ambivalent imbroglio home

« February 07, 2004 | Main | February 09, 2004 »

February 08, 2004

Sunday Morning

sisu says hi

The weekend supposedly means a chance to breathe again. The pace of this semester has seemed to ratchet up on an almost daily basis, to the point where I spend almost no time with L., no time for proper correspondence, no time to step back and try to see what's happening outside my little world of school and politics and school and school. Even my supposed dog just sniffs at me when I come in the door, "Oh, it's just you," then walks away.

About this time a year ago, I was giddy with relief and pride and happiness because I'd finally been granted admission to a couple of law schools. Oh for those halcyon days of yore! Excitement about law school, where have you gone?

Ok. I can't resist melodrama. Law school isn't bad, exactly, it's just a whole lot more tedium and work than anticipating law school was. To be honest, hardly a day has passed since school started last August that I haven't thought about leaving. "You gotta get out of here" is sort of like a broken record in my head. I'd probably think that meant something if I hadn't lived with some form of it for nearly my entire life. Ambivalence is a curse, unless it's a virtue. ;-)

So today, well into second semester, I don't think it was a mistake to come here (D.C.) and do this (law school), but I don't think it was the right thing to do either. Call me a world-champion second-guesser, but as L. seems to move closer every day toward the kind of writing career I've always dreamed about but thought impossible, I can't help but think how ridiculous it was for me to think law school was a good idea. I think about this for a while every day or so, then I quickly drown it out with the myths or mantras that got me here: "It's only money. It's about doing something meaningful; you get your J.D., and you'll be in a much better position to do more of what needs to be done in this world. The point of a J.D. is the sudden power it brings you." Or something like that. Other times the internal monologue is more pragmatic: "You can't leave now; how would you ever pay off all that debt?"

All that debt, indeed. In a brilliant little post entitled "law school decision time myths," Transmogriflaw lists "it's only money" as numero uno, and she couldn't be more right. The trouble is, if you don't allow yourself to believe this myth, how could you ever start law school?

Here's how: Go to the cheapest school you can get into! That was my plan when I started this adventure. I talked myself into it after seeing a friend earn a full ride to a quality school on the basis of a high LSAT score and a great application essay. I figured, hey, I can do that. Looking back, it seems that was the beginning of a slippery slope I'm still descending. If I can go free, why not? I thought. And if I can't go free, at least I can earn some good scholarships and grants to bring the cost down into the reasonable realm. And if I can't go for free, and if I can't earn enough scholarships and grants, I can always just go to an inexpensive school. And if I can't go for free, and if I can't earn enough scholarships and grants, and if I can't go to an inexpensive school, I can just not go at all. That will be a clear indicator that I shouldn't be going to law school. See: "But I've already decided that I won't go if I have to pay more than $30k for it, so that's a little easier."

Yeah. That's what I thought. Somehow all that thinking morphed along the way into something completely different. Transmogriflaw's Myth Three began to operate, working overtime to make me ignore my nagging doubts. "The debt won't matter so much because I'll be able to get a job that pays well enough I won't notice those big loan payments. And if I don't get a job that pays very well, I'll use my school's LRAP to take care of those big bills. And if my school's LRAP won't take care of those bills..." I never really found an answer to that one, but here I am, anyway.

And somewhere along the way, Myth Four kicked in. Yes, I had to apply to the top schools I could reasonably hope to get into, and yes, I had to go to the best one that admitted me. Looking back, I'm sure Myths Three and Four worked together. When I started thinking about law school, I didn't think this way at all, but it became a sort of inevitable, self-generating process. The more I learned about law school and getting in and all that, the more I had to seriously confront the likelihood that I would have to incur incredible debt to go. And the only way to get my mind around all that debt was to try to believe that whatever job I got would cover it. And in order to get that "job that pays enough," I had to go to the best school I could get into. I had to. There was no other option. After all, isn't that the law school applicant's Prime Directive?

So now, here I am, in law school, in debt, less than thrilled about the whole thing. Not miserable, not thrilled. Just trying to understand where I've been so I can figure out where I'm going. In a comment on the always excellent and inimitableStay of Execution, "tex" writes:

At some point, you've got to quit doing things you don't want to do to get to where you think you want to be -- otherwise, you'll end up somewhere you *don't* want to be...

So true. So true.

Where do you think you want to be? Are you doing the things it takes to end up there? Maybe a better question is: Can we ever really know the answers to these questions?

In addition to drawing thoughtful comments like those from "tex,"Scheherazade, an attorney practicing at a small firm in Maine, also recently posted some thoughts about how dispiriting the practice of law can sometimes be. She writes:

My job is just fighting about money with people who will all, at the end of the day, go home and sleep in their own beds. Partly I do this work because fighting about money is fun and interesting, but I know another reason I do it is because at the end of the day it's not so bone-crushingly HEAVY. And when I get glimpses of what I'm avoiding it makes me really sad, and it makes me feel like a fake and a liar.

Perhaps feelings like these can be reduced by the type of law a person chooses to practice, but the more I learn about it, the more I doubt that's true. It's begun to appear almost inevitable that, no matter what direction I choose to take in law, I'll end up having to represent clients I don't want to represent, who want me to accomplish things I believe are wrong. It may be impossible to know where you want to go in life, but it's generally a bit easier to know where you don't want to go, isn't it?

Posted 07:24 AM | Comments (6) | law school

Saturday Night at Bethesda B & N Cafe

Two women are playing endless and intense rounds of competitive Scrabble. Their board appears to be a custom job, with the top cut from a "deluxe" board and mounted on a wooden turntable (looks a lot like one of these). Perhaps the board belongs to the coffee shop. But what about the Adjudicator 3500? That's right: The Adjudicator 3500. It appears to be a timing device with two lights and two little plungers on the top. When a player hits her plunger and calls out her score, it becomes the other player's turn. Both players write down each others' scores, to keep each other honest, I suppose. Their letters are guarded by the lions and toucans adorning their cloth letter-bag. These two just don't mess around.

At another table, a man reads a thick ream of laser-printed pages (a manuscript of some kind, perhaps?), and a paperback novel, alternately. He also seems to talk on his cell phone a lot, but I've never heard it ring or seen him dial.

Behind me a couple silently signs to each other, pointing at our table and making keyboard tapping motions. Are they signing about how much they covet the coolness that is the iBook? ;-)

Not far away, two men play chess. One of them discusses each move before he makes it. Is that a wise strategy?

At the window, a man on a cell phone calls the movement of traffic below as if he's calling a football game. It seems he's trying to lead someone to an open parking space. We're on the second floor, overlooking a parking lot, so he has a great view of spaces as they open, then all too quickly close again. I imagine this man does this for a living. He's the B&N parking man. For five dollars, you can call him and he'll guide you to a parking spot. He's always here, come any time.

I see a lot of what I would guess are married couples, men and women at that point in life where their kids no longer live at home and their jobs no longer demand long hours. They come to the bookstore on a Saturday night to browse and people-watch, then they drive home in their SUV-variant to watch the evening news on their large but not too large screen tv. Life is good.

One of the scrabble women is slowly making her way through a nice piece of choclate cake. They don't use the rotation feature of their special board; one of them appears to prefer playing upside down.

I know nothing about these people, they know nothing about me. There's a line for coffee, a line to pee, and every table is taken.

Saturday night at the Bethesda B&N Cafe. Who knew?

Posted 06:17 AM | life generally

about   ∞     ∞   archives   ∞   links   ∞   rss
This template highly modified from The Style Monkey.