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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Truth

I must be the most blessed Law Student in the world at this moment . . .

I truly believe I am.

And this is a good thing--well, a great thing--because it wasn't but a few months ago I was beginning to think I would never be satisfied practicing the law.

I thought Law School would be the greatest experience of my life. As to my actual impressions, doesn't the previous sentence give it away?

But I can't help but think of a line from the movie Little Miss Sunshine spoken by Steve Carrel's character after Paul Dano (the teenage son) says he wishes he could go to sleep until turning 18.

Frank ("Did I mention I am the preeminent Proust scholar in the U.S.") tells him a story about his favorite author looking back on his own life and realizing that his best memories were those of his most miserable years. Because, he says, it was during those years he did all of his growing and maturing and learning.

Proust's happy years, Frank explains, were uneventful and did nothing to make him a better person. So Frank finishes up by telling the kid . . . (to paraphrase) "If you skipped the next three years, you'd be skipping the most miserable years of your life. And those are the best."

I have had some miserable years.

In fact, my life has been somewhat of a train wreck barely held together by my own dreams and ambitions since at least high school.

I've let down a lot of people . . . temporarily, at least.

On a college recommendation I once had a teacher write of me (again, paraphrasing): "[Misery] reminds me of the line from Thornton Wilder's great play "Our Town" when one character echoes the sentiment that 'Life is wasted on the living' and 'Only the saints and poets understand life while they live it.' I believe [Misery] is one of those very rare people, either a saint or a poet, on whom life is indeed never wasted. I have never met another person at his age who is quite the same."

That was for my application to Rice University in Houston.

I wasn't accepted.

It was either that disappointment--or that disappointment coupled with the lifetime sentence of my former best friend for murder--that began a very chaotic attempt at figuring out what that teacher meant when she referred to me as one of the "saints and poets".

My friends and teachers believed I would be the next Jack Kerouac.

Instead . . . I moved to Houston, took up residence in my father's spare bedroom, and began working in a factory. I went out alot, had sex alot, spent alot, and when I wasn't busy with that I was busy arguing with my stepmother.

(To this day she blames me for her indiscretions with another married man--while my grandmother was dying of cancer and my father was commuting between Denver and Houston to be by her side. Consequently, I was no longer even living with them. She was one class act, let me tell you . . .)

Anyway . . .

Do you know what's wrong with the Poets?

They are observers. They spend a lifetime of understanding through observation. And they may even begin to believe they are a part of which they write. They create a world, they package it, and they sell it to their readers.

And then all of this is one day crammed down the throats of 15-18 year olds in a vain (and I am speaking in terms of the vanity of our Educational system) . . . in a vain attempt to teach these kids about life outside. Outside of the classroom. Outside of their bedrooms. Outside of their families.

But again, the problem becomes that this perception--while it may echo an understanding of life--is not a true representation of the world.

Poets have tried to truly recreate life for their readers. It is my belief all have failed.

So after a decade of searching to understand what this teacher meant, I finally concluded she believed I was one of those venerable Poets.

After all, I could not have been a Saint.

I have come to the firm belief, however, that it is only the Saint that understands life while it is being lived.

The Poets only merit an honorable mention. For while the Saints understand it by appreciating the simplicity of it, the Poets spend a lifetime--stretched into centuries by the life of their words--searching for it.

Searching is good. Living is better.

Some time ago a Poet discovered that much of life is about struggles. Ever since that time, a great many self-professed Poets have dedicated their living to living in misery.

After all, it is through the hard times that we gain the most understanding, correct?

The problem is, though, that far too many people today manufacture their misery, their pain, their struggles. And they revel in the mire they create for themselves. And they call themselves deep, and believe themselves to be intelligent . . .

But the Saints understand that life isn't about the struggles. Life just has struggles. It's a simple truth.

They exist. We all deal with them.

But we don't create them.

Life is about maintaining conviction and determined joy while and when the struggles occur.

That is what the Saints understand, which the Poets have always missed.

I appreciate having been called a Poet. But I much prefer being a Saint.

So what does this all have to do with my life as a Law Student?

Well, as I said, I had once all but decided I could not deal with a life of practicing the law. While I love many of the people I've met in Law School, I can't stand the Law Student Mentality.

And I don't think it may get much better when we pass the Bar.

I just keep asking myself this question--

If we can't even be honest with ourselves, how can we be honest with our clients?

If you will allow yourself even this brief moment of clarity, you will admit that you are not honest with yourself most of the time . . . or at least half of the time, right?

I am not asking you to start examining yourself through this statement. Do with it what you will. But at least admit as much . . . and then go on about your business.

I just don't want to live my life the way most lawyers do, especially trial lawyers.

I just want to be confident and content with what talents I've been given and the simplest life I can create for myself.

That is why I am the most blessed Law Student . . .

Because I think I may have the opportunity to do just that.

Right now, I am doing just exactly what I want to do. And I don't feel the pressure or need to do more, strive to get more, or pretend to be more than I am.

As a Law Student, I have a boss who trusts me enough to give me complete control over work that I find satisfying. As a Law Student, I am responsible for at least 3 separate civil rights law suits filed in Federal Court. I determine the strategy, I control the pleadings, and I direct discovery.

And I haven't once had to pretend I am something greater than I know myself to be in order to gain his confidence and obtain this responsibility. I have been true to myself.

As a Law Student, I have a wife who is far from perfect. But now she tries really hard to be all that I need. And even when she fails, and it seems she isn't trying at all, I can still see the struggle that goes on in her heart. That's all I need.

As a Law Student, I will be a father very soon. And my "career" has never seemed less important to me. Life is far too short to spend it all at the office, making money, when I am missing out on life with my wife and my baby girl.

As a Law Student, I have decided a "career" is not even what I'm looking for in this world. I want to do work that will mean something to me. I don't want to create a life seperate from my family that will become a monster I can't control, that will demand my time and energy and attention in order to make it grow. I will strive to be a great husband, a great father, and a great citizen. I will be the attorney these other things create in me.

As a Law Student, I was given the opportunity to represent the strength of my school by becoming the first selected for consideration by the Department of Justice's Attorney General's Honors Program. I interviewed in October, and as far as I know I am still being considered. I was not given this opportunity because I am better than my classmates. And I hope that if selected, it will only be a reflection of my character and potential--and I never mistake it for more.

If any Law Students are still reading this blawg--or have suffered through this beating of a long post, for that matter--let me give you a little advice about Law School . . .

You don't have to be Order of the Coif. That doesn't make you happier, and it won't make you a better person. Especially not if you've given up your life to achieve it.

I am not advocating you become a slacker. But I think Law Professors have unrealistic expectations and reward unbalanced behavior.

Do your best, yes. But your best does not have to include spending all of your time studying in order to compete for the A. Mediocrity in the classroom can still be rewarded by a dynamic and more fulfilling life at home.

So Law School is full of struggles and lots and lots of Misery. But don't let your life become about Law School.

Your life just has Law School in it. That's the simple fact.

Make your life about maintaining conviction and determined joy while and when the struggles of life as a Law Student occur.

Then you will become more than just a lawyer. You will become a better and more complete person.


Blogger prettylawchick said...

This was truly an impressive and enlightening post.


1/25/2007 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it the soon-to-be-a-daddy hormones kicking in?

1/25/2007 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Meg said...

Wow, that was really awe-inspiring! :)

Good luck!

1/28/2007 4:08 PM  
Blogger Red Sonya said...

Coming from the other side of law school hell, I can assure you that what you have written here is oh-so-true. God bless you!

1/30/2007 10:12 AM  

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