I like cooking better than going to court.

Last week, I cooked for about 80 people at a ski lodge over a weekend. Then, I went to court to evict someone.

Both experiences involved hard work and stress, but the results were pretty different. I learned more about myself, and how I want to spend my time.

I volunteered to cook for the weekend at the ski lodge (which is, amazingly, entirely volunteer-run). The most I had ever cooked for was 15, and we expected at least 60 at the lodge. We ended up having 80-120 at different points throughout the weekend.

I started preparing weeks ahead of time. I put a lot of thought into a menu that would be relatively simple to make for as many as 60 times the number of people I usually cook for (i.e., two).

I made a spreadsheet with all of the ingredients for each meal, the number of people for each meal, and the estimated quantities per person. I learned this way that I needed, for instance, 683 slices of bread and 485 ounces of beans. I got a food worker’s permit and scoured the internet for advice on cooking in large quantities. I started shopping two days ahead of time and went to five different grocery stores (with a couple of panicked last-minute runs to my local store as the numbers kept growing on Friday afternoon).

I had a knot in my stomach and a stress-induced headache when we headed up to the lodge on Friday night. But once we started cooking on Saturday morning, my tension mostly went away—although I worked pretty steadily throughout the weekend and I didn’t fully relax until Sunday lunch was over. Everything went smoothly, the food seemed to go over well, and there was plenty of it. I was never faced with 100 hungry, grumpy skiers. Instead, people seemed happy.

And it was fun. I wore my cute apron from Anthropologie. I liked serving the food, especially warm chocolate chip cookies. Simple, but who doesn’t love ‘em? I took joy in the six lovely and organized bowls of spices—cumin, oregano, salt, chili powder, cocoa, bay leaves, and cinnamon—I measured out before preparing three huge batches of chili.

I’ve felt proud ever since. Being able to provide food for 100 people for a weekend makes me feel good about myself. It makes me happy.

Then, I spent Monday preparing to go to court for a hearing on Tuesday. My fiance owns a few rental properties and had to evict a tenant. We’re both lawyers, so we decided to muddle through it ourselves. I have experience with litigation and I have more free time, so I took the lead.

By Monday night, I was pretty miserable. I was tired of trying to figure out exactly what paperwork we needed, of organizing copies of documents, of preparing for everything that could come up. I felt a lot like I used to feel when I was hating my job: like there was a black cloud of misery hanging over me and shadowing everything.

In the end, of course, it was no big deal. The tenant didn’t show up and we got the outcome we wanted. But I don’t feel like I did after cooking. I don’t have the same sense of pride and happiness. I’m glad it’s over and I won’t be happy if we have to do it again.

It strikes me now as a nice controlled experiment in another way, too. Handling the eviction was exactly like the parts of my job I didn’t like: going to court, and in a type of proceeding and case I’d never been through before. But, I was doing it completely voluntarily, to help someone I love, and I had a fairly direct financial stake in it. Despite these things, I still kind of hated the experience. It solidifies for me that while there are aspects of legal work I really enjoy (writing, analysis, research), I don’t want to go to court or be on the front lines, as it were. I just don’t enjoy it, and I don’t get satisfaction from it.

It just might be better to put my energy towards things that do make me happy. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I’ve been working on figuring this out for more than a year.


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