but that’s not the point. The point is that you deserve better than your current state of being.

    I have had miscarriages but nothing like yours. Nothing at all like the loss of a late-term pregnancy. Your letter had me in tears for you. But you don’t need my tears. You need to trust your heart and step out of the soul-deadening rut that you find yourself in. Shock your system with a new environment for a while. Then figure things out from there. You will be okay.

    Believe me, it is far better for you to do that proactively on your initiative, than have to scramble and figure it out reactively. Big Law is a world unto itself, with pressures and politics of it’s own. It has a way of convincing you that one day off, one week away, one unanswered email late on a Friday, can make or break your legal career for decades to come.

    There is life after Big Law our dearest Letter Writer. Please come join us here. It’s a sunnier, warmer place and we’ll pour you a sangria and listen as you tell us your stories.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      I’d love to join you in sangria-land! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It’s good to know there is life after the “supposed to” doesn’t work out, and that it’s actually much better than we ever could have imagined. Excellent guidance, too, about figuring it out on my own timeline. Thanks for that.

  83. Pickaduck*

    I really hope you do this. I feel like you will regret it if you don’t. Good luck!

  84. remizidae*

    LW—know that going to Spain could be the first step in a process that leads to you being financially dependent on your husband for the rest of your life. It’s a process lots of female lawyers go through—they get disillusioned with work, start focusing more on childbearing, their husband has a good job, so—why not drop out of the workforce completely? You can always come back! Except…the longer you’re out the harder it becomes to come back. If you do want to be a housewife, this might not stop you–but first do some serious research about the costs of that choice.

    Three months is not a big deal, but have a plan for what you’re going to do after that–and stay on birth control until your career is settled. Otherwise, you could wind up trapped in a life you never wanted.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Uh, what? Where in the letter did OP indicate she had plans to give up her entire career and live off her husband? You may have thought this comment was helpful, but it’s highly inappropriate, especially the part about you telling her to stay on birth control (!) until her career is settled – I imagine OP has already thought about how she’ll handle her reproductive health, and that’s outside of the scope of her workplace question.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      She wants to CHANGE CAREERS, not give up her career to be a housewife. Also even if she did, this is awfully insensitive nonsense.

    3. Anon for this one*

      The LW asked if she was being irresponsible. She is not. This comment is. It is overreaching, ignores her bodily autonomy, and makes gross assumptions as what women are capable of. It is very unkind. I am sorry if you had a terrible experience, and that would be awful for you, but be careful not to project.

    4. Clever Name*

      Woah. I…..don’t quite know what to say. The OP will not torpedo her career over an absence of 3 months. Hell, I was out of the workforce for 2 years and I had no problems getting a job when I wanted to. And I am categorically not dependent on my (ex)husband. I was able to divorce him, and I own my house on my own and support myself and my child, even though I have a sizable gap on my resume.

  85. Hoping to be helpful*

    Hi OP,

    I’m sorry for your loss. It sounds like you may want to talk to someone and consider using FMLA. That’s what it’s there for. During your FMLA time, an extended time to Spain or some other spanish speaking country may be in order. Travel in general could help you heal and move forward.

  86. govtanon*

    I’ve commented a lot but this letter hit me so hard, it took my breath away.

    The best/worst part of my infertility, subsequent loss, and the final overwhelming grief and realization that biological children are not going to happen for my husband and me is the opportunity that it gave me.

    This terrible thing that has consumed my waking moments for the last 4 years has, in the weirdest of ways, given me the courage to do things that are scary, not responsible, and out of my comfort zone.

    The worst thing that I thought could happen to me already did and I survived. Barely. But I’m here.

    So, at this point in my life, I have decided that I am not going to spend the rest of my life in a career that doesn’t make my heart sing.

    Here’s where I’ve landed after my journey: I’ve experienced the worst of the worst (for me). I want the rest of my days to be dedicated to something that makes me feel alive, joyful, and gives me time with people who need me and I love.

    I don’t quite know where I’m going with this and I hope I’m not coming off as a “know it all” or trying to compare experiences.

    My only point is sometimes we do everything right and stuff still doesn’t work out the way it should. However, somehow.. the universe figures itself out. We figure out how to move forward and make it work.

    So if you’re worried about your coworkers or a stable job or a boss that respects you… trust me when I say this: they will be there when you come back because you will figure it out. You will find a way, if you want, to get those things again.

