Ever since I announced my short-lived intention to go to law school a year and a half ago, it has risen up like a zombie in a gunfight - no matter how many times I blow its guts out, it stumbles on to haunt me. Despite having adamently decided a dozen or more times to avoid going to law school at any cost, here I am, entrenched in my first semester of law school.
What happened to all my idyllic visions of living a bohemian lifestyle until I was able to secure a career that I actually wanted to pursue, such as teaching? What happened to my nausea-inducing distaste of the high-flying, money-chasing lifestyle where one must sacrifice all of one's hobbies, desires, and even manner of dressing for the sake of a six-digit salary? That nausea is still bubbling about my innards, suppressed by my knee-jerk perfectionism and a compulsive need to please all others, at all costs. Law school is indeed a pressure-cooker: everything but those two base drives - perfectionism and an obsession with others' perceptions of oneslef - is boiled away.
I can't help but feel a profound sense of failure. Despite my best efforts and intentions, I've sold out. I've given in to my fears, to silver-tongued words and to the unimaginative blah of American life. In the course of a few hours, guided by the flit of a whim, I made the fateful decision to "give it a try."
Granted, I am being over-dramatic. Nothing is ever permanent; giving in to "American blah" is a choice one makes and can easily overturn; and it is possible to go to law school and even become a lawyer without sacrificing the prospect of a deeply meaningful and fulfilling life. So what's all my fuss about? Perhaps it is simply that the unhalting march of time has ignited in me an intense nostalgia for the dreams and ideals I've cradled over the past several years. Or, more significantly, it is probably the abrupt shock of plunging from the acadmic atmosphere I had long conquered into the vast, unstructured "real world" that law school attempts to simulate. The very thought of spending all day in a law firm office, at court, meeting with clients, etc. makes me want to run to the neerest coffee shop, jump behind the counter, and begin working as a barista. Fundamentally, I both abhor and fear being in a position where I am responsible and accountable to others for maintaining a high level of success. When I gave up pursuing a career in music, I was motivated by that same antipathy toward the highly pressurized perfectionism therein entailed. Last fall, after completing 18 credits and 90 pages worth of final papers, the most peaceful sigh of relief in all my four years in college arose from my J-term course: a spiritual literature class designed to be contemplative, low-pressure, and explorative. At once, I realized this was the sort of life I wanted to live: one that allows time to breathe, to reflect, to enjoy. It couldn't have been a sharper contrast to the countless days I'd been flipping through like pages of a calendar, wondering how indeed one day could pass to the next when I had only a few hours' sleep to revive myself. That J-term class also re-introduced me to writing: writing for the simple pleasure of it, for therapeutic enjoyment.
But now, here I am, again entrenched in the high-pressure, high workload environment that I had so adamently sworn off. The sardonic irony now seems so obvious: that for the amount of time, effort, and motivation required to even survive law school with some degree of success, I may as well be in grad school as a viola performance major. I harbor only a mild interest in the law, its components, and the work associated with being a lawyer; my passion for music was once so strong that to even consider giving it up was akin to contemplating hacking off my own arm. Yet somewhere along the way that very thing did happen, and I chose the path of practicality; of unbreathing, mundane rationality.
I've said before that boredom is my greatest hatred in life. Ennui might be a better term: that realization that nothing in life holds any interest, that nothing is worthwhile. Such ennui takes root in a sterile mind no longer capable of imagination; a mind drained of all creative resources, and even the desire to create. That, I fear, is where I am headed: a deadening of the soul, a disillusionment with the world, a dreadful mundanity.
I'm going to jog down the cliche road of childhood idealization for a moment, and recount the multitude of summers I spent immersed, hour after hour, in what I now consider to be slightly cheesy, formulaic fantasy novels. The first fantasy book I ever read, whereby I became enamored with the genre, was titled Man from Mundania. The theme was so delicious, so compelling, so alluring, like Super Mario had seemed when I was younger; it was the door to another world. For years, I was obsessed with the genre; so much, in fact, that I began to despair of the dullness of reality. I would have given anything for the slightest peek into another, more exciting world: a secret portal, a flicker of a dream figment flung into the waking world, or even a poltergeist - anything to break rigid, impenetrable reality.
