Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why am I here?

I am officially halfway through the first semester of law school. Things have been going well. I find my coursework to be challenging but manageable. I'm learning a lot, which is always a good sign when you're in school. Additionally, I'm learning a lot about myself.

Today, when my 30 minute nap morphed into 3 hours, I realized how exhausted I am. The workload is immense in the first year; which is why the law school tells students not to have jobs during the 1L year. Since I also have the 3 1/2 commute every weekend, in order to see my children, I often find my time is limited. When the rest of my section is having their usual night out on Wednesday, I'm studying so that I can be ready for the next week--since I know nothing academically related is going to be accomplished over the weekend.

When I am finally with my kids, I want to be with them every moment that I can. Naturally, they don't feel that same urgency. They don't understand that I can see how much they've changed just in the week that it's been since I last saw them. Sometimes I look at the sacrifices that I'm making and wonder: "What am I doing here?"

I had thought about law school since I was a kid. I blame Clair Huxtable. However, I never really believed that it would be possible. We are the first generation in my father's family (the only family we really knew & grew up with) to even complete high school. I knew I wanted to go to college, because it was a way out of the backward, impoverished area that we lived in. However, law school seemed so out of reach. I didn't even know anyone with a professional degree. Yet, after all these years, here I am.

Perhaps there's an advantage to having lived some of my life before coming to law school. I see all these students that are here directly (or within a year or two) from undergrad and they don't appreciate the experience. For them, everything they are learning is abstract and distant. Once they start having to apply it, I fear many will likely feel like they've had the wind knocked out of them. They're all very intelligent people, and I'm sure they'll rally just fine. For me, though, I'm glad that I can observe the transformative process that this course of study is designed to be.

So, why am I here? I'm here for my children. I'm here so that I can provide for them in the future. I'm here so that I can transform the future and, hopefully, leave them a better society. There is a lot of work to be done and I truly hope that I can make a difference. I thank our fost/adopt experience for enlightening me to the ways our system does and does not work. I also credit it with helping me understand the generational issues that have developed within my tribe (and many others), the causes of which cannot be changed but the roads out of which are beginning to be built. I feel an obligation to assist in that construction so that those who wish (like me) to change their futures will be able to.

Thinking about that question always brings me to another: "How did I get here?"

I didn't school shop all over the country like some students that I know. Because I wanted to let my kids keep most of their world in tact, I knew that this law school was my only option. It is the only one I applied to. Honestly, I didn't have an appreciation for how risky that was. Until orientation, I didn't fully comprehend the fact that they only offer a spot to about 10% of the applicants. So, why did they take me?

My undergrad transcript is rather lackluster. I have a decent, but not wonderful, gpa. I'd be willing to guess that the majority of applicants had a higher gpa than I. My grades during the Master's program are much better (all A's except for 1 B). Since most applicants don't have a graduate degree (only 10 of our class of 175), though, so I don't think they give that much weight. My LSAT score was respectable, but not spectacular. It was the average of what my school usually takes. So, again, how did I get here?

When I received the letter from the Admission Committee, offering me a seat in this year's class, there was a handwritten note at the end. It told me that I am they chose me based on my personal statement. When I originally sat down to write the required essay, in which you're effectively trying to sell yourself to the admissions committee, I had no idea what to say. I took many starts at it, but would delete the entire thing and start over. In the end, I decided to not try to convince them that I am a good student or that I would make a good lawyer. Instead, I just shared who I am and what it important to me. Sometimes, when I wonder why I'm here, I re-read the words, written by the Associate Dean of Admissions:

The Admissions Committee was impressed by so many pieces of your journey--your ability to juggle parenting with the completion of two degrees, your commitment to public service that you have shared with your children, and your battle for [your daughter]. You will make a great advocate!