    But at this point in your life, with everything you’ve experienced: every lost dream, dashed hope, and unfair F” You” that the universe has thrown at you… do you want to live a mundane but stable life in law? Or do you want to experience something that makes your heart remember why, even, through all the grief and sadness, that life is still kinda amazing?

    Whatever you choose, my hope is that you choose what you want to do. Not what you think you SHOULD do.

    Don’t let somebody else choose for you. You get to decide this part of your life.

    Best of luck and whatever you decide, there is no judgement. Only compassion.

    I’m rooting for you. We are all rooting for you.

    1. Tom & Johnny*

      This is exactly why I applied to work for the Peace Corps after one of my miscarriages. Because something terrible and fearful and wrong had already happened and I had survived.

      And I could not muster another day of making safe choices designed to stay in the middle of the herd, where I would supposedly be shielded from the kind of tragedy that is supposed to strike only those outliers who stray.

      I couldn’t even have articulated that I thought that way beforehand. It’s below the level of conscious awareness. But I wager many of us who make the safe choices and stay in the middle of the herd do.

      This is one of the backhanded, across the face ‘gifts’ that tragic loss can leave behind. The slowly growing awareness that if one has survived this horrific thing, broken or not, then goddamnit there has got to be more to life than going through the daily rituals of invoking an imaginary safety and paying its prices. Along with the small, still courage to go out there and find it.

      That is what I’m hearing in your comment, and that too is what I wish for LW.

      To complete the loop, I didn’t get into the Peace Corps for what it’s worth. I ultimately was not selected but I made it pretty far. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I struck out, I applied, I jumped through the hoops, I did the planning, I did the interviewing, I did the background checks, I did the medical checks, and I tried. That remains and that belongs to me. And I know that if I had been selected it would have been a fantastic adventure. I had different ones instead.

  87. NOK*

    Lots of good advice given already, so I’ll just add to the tidal wave of big love that I hope you feel washing over you from this comment section. I am holding you tight in my thoughts today, stranger.

  88. Shirley*

    Also voting for Spain — I don’t think it’s irresponsible at all. I think it’s the kind of change that makes sense when your entire life is turned upside down. I also suffered an unexpected late term loss about a year and a half ago and it completely re-prioritized my life. I don’t look at anything through the same lens anymore, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t passing time at work. I honestly can’t give a shit about the petty problems of my clients most days. I do what I need to do to get my job done, but my career doesn’t hold the importance for me that it used to and if I had a clear path towards doing something more meaningful, I would follow it in a heart beat.

    I am so sorry for your loss. It doesn’t help, but you’re not alone.

  89. Belle*

    Some workplaces also let employees take a personal leave. This might be worth exploring if you are worried about quitting permanently. If available, You could take a personal leave and go to Spain and then make a decision on returning to work.

  90. Julia Pancakes*

    Letter writer, my heart goes out to you in the abundant pain you are surely in. I have lost people I love very much, but I have never lost a child, and I am sorry that you and your husband have gone through this.

    I really do get that you came on AAM for job advice, and I don’t want to step over any line and say that you’re actually looking for full-on life advice – I don’t know you. But I have faced severe depression in my life, and I have also faced terrible, grueling, heart-wrenching bouts of indecision when I have known that my life must change, but I didn’t know how or what to do or what would happen. So, I’m just going to say the truth, which is that what you are writing sounds like you are depressed, and that I cannot really imagine how you would not be depressed, even temporarily, after the hell you have been through. See a therapist – any therapist. The first one might not be one you actually want to talk to more than once, but get your foot in the door. Nobody ever got worse from checking in with a therapist, and just describing to a therapist what life is like right now, and asking a therapist, is this healthy? Do I need new tools in my toolbox? How can I adapt? How can my marriage adapt? Maybe you already did all this, but then again, maybe you did not.

    I also want to say that I totally think you should go to Spain, or anywhere you want, or nowhere at all, honestly. Most of all, I think you should allow yourself to feel that you can go wherever you want. You have the money, and it sounds like you have the support of your husband. Your work will be fine. But also, fuck your work (especially because you have the money to back this up, at least for a short time). I know lawyers, and only a handful of unicorns among them have good work/life balance. I think you should allow yourself to be someone radically different because life is actually radically different than what it used to be. Sometimes, when we just stop slapping ourselves across the face with guilt every time we think about doing The Thing We Actually Want To Do, we start to realize that, yeah, Spain is one great thing I want to do, but actually, there are a thousand other things I want to do. Or maybe Spain is the only one thing that will fix this. I don’t know. But you do owe it to yourself to find out. Maybe Spain/learning to speak Spanish fluently is The Thing You Have To Do, and not because you want to work with the (albeit very urgent and very desperate) situation at our borders, but because you just need to do something different. That is enough of a reason sometimes. I have known strong, intelligent, responsible, succesful women, and it can be difficult for them to admit that they need help/need to change/don’t know what to do with their lives/don’t have an actual plan but desperately need to change. You can both stop practicing law and also not go to Spain. This is not a binary decision.