Music, I think, became an extension of that desire. Music shrouds the achingly monotonous routines of life with the raw glow of emotion. Music reminds us that we live not by our bodies, or even by our minds and our reason, but by our souls - our throbbing, vulnerable hearts. In music, we face the absurd mystery of life; we bathe in its roiling tides, whether they be tides of ecstasy, rage, sorrow, or laughter. We confront our own existence, and we emerge recreated.
I've always been intrigued by biographies of classical composer like Berlioz, Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, etc. They all lived so honestly, so passionately, so fiercely, and so sensitively. For this, the flames of life were to them consuming conflagrations; yet the blessings were blissful beyond any flat humanly caricature of heaven. Berlioz, for instance, could not attend a concert without bursting into tears at the beauty of it.
Is it selfish of me to desire this sort of life? To prefer the full, unhindered intensity of emotion, passion, experience, and the senses to a hollow shell of conformity, a carefully constructed shield from the storms of life?
In all of this I only mean to say that for me, as with each individual, there are certain activities, certain pursuits, that make me feel alive, that ignite my passion and excitement, that motivate me to bear through the dreariness, and that shed light into the gray cobwebbed corners of existence and infuse them with color.
I am a creative, emotional person. While I do find purely academic pursuits interesting, they do not instill in me the kind of life and breath that music, writing, and literature do. Thus, I may as well admit, I have virtually no motivation to invest in law school. It was difficult enough to invest six hours a day in something I enjoyed for a specific goal I sought with great ambition; to trip back into that hole for no purpose or goal has filled me with nothing but resentment toward it. When I look around, no one else is in my position, which of course makes sense; why enter an expensive, technical education if you don't plan to pursue that career? One of my law school classmates expressed to me that in finally attending law school, he is living out his childhood dream. This, of course, made me further wonder what I am doing here.
Throughout the last four years, I've experienced several defining moments where I step back and realize I'm living out a dream, or at least a desirous achievement, as in, "Hey, look how far I've come; I never would have expected to actually be doing this!" This happened most notably when I traveled to Turkey and Greece, studied abroad in Guatemala, took that J-term literature class, made several good friends my junior year, and began dating my boyfriend. In contrast are the depressing moments when I look around and wonder where I've gone wrong. A friend of mine once told me that when he has those moments, he examines his life and figures out what needs to change - whether it be a living situation, job, routine, whatever - he simply uproots the problematic element. I've used this advice several times, with encouraging results, and am now planning to use it again. At the end of this semester, unless I'e had some life-changing experience or divine revelation that convinces me otherwise, I'm going to quit law school. I'm going to look past the possible consequences - my parents' extreme disapproval, financial setbacks, and the troubling connotation of failure that accompanies withdrawing - and bury this undying phantom once and for all.
For those of you still with me (that is, if anyone still even reads this thing at all), I'd like to hear your thoughts. Not about my life, which I've painted here with nearly pathetic candor, but rather about the general questions I've posed, or any insights, even anonymous ones. Mostly I just want to have the relief that I've made some connection across this vast void of the internet.
On an unrelated note, I've lately gotten hooked on listening to audio books in my car. (This is partly due to the fact that I spend so much time in my vehicle, thanks to eternal road construction and traffic, and partly due to my vehicle's lack of a CD player.) I recently completed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which led me to this wonderful reminiscence:
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
"Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Eveyone is a genius at least once a year. A real genius has his original ideas closer together."
-Georg G. Lichtenberg
"The world is but a canvas to the imagination."
-Henry David Thoreau
"The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes."
"Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality."
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