PAABA President’s Address – April 2012

We like to think we live among sober, measured, non-fiction thoughts.  Leave the supernatural to the creative types — after all, how can one measure a judgment in rainbows or fairy dust?

There is one fantasy, though, that we hold dear — and we may as well admit we believe in unicorns for they are more probable than — our pursuit of Perfection.

Our language makes it plain: we don’t just use the word “should”; it is watermarked onto our lens of the world.

It makes us crazy.  Any outsider would be baffled at why we do not bound gleefully from sunrise to sunset. After all, we survived law school and the bar exam.  Our employment opportunities may be limited at any given time but the range of options is a veritable cornucopia.

They do not understand, we answer, because they never saw how it could have been.   There exists two realities, just as in science fiction, and we compare them obsessively.  Either we made a fictional plan that real life derailed, and we bitterly rue real life for not being fictional; or, an ordeal taught us an important lesson and we separate the lesson from the ordeal (immediately recharacterized as a “mistake”) and wish for the lesson as if it could ever have existed separately from the ordeal.  It makes us crazy because it is crazy.

“I’m stupid for not knowing that . . . I should have done it differently . . .  If I’d only known that this would be the result . . .” we sigh.  There was no way to know though, because we only live forwards in time.  Only forwards and in one reality.

Professionally, in small doses, driving forward may improve your practice, however, everyone needs to regularly recognize this fiction to step away and appreciate who we have become in real life, in our draft versions.  We are always only in draft form.

As for PAABA, we’re not therapists or philosophers (professionally, anyway) but the bar provides perspective and information so that our members can help themselves. Who needs another CLE provider?  It is a tremendous benefit, but not the goal.  PAABA was formed amidst an assortment of orchards between San Francisco and San Jose because our members wanted to enjoy work but only while enjoying life.  Unexpectedly, technology and industry formed around us so that now we practice in one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in the world.  Progress is change; perfection is not.

So shake off the backward looking “shoulds” and reap the benefits of an old bar association that developed its wisdom from simpler times.  Renew your membership, attend events and reach out to one another.  Our calendar is perfectly poised to provide an assortment of upcoming events but, what gives it all life and meaning, is you.

Soyeun D. Choi, President, Palo Alto Area Bar Association

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