Take care of your barrista

by Jinryu

I had just spent about 40 minutes talking to a partner, [TMT] at one of the firms that I am planning on applying to in a few weeks.  I originally met TMT at the Twilight Drinks event hosted by my university’s Law Society about a month ago.  We had a bit of a chat back then, and he gave me his card, telling me to contact him if I had any  questions about the application process or the firm.  A couple of days after that, I emailed him to ask if he had time for a coffee.  It took a bit of effort to coordinate our schedules, but in the end, it was a good thing to have done it.  

During the meeting, we talked about a range of things, but probably least of all about his particular sector of work.  I avoided this, because, frankly, I don’t know enough about his industry except in general terms– in contrast,  he’s one of the most important people in the industry.   I wasn’t going to impress him.  

Still, I think we really hit it off, and I left feeling accomplished– because I went in there being myself, without really trying to impress.  And he seemed to accept that kind of frankness.

I think I made that mistake last year during the two interviews I got last year– I had spent hours reading up on their firms and trying to impress them by reciting bits from their industry publications instead of going with what I knew best– myself.

TMT  paid for my tea afterwards, leaving a tip at the counter– something which, while common in North America, is much more uncommon in Australia.  I suppose that’s why I thought it was strange, but I didn’t say anything of it.  

“Always take care of your barrista,” he advised me, if I had thought out loud.  As we walked away from the register, he added: “take care of your barrista, and they will always take care of you.”

He spoke of the workplace as a matrix of relationships– and that the most problematic lawyers are the ones who get so single minded about getting the job done that they forget to pay attention to their co-workers, the environment, and everything that’s going on in the world.

He told me about a time on the train when he the old lady declined to take his seat, but he insisted– and she was surprised, and they had a conversation afterwards– and how others on the train started doing it as well.

This is someone I want to work with.  Truly.

I’ve completed three early applications so far for companies that were off season– I have been met with three rejections.  It’s true that one of those applications, I didn’t try all that hard for– and that another, I wasn’t the demographic they were looking for.    The third was a video game which I probably spent too much time on– probably almost a hundred hours working on a video game for them, since the application guildelines were that CVs and cover letters would be thrown out.  All in all, these three weren’t “real” applications.  Time and time again people remind me of that.  Basically, it’s been a pretty dry season so far.  Plus, news that the Australian economy is slowing down and firms are cutting back on things.  That kind of thing is bad for morale. Sometimes, it all gets me down.

I’m usually a pretty energetic person I think, and fun to be around. I don’t like being someone who snaps at people or treats people like shit just because I’m having a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad month– because in most cases, the people who I affect have nothing to do with why I am the way I am.

I am generally a positive person.  Even when I don’t show it, I actually have a lot of high hopes for humanity.  But when I build up too much negativity, my natural way of dissipating it tends to be bitching.  I find it poisonous.

I felt much better today because after having a networking breakfast, and then meeting TMT (a separate event), I went to Kinokunia (a bookstore in Sydney’s central business district).  I read a comic book of “Runaways” which is probably the most interesting thing coming out of American comics nowadays.

Later when I got home, I had lunch with CM, we took a 3 hour nap, and then we went to do a bit of boxing by the riverside.

It’s been almost a year since I last did any boxing.  I’ve certainly gotten worse at it– I can’t properly heavy hits with my left because my shoulder feels weak from a lot of the necessary angles.  I also noticed that now, even when I’m just doing some light drills with CM and I’m on deffense, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open.  Normally you’re taught to keep your guard up and your eyes open at all time so that you can see what’s coming, so you can evade properly.  But i think that the training in judo has removed that hard earned reflex supression… in judo, because people are often trying to grab my collar and I’m often swatting their open hands away, it’s a lot more likely than in a boxing situation to get finger jabbed in the eye, even in passing.  As a result, I’ve rightly developped the habit of blinking when a hand gets too close to my face.  It’s a good reflex for judo, but I’m a bit sad that the reflex came back, because you don’t want to be fighting blind when boxing.

Regardless, my point wasn’t to winge– it’s just an observation.  

What I really wanted to say was that it was great to sweat again, and do something combative.  It was good to exercise that part of my brain that has been asleep for weeks, and remind me that there are some things in life that I can work for and get results in– there’s a strong correlation between effort and results in controlled training.

I’ve been having a good day.

I won’t say I’m ashamed of being down for the past few days.  I’ve had a shitload of work to do, and all these clerkship networking events are simply exhausting.

But every now and then, things are just better than alright, and I’m not just surviving– I’m fighting.

I’ve come to realise that I address hardship in phases.  The first step is to ignore the problem.  Procrastination and denial.  The second is to bask in it, and make it out to being a bigger problem than it really is– this is probably the ‘psychic vampire’ stage where I just build my personal identity around suffering, and snap at anyone who dares challenge the gravity of my lamentations.  I think I’m at the third stage right now– remembering that, in fact, I’ve been through worse, and that no, you fuckers aren’t going to take me down this easily.  This is the heroism stage.

Final stage is basically madness.  This is when I realise that my confidence means nothing– morale is unsupportable.  The only thing that will get me through it is anger and effort, and no amount of mental realignment will help.  There is only sleep and food and work, and whatever barebones mental toughness you have to remember your training.

I think that’s what’s important– developping who you are at the very core so that when shit gets though, you still pull through, even if you’re unconscious.  You don’t pull through because you want to or think you’re capable of it– it is when things get done simply because the muscle memory and the rewiring of the very way your instincts and reflexes work.

I have worked hard at law.  It doesn’t always show in the results I get, because sometimes, I’m frankly just unlucky, or a teacher disagrees with me, or I overlook something.  But regardless of mistakes that I might make about direction, you can be sure that I can work hard.  That’s what my instincts and reflexes are.

When times get tough, and I mean really tough, I fall back on that primal state.  Once my my conscious spirit has been broken, there is still something stronger and more primal at my core, forged through suffering.  It is something that I call on when my tanks are completely empty– it allows me to keep on fighting, even when I have nothing else.  Because it’s all I know.


WIth everything going on and everything coming up, I’m dreading the coming of that time.


But as my little meeting with TMT reminds me, I’ve come a lot way to get here– and I know that I’ll get through this too.