    What was tolerable to you once – working in career you realized wasn’t the dream but that you didn’t actively feel the need to get out of – maybe isn’t going to be tolerable to you anymore. It sounds like it won’t be, at least for now. Unspeakable tragedies have a way of changing what’s important.

    Again, I just couldn’t really think of any reason not to put this out there to someone who is, quite literally, out in the world looking for advice. I’ve been there. I have a feeling that you may have answered all your own questions just by writing this letter. And if you haven’t yet, please get yourself a copy of “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed. There are some letters in there that remind me of you, and that I think will help you find what you’re looking for. I wish you the best.

    1. C Occhietti*

      I am very sorry for OP’s loss. I second this comment into infinity. Please talk to your doctor. Seriously.

  91. His Grace*

    LW, first let me offer my condolences on your loss. I cannot even imagine what you and your husband had to endure. Now as for a sabbatical…
    I’d strongly consider Spain for a few months. See another part of the world and use the time there to advance yourself personally. Who knows? As AAM has written, if you had a job once, why can’t you get one again?

  92. Kaitlyn*

    Before you quit your job, before you move to Spain, before you change careers, just please, consider the possibility that you need real physical, spiritual, and emotional rest. Allow yourself a fallow time to just digest what has happened, to love yourself regardless (because of!) of your loss, to reconnect with your priorities, to just…rest. I have found after periods of trauma that I want to jump into the next beat of my life, but I personally do so much better when I don’t push myself through too many changes too quickly. If Spain/immigrant assistance keeps coming back to you, then please, yes, do it. But maybe just have a break from all all of it before you take on more.

  93. Faith*

    I am very sorry for your loss, OP. Whatever decision you end up making, I hope it ends up being the right one for you and brings you peace. And just to add my vote to the tally, go to Spain, if that’s what you feel is the right choice for you. It’s not irresponsible if you can financially afford it, and if your spouse is on board with this decision.

  94. CM*

    As a fellow lawyer, I think this is only “irresponsible” by risk-averse, planning-forward, lawyer standards. You’ve actually thought this through and concluded that this decision makes emotional, financial, and logistical sense for you, and aligns with your values and where you are in our life. So do it.

    If it makes you feel better, I was just talking to a lawyer who decided to retire in her 40s and spend her time caring for her family. She got so many recruiting calls, and attractive offers, that about two years later she went back to work because there was an opportunity she didn’t want to pass up.

    This doesn’t have to be forever. You can get back on to your current trajectory within the next couple of years if you decide you want to. Go for it.

  95. Sled dog mama*

    As a fellow grieving parent, GO TO SPAIN! 3 months is such a short time it will not derail your life and career if you decide to go back to law.
    Please see a professional about how you feel. I’m not saying there is an easy fix or magic pill out there but there are lots of options to help you get more engaged with your life. That part will take time, probably more than you expect. I’m 3.5 years post loosing my daughter and it’s only in the last 6 months I’ve begun to feel anywhere near my previous level of engagement with my life.
    Also when you do go to Spain don’t forget that your support network will be staying behind. You may not feel like you need them but have a plan for how and who you you will call on low days.

  96. Alicia*

    Two years ago i was pregnant and during that time i made 2 big career changes. Firstly i left a temp position and accepted a permanent job in my field. I had a bad feeling about the job, but rationalised my self into taking it. Two months later i resigned. I resigned a steady, permanent job, while still pregnant. (yes, the job was making me THAT miserable)

    The first decicion i made with my brain, the second with my heart. And i am only regretting the first.

    After getting back from my maternity leave i took a temp position for 2 months and After that i landed on my dream Job! Its not guaranteed To be easy, but follow your heart!

  97. BB*

    I’d second AAM’s advice about asking for unpaid sabbatical leave, emphasizing that you’re still recovering from loss. Enlist your best partner-level champion as an advocate If a big law firm really values you and wants to make you a partner, they’ll do what they need to do to keep you. And if they don’t value you enough, that’s important to know too.

