Monday, January 13, 2020

Change of Plans (Maybe)

Natori Flora (affiliate link)

This time last year, I was all ready to go ahead and start consulting with plastic surgeons regarding certain plans I'd made. I'd been setting aside cash for months by then - in anticipation of how unlikely it was that my health insurance would ever deign to cover the procedure - and I believed I had enough to cover the full cost, separate from and on top of my robust six-month emergency fund and without disrupting my other savings and investment plans. 

My overall financial situation back then, in January 2019, was admittedly not as healthy as it could be. It was only more recently, right before December, that my student loan balance dropped to five figures for the first time, just barely. And my net worth was still negative back in January last year, I didn't hit "net worth zero" until April. At the time, I didn't think this was reason enough to change my plans. In any case, if I were to move forward now, or in the foreseeable future, I'm currently in a much stronger financial position than I was a year ago.

What actually made me change my mind about surgery last January wasn't my still-substantial student loan balance, nor the obvious fact that the expense would deplete a significant percentage of my savings and assets. Instead, I got spooked by the downturn in the markets, and then by the US government shutdown. Almost my entire practice is in the federal courts, which could have eventually run out of money to stay fully open, though that ultimately did not come to pass.

Immediately afterwards, there were some unexpected events in some of my cases, and things never really quieted down again at the office for the rest of the year. (Though I also never got back on pace to bill anywhere close to 3,000 hours for the year after that extremely hectic period last January, for which I'm very thankful!) And in the end, I think a subconscious part of me is also more scared of undergoing general anesthesia and surgery - and the associated risks of complications, however small - than I originally thought. I never ended up feeling much eagerness to actually take concrete steps to start looking for a surgeon.

And now, a year on, the larger context for my decision-making is significantly changed. As time passes, I get closer to the point when I'd ideally like to have children. I think this particular decision looks very different if one doesn't plan to get pregnant in the next four or more years, versus if it's looking like a possibility in the more immediate future.

These days, I may also be thinking more critically about how much longer I expect to, or will choose to, work in the private sector. I've never planned to be in biglaw or biglaw-ish for my entire career, but I'd previously been a lot more open-minded and flexible about staying in the industry for a fairly long time. I never had a specific end date in mind, in the past, but these days, I may be more inclined to thinking about one. One's financial picture changes significantly, in that case.

Anyway, even if I was eager to move forward with the procedure right now, I wouldn't be able to any time in the next few months. My work schedule in the near future definitely doesn't have enough room for me to take even a few days off to recover afterwards.

I suppose it's clear that I've had a lot on my mind, recently. One surprising - but somewhat positive - side effect of being so busy at the office is that I've somehow still managed to find a lot of time to read for fun, probably in part because it's a more effective escape from thinking about work-related stress than blogging or watching TV. I've read quite a few enjoyable books recently, including Circe, by Madeline Miller, and The Trespasser, by Tana French (affiliate links). I hope that everyone is having a good start to 2020!