Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blast From the Past

Working in the law school admissions office as I do, it was only a matter of time before I set aside the flood of hopeful applications from future lawyers and revisited my own in the archives. I remember the whole process so vividly. All that work and all your hopes and dreams about the future, the anxiety and the vulnerability, compressing your whole life into a few pages, then sending it off for a stranger to judge. It's terrifying yet exhilarating to know you are on the cusp of taking that last step into adulthood, into who you're meant to be. All you need is a yes. 

I wrote my law school admission essay about bridging the gap between being an idealist and a realist. It was about going from being an observer to a doer, and arming myself with the tools to make the leap. The essay centered around my experiences in Lesotho, Africa on a 7-week service trip the summer before my senior year and then working at law firm just after graduation. Idealism meets realism.

"When one is committed to social justice causes (like me) and travels through life seeing the world through lenses colored by twin shades of idealism and optimism (like me), the idea of the "real world" is anything but appealing....Nothing helps you get a good solid dose of the real world better than working for corporate attorneys or assisting with family and personal injury law. By taking on that challenge, I faced the real world and found it to not be so scary after all....I have seen how the work attorneys do can impact a client's life by giving a person a sense of empowerment in a situation in which they might otherwise feel helpless. It became clear to me that every time an attorney advocates for a client, no matter how big or small the case, he or she is amplifying a voice that might otherwise have gone unheard, and with that ability comes a remarkable power to create change..."

When I went back to read that essay, I expected to be embarrassed, to cringe a little, the way I usually do when I go back and read something I wrote forever ago. Instead, I was surprised to find I was still proud of it. I poured my heart into it. I wanted law school so badly. I wanted my future already. I still do.

It seems appropriate to me that my essay was about idealism meeting realism. Reality has kicked my ass this year. Graduating from law school and struggling to find a job, not using my degree, is not what I had planned. Being 7 months out and still worrying about money, not being able to relieve my parents of the few things they still pay for on my behalf, not being able to plan for more than 6 months at a time...that was not the plan. It's incredibly frustrating, and yet I'm pretty fortunate to have a job at all, one that I actually enjoy and look forward to every day. I try really hard to find the silver lining and I'm very proud to report I usually succeed. It doesn't remove the sting completely though.

This is what I wrote about 2011 back in 2010:

"I have a good feeling about my 27th year. A really good feeling. Everything is finally going to click and my grown-up life is going to start coming together in a way I've been working towards for a long time. Law school graduation means starting a career and not just having a job. It means settling into being the person I'm supposed to be. It means being done with school forever. No more taking out loans and wondering where my next check is going to come from and having to ask my parents for help. It means I get to stop wondering what I'm going to do next and how I'm going to do it and just start doing."

Pieces of that happened. I don't want to shortchange the good things. Joe moved in. I get to wake up every day next to a man I love. We got engaged. I get to laugh every day. I have an amazing network of lovely people who make me feel loved and adored, and let me know I deserve it.

But that career thing? That nagging last thing that just refuses to fall into place? The biggest hope I had for this year? That one hurts a little. I know I'm not alone in this. I know 2011 has been an incredibly difficult year for a lot of people. I know a lot of people are struggling to redefine their hopes and reshape their futures. I am trying to view this unexpected struggle as an opportunity, for growth and for an examination of what I really want. I am trying to still be the idealist.

Tomorrow I will turn 28. And I will likely spend a bit of time reflecting on 27 and my hopes for 2012. And I will try not to be too frustrated that they are still exactly the same as my hopes for 27 and 2011.

Here's hoping for a 28 and 2012 that is a little more ideal and a little less real. For all of us.

(P.S. - We were incredibly fortunate to have an amazingly talented photographer on the Lesotho trip with us. She still has some fantastic images on her website in Gallery 1, if you would like to take a look.)


LWhits said...

Happy (slightly early) Birthday my gorgeous friend! I hope your 28th year lives up to your hopes and dreams.

Can't wait for your New Years Resolutions post!