  98. M*

    Go to Spain! I am so sorry for your loss.

    My spouse and I had some setbacks and we decided to move abroad and it was the best thing for each of us and our marriage.

    Before you go maybe look into therapy that you can also Skype into. When I had a miscarriage I didn’t realize at the time but therapy really helped.

    You only live once.

    That being said under this administration funding for refugees and is getting drastically cut, especially at the border. There are many non profits who probably hire or need volunteers. I will say those as someone who worked in the humanitarian world for over a decade many organizations can’t pay that well. I am just saying this so you don’t come back from Spain and get an offer to volunteer or that pays 15% of your former salary. It’s a great thing you are doing. Good luck!

  99. mckaylabaloney*

    OP: I’m sure the comments are full of people saying this (I haven’t read them all yet), but your lack of interest in your job is incredibly common for lawyers, including those like me who haven’t had a traumatic loss like you. What you are feeling is completely normal and understandable, especially in light of your loss.

    I’ve known some lawyers who dealt with these feelings by leaving the law and all of them are immensely happier now. I know many more lawyers, unfortunately, who have these feelings but are afraid to leave for, e.g., the reasons you have articulated. We are trained to be risk-averse and to think in terms of the worst-case scenario. Many of us are also high achievers and are used to succeeding and finding worth in our titles and accomplishments, so it can be hard to accept the idea of “failing” at this career, whatever that may mean. But more and more, as I observe how my physical and mental health are getting worse with each day in this job, I feel strongly that unhappy lawyers like you and me owe it to ourselves and everyone we love to set aside those fears and find work that is not ruining our lives.

    I think you should go to Spain if you want to, and I also think you should try to dive into the sub-profession of former lawyers who now coach/consult/advise lawyers on leaving the law or otherwise changing their practices. There is a lot of help out there, and if nothing else, it’s great to hear from/about other people who have had similar experiences. A good and inexpensive place to start is the book “Leaving the Law” by Liz Brown, which I’m currently reading myself.

    (I also think even if you don’t go to Spain, you should still quit. It’s killing you!)

    Maybe you will get back from Spain and have a renewed interest in and motivation for the work you’re currently doing. If so, I have no doubt you’ll be able to find a job doing just that. But if not, there is a lot of support out there just waiting to help you find your next step.

    Good luck. Please update us!

    1. mckaylabaloney*

      Whoops, I got that book title completely wrong (see, I don’t even have the motivation to check my citations before filing!). It’s “Life After Law.”

    2. jezebela-jones*

      This is 100% spot-on. Thank you SO MUCH for describing our collective dissatisfaction with the legal profession; it definitely makes me feel less alone and less irresponsible for being disheartened. I’m literally trained to be risk-averse, LOL. I hadn’t heard of that book but it’s definitely going on my list. Thanks again for your comment.

  100. missannethrope*

    I say go for it, lady!! I’ve been fighting the impulse to quit my law job and go to the border to provide pro bono legal work to refugees, but I don’t have the financial means to do it yet. I have seven more years til I can retire and then that’s what I’ll be doing (assuming the world hasn’t ended before then).

  101. thethoughtoflilacs*

    Dearest OP,

    Your letter brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for the trauma you’ve been through, and the loss of your son. We lost ours in December too, after a 2nd round of emotionally taxing IVF. Losing a pregnancy is one of the most heartbreaking things a person can experience.

    Go to Spain. Take your three months, and have a wonderful time. I suspect this be a part of your healing process, and your career will still be here when you get back.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you for your compassionate response. I am so sorry for your loss, and for the grief associated with infertility. It’s a special kind of hell. You’re absolutely right my career will be here – reading Alison’s response and the commenters has put things into perspective for me. Thank you again.

  102. Mellow*

    “With everything going on at the border, I would love to volunteer my time helping refugees and asylum seekers from Latin America…”

    Bless you for doing this. Your son, somewhere, is beaming with pride.

    Thinking of you today, letter writer.

  103. MR*

    I had a stillbirth last year and ended up leaving my job of ten years afterward. I took some time off and then freelanced and basically did a year of self care—art, swimming, writing. It was so necessary and helpful. If that’s what Spain is for you, do it. Hugs to you. You’re absolutely not alone in this, though it can often feel that way.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      I am so, deeply sorry for your immense loss. I totally understand the drive to quit your job after experiencing something so earth-shattering. Everything changes, it seems. I love that you took time off to care for yourself. You’re setting an excellent example for other young women!

