The Stakes Are So Small

For the past three months, people have been discussing summer employment. I think all interesting lines of conversation were exhausted about two months ago. Everyone has multiple job offers from prestigious but indistinguishable firms offering large salaries, and yet the stress goes on.

I think finally understand: people are having such trouble because so little is at stake. It's like faculty politics, or lawsuits over twelve-dollar debts. Summer jobs -- especially one's last summer job before lucrative full-time lawyerly employment -- are supposed to be big deals. And yet the law firms at which one might work are all but identical.

People are engaging in elaborate shadow dances, trying to reassure themselves that these critically important life decisions are being made for some good reason. But no such reasons exist: the law firms involved are all but identical, who got offers where was largely a matter of chance, and the quality of your summer will be determined mostly by factors other than your choice of firm. The result: enormous stress and anxiety is being poured into a largely symbolic decision, with the result being extreme overtheorization and fretful indecision.