  104. Research for days*

    Sending nothing but love and wishes for peace that surpasses understanding. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss.

    Go to Spain.

  105. Beth*

    I am so sorry for your loss, and I teared up reading your letter because it felt so close to my own situation a few years ago. After we lost our first son in the second trimester and then had an early miscarriage a few months later, I was basically going through the motions at my job (which was burning me out even without the losses) and I thought endlessly about doing something else. It took me a little over a year to work up the courage to leave. I also didn’t go straight to another job, I took some time for personal projects, and I agonized about it up to my last day because it seemed so frivolous. But looking back now I think that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Yes, it is SO, SO hard to do, yes, it does feel like you’re letting people down and like you’re going to ruin all your prospects for the future but for me, a lot of that was all in my head. My coworkers were excited for me and not resentful like my brain was insisting they would be, and two years later I’m actually now back in the same field in a job I absolutely love. The break didn’t ruin anything, and in fact some of the projects I did during that time helped me get my current job.

    And more importantly, having that time to slow down and focus on myself was incredibly helpful for coming to terms with our losses. It will always hurt – I wish I could tell you it won’t, if it does stop at some point I haven’t gotten there either – but eventually, it won’t feel quite so all-encompassing.

    Wishing you healing and strength and hoping for all the best for you.

  106. Ginevra Farnshawe*

    Before anything else, I’m so so sorry for what you’ve been through/are going through.

    Ok. So. If you don’t love being a law firm lawyer, better to recognize it and gtfo sooner than later. Especially as you get further along it’s a great job if you love it and a uniquely terrible one if you don’t. (And most people—even people who are quite good at it—don’t love it.) Learning Spanish sounds great and will open doors and there’s definitely a need for direct service Spanish speaking attorneys in a million ways/places.

    The one thing I’ll say is that, especially if you’re in a fragile place emotionally—esp. in re infants and children—ease very gently into asylum work especially in border states unless you’ve done it before and know you can. Otherwise don’t count in advance on that being the thing that will fill your time—it’s really, really upsetting work and you can’t even count on it to give you a feeling of purpose because you lose so much and there’s so much you can’t do. Try the short term volunteer stints with Dilley, maybe. Your current level of fluency might be enough for them, even.

    Upshot is, taking a step back and reorienting is smart and warranted. I’m beginning to get there myself.

  107. Dana B.S.*

    Haven’t read the other comments, so I’m sure others have shared various success stories. A friend of mine discovered a non-profit organization in which volunteers bicycle across the US stopping in various communities to do volunteer work. The whole event is 3 months. He had been in his current role for a few years (for a company run by someone very famous) and just didn’t love the work anymore. Famous Boss said he was fine with holding the position for those 3 months even though it didn’t provide any benefit to the company. However, before he left, he decided that he didn’t want to return to the role, but left on good terms regardless. The experience was amazing and afterwards he moved to a new city and started working for another great company and is really happy.

  108. Krakatoa*

    When you’re 80, what would you regret more? Would you regret leaving a stable job that you hated and had lost passion for, or would you regret not taking the chance to go to Spain to follow your dream?

    If you can answer that question, I think you have your answer.

    I’d also add the caveat that if you don’t love your job, your clients may not be getting the same worth they’d be getting elsewhere, so it may even be more kind to them to step away if you know you’re not putting in the work they’re paying for or deserve.

  109. MotherofCats*

    Taking time off to become fluent in another language sounds great! Migrants absolutely need attorneys who can speak Spanish. That said, the dialects spoken in Spain and Latin America are pretty different. People I know from Spain often have trouble making themselves understood in in-depth conversations with people from Mexico or Central America.

  110. kris*

    It strikes me as quite the opposite of irresponsible. There are so many people who want to do something like what you describe but don’t have the privileges (financial, educational, etc.) necessary make it happen. You do. In my opinion, you have a responsibility to DO it. I think that’s what your heart is telling you. That nagging feeling is the “practical” side influenced by the same crappy society that’s sitting idly by while we have concentration camps in America in 2019.

    This shows that you’re willing to take on responsibility of helping your fellow humans. That’s pretty freakin’ huge in itself. If you want to do it and can do it, you should at least try, and you should be proud of yourself. And please, keep us updated!

  111. AnotherSarah*

    I echo basically everyone else here–go to Spain.

    I have a job where I’m lucky enough to work abroad for extended periods (a few months). There have been a few times that I’ve left the US–and most of my normal life–right after severe personal tragedy. Not quite what you’ve gone through, but not far off.

    Every time, I have come back feeling more myself, even though I’ve gone off of therapy abroad. (This is something you might look into–will you be able to find a counselor in Spain should you need one? There are a few ways to search online, and you also might want to contact a group of Americans abroad or the consulate.) Something about the combination of changing spaces and shaking up my routine a little, while still having things to do.

    I don’t want to say going to Spain will absolutely be restorative–it might not–but my experiences going abroad after great loss have helped me enormously.

  112. Raine*

    I hope the LW got the answer they needed from this post, and that they feel reassured in doing what they need to do for themselves and their own future.

    For myself, *I* needed this post. I’m gearing up to leave my job of 5 years because it’s so very wrong for me, and while I have nothing lined up, I can responsibly take a few months to focus on myself and building skills I want to use moving forward. Despite that, I’m scared to death that I’m doing the wrong thing and I’ll somehow regret it in the future, just because that’s how I’ve been conditioned during the course of my adult life.

    Thank you, Alison.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Very best of luck. FWIW yours doesn’t sound like the kind of plan that one ends up regretting, even if it doesn’t turn out quite how you expect.

    2. CM*

      I think it’s scary to make any life change like this, but especially when you’re taking yourself off an established path. If you stay on the path, you’ll still have regrets that you didn’t pursue what you needed. Either way you may regret it, so I don’t think you can choose based on that. Best of luck to you!

  113. CSD*

    Hi OP – thank you for sharing. I read this and identified with nearly every line in this – we suffered a late-term miscarriage in June, and everything else just seemed to pale in importance. Work seemed overwhelming and non-critical, and it was just a matter of getting through the hours. We were faced with a similar decision, and my partner ultimately decided to hand in his notice at his law firm and try to find another job outside of law. We agreed for him to take a few months off (our finances also allow this) and we are hoping to use this time to discover another passion, or at least, a job that he doesn’t hate. Spending more time just whiling away the days isn’t good for your mental health either, and stress has long-term effects on your overall health that you don’t see yet.
    Life isn’t about work – it’s about the things you have around it – your family, your friends, things that you enjoy doing and add value to your life. We only have so many days – it’s not worth wasting it at a job that you’re not interested in. Move to Spain (or Chile, or Uruguay, wherever!) or don’t move at all. Spend the next few months mentally recovering – join a support group (glass house here, I haven’t joined one yet) and take the time to heal. Jumping into helping others might occupy your time and is toward a good cause, but don’t neglect yourself and your own healing.

  114. Noah*

    All the other issues and plans aside, five years in is a pretty good time to quit being a lawyer. You’ve got the gist of what it’s like now (unlike when you decided you didn’t want to be a lawyer just after you started law school, at which point you knew essentially nothing about what it was to be a lawyer that you didn’t know before law school).

  115. Phlox*

    Lots of great comments here. I just wanted to emphasize that lots of people get a law degree, practice for a while or not as all, and then decide that they want to do something else that might not involve directly using their degree or status as a lawyer. I thought I read somewhere than the average JD graduate works as a lawyer for 5 years before shifting fields (though I can’t find the articles to confirm that right now so could be totally shifting things in my memory). Whether your work post-Spain (you should go!!!) is as a lawyer again or not, the cost of time and money being an attorney for the last eight years is not a waste. It’s part of your career and experience, and you will bring those skills and background to whatever you do in the future. My cousin is a TSA agent after going to law school – steady federal job and you bet he brings a lot of critical thinking to the job that I appreciate as a passenger. I’ve had outreach field employees who were former lawyers taking a part-time job as their figured out their next career. We’ve had two directors at my org that are former lawyers now doing advocacy. They were all doing worthwhile and fulfilling jobs for them in that moment of their life. You are absolutely not required to keep working as a lawyer just because that is what you have been doing and have the certification for.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      That 5 year stat makes me feel even better about wanting to leave law. Thanks for sharing!

  116. Jenny*

    I’m not sure why all your research has shown that internet won’t be reliable in all of South America. Even if you’re concerned about the quality of home internet access you’ll have, when I lived in Buenos Aires there was a huge amount of coworking spaces popping up, (I think even WeWork is there now), where they’ll make sure everything is set up properly. My partner also worked from home there for nearly 6 years for a major international tech company and it was never an issue. Just a thought if you want to expand your location options!

  117. Me*

    Go. Life is all to short and uncertain. Take every opportunity to enjoy it and find fulfillment you can that doesn’t hurt yourself or anyone else. This fits in spades.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and wish you all the best.

  118. Recovering Journalist*

    My daughter was stillborn about a year ago, and I still feel everything you are feeling. I work from home most days, I have very little interest in my work, I just struggle to care about almost anything that interested me anymore. I’m not depressed – trust me, I know depression. I am grieving. And what I have learned in the past year is that complicated grief is like this. Everything you and I are feeling is normal. We won’t feel exactly this way forever. But we can’t rush through this.

    Please go to Spain. Try something new. And if it still feels hard. Just know that’s okay too. You are getting through this day by day. And that is a miracle. Because there is no pain like this.

    If you haven’t read it, please try “It’s Okay that You’re Not Okay” by Megan Devine. It really resonated for me and for a lot of loss parents I have met this past year.

    Sending you love.

    1. jezebela-jones*

      I am so deeply sorry for your profound loss. And I’m sorry you resonate with what I wrote, too, although it is comforting to know I’m not alone. I appreciate your statement that you’re not depressed – you’re grieving. Yes. And why wouldn’t we be? We suffered the most profound loss there is. Why would our stupid ass daily work tasks mean anything compared to our dead babies?

      I hope you are able to find some hope and some light at the end of your work/career tunnel. It’s soul-draining whiling away at a job that means nothing to you. Sending love. <3

  119. MissDisplaced*

    Do it!
    Make some reasonable preparations and go!

    You are still young enough to make a move like this and even change careers should you want to. Life is far to short to continue doing something you hate.

  120. Tiny Orchid*

    A member of my team left the organization a week ago or so because she wanted to be intentional about her career choices and find something where she wouldn’t burn out on the work. I’m so proud of her and I’ll give her a great reference when the time comes.

  121. not neurotypical*

    Nonprofit person here. I’ve just returned from a conference that reminded me of all of the problems that arise when people try to treat their own mental health problems by plunging into heroic efforts on behalf of others. Real talk: You must get a grip on your own health before potentially putting asylum seekers in the position of depending on someone with untreated major depression. Maybe it’s not a problem for your current clients that you no longer can bring yourself to care about them at all, but it certainly might be deeply hurtful if you were to end up feeling the same way about people depending on you for life-or-death services.

  122. Anna*

    My sincere condolences for your loss. It is important to acknowledge your son, may he rest in peace.
    I unexpectedly lost two in one year, with the second one being in later pregnancy. We never got to meet our son and we can’t have more kids. We have one who is amazing in every way possible, but it was hard to move on with life. My therapist explained it perfectly: it is a traumatic loss that shakes you to the core. I evaluated everything in my life, my hopes, dreams, future plans, people, I mean everything. My work isn’t fulfilling any more and I’m in process of making a change. Life is way too short and unpredictable. Follow your heart and go to Spain. Also, I would highly recommend that you seek a therapist who can understands not just grief, but traumatic loss. You need to deal with the grief as well as trauma. It will help you in a long run.

  123. Kate*

    I’m so sorry for your loss, OP. I’m not sure if this has been suggested yet, but have you considered transitioning into immigration law? Since you already have the degree, are planning to become fluent in Spanish, and are motivated to help, it might be a great fit. AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association, is probably a good place to look for more information.

    I’m a paralegal in the immigration department of a large local law firm, and I love it.

  124. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    You’ve given this a lot of thought and consideration. You’ve taken positive steps toward a goal that’s near to your heart. Your decision is not putting your family at risk. You really want to do this, for your own enrichment and skill development as well as to do definite things to help people. That’s not irresponsible. That’s moving your life in a new direction you really want. I applaud you. Go for it and send us a postcard from Spain!

  125. I don’t post often*

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments so these things may have been said. I’m sorry for your loss. I lost our twins at 22 weeks. Outside of going to Spain, or making any other huge life change, understand that you are likely in deep deep grief. It is also likely that While it will change with time it will never go away. Have you been to counseling, or sought a grief support group? (Which just sounds so blah, I know. This was something that truly helped me, just knowing that I wasn’t the only person having experienced such a thing.). Go to Spain. But deal with the grief.

    I’ve met many many other angel moms. And we all handled this in different ways. I have some friends, like me, that continued on doing the same thing, but honor and remember their children in private several times a year (giving to a particular organization on their birthday and at other holidays. Purchasing gifts or making donations to organizations that assist children with the same issue (if that was the case). I have other friends who have started entire organizations bringing people together to talk about loss and remembrance. Their children’s names now bear a sort of comfort throughout the community; “the Jane organization really helped me understand my grief.”, etc. others startedfundraising campaigns for foster children or for scholarships. I have other friends who quit their jobs after such a loss, hosted orphans for Christmas through an international program, and then adopted them. You get the point. Perhaps going to Spain is your version of this?

    Your life will look different now. It always will. Even if you move across the country and don’t tell anyone about your loss, you will still look at the calendar and know the date you found out your were pregnant, their birthday, etc.

    I’ve said a lot, bottom line: Make sure you are getting the help you need to process through everything that happened.

  126. Cherries on top*

    Go to Spain, improve your Spanish and recouperate. Talk to a professional. And if you start working at maiking sure people at the border can get fair and human treatment, that’s great. Good luck!

  127. Rosario*

    >Uruguay? Last time I met someone from Uruguay, I barely understood that they were speaking Spanish (to be fair, it was a long time ago and my Spanish has improved since then).

    LOL! That’s because we speak Spanish with an Italian accent, just like some Argentinians :)

  128. writerson*

    I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    Lots of great advice above, but just to add another data point: two years ago, I had a 3rd trimester stillbirth that completely rocked my world. After I went back to work after 14 weeks (due to some serious complications), I struggled mightily to care and perform. For years, I’d been thinking about starting my own business, and my daughter’s stillbirth made me realize that nothing is ever certain and there will never be a “perfect” time for a big leap. So a year after her death, after some counseling and a lot of reflection, I quit my job and launched my business. My head kept telling me to just go find another job, but my heart was saying I’d wind up in the same place.

    A year later, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I feel so much more at peace. I don’t dread going to work. I can structure my schedule to do things that matter to me — playing dinosaurs with my niece, traveling, even just taking a random bike ride on a nice afternoon rather than sitting in an office.

    Take the leap. Go to Spain or Uruguay or wherever else your heart desires. At the very worst, your legal skills can be translated into other jobs in other industries. But you’ll never know until you try.

    You might also look at attending Faith’s Lodge in Danbury, Wisconsin. They’re dedicated to helping parents of loss understand and process their grief. You attend for a long weekend and meet people dealing with similar losses. It’s set on a beautiful campus in the woods, with group discussions facilitated by a grief counselor, plus massage and other activities. I left feeling so much better, like there was a path through the grief and that I wasn’t as alone as I had thought. Also, my husband and I gained the vocabulary to discuss our loss and figure out how to honor our daughter while slowly moving into the next phase of our life.

    Best of luck to you as you move forward. There’s no quick solve to the grief or PTSD of losing a child – Robert Frost notes that “the only way out is through” – but listening to your heart is a great first step.

    I’d love to hear an update in a few months!

  129. itsallrelative*

    Hi OP,

    Heartfelt thoughts being sent your way for your loss! Hopefully it’s not too late to jump on the advice train, and you’ll still check the comments once or twice more. I wanted to give my two (additional cents) that as far as I could tell, haven’t been addressed so far (and reiterating two cents that have been).

    Go to Spain, if that’s where you’d like to go! You don’t need to justify why you want to go there versus another place–ultimately, getting immersed in a language will ultimately aid you greatly, even if in different dialects.

    I know people mentioned Madrid as a place to go, but I would actually say, consider looking at a smaller city where English might not be as prevalent, or even a town, so that you’ll have more opportunities to speak Spanish in your daily life outside the classroom, and are more likely to become friends with native speakers (if there aren’t many English speakers to be found!) (Though, I also realize this may get into the question about sufficient internet speeds, if not in a metropolitan city center).

    Best of luck!

    1. jezebela-jones*

      Thank you heartily for the suggestion! I love it, and you’re absolutely right.

  130. LeRainDrop*

    At this stage in your legal career, it is EXTREMELY common to have the feelings that you do and very common to make a big career move. I feel a large parallel to you. I was an attorney in a big law firm for close to 9 years — much longer than I ever expected to stay, given that I knew within the first few years that I really was not driven to make partner and only had to pretend it was my goal, like everyone else. Anyhow, when I left I took a full year for travel and focusing on family. In fact, one of the months I spent immersed in a Central American country to live with a local family and study Spanish! This move away from the firm and refocusing on other life things was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I think you should follow your heart in this case <3

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