Tomorrow I graduate law school.
That’s it. That sentence sort of stands alone. Three years ago, at a different graduation, I felt a lot. I could break that down, but it’s just the usual contenders: excitement, fear, etc. etc. I don’t feel much about tomorrow, which maybe is because I really don’t know how I feel about the last three years.
I’ve somehow blacked out most of the misery because my brain is great at self-preservation. I’ve written here about the humor I forced myself to find in the absurdities inherent in the institution that is “law school.” And I love my friends. I really and truly have never met people with whom I connected on so many levels before. The result is that I just sort of feel nothing about tomorrow; not pride, or relief, or sadness, or excitement. It’s just another day. Sometimes I feel like such a fraud, such a deep sense of shame, when I run into people from my past who ask what I’m up to and they respond with how impressed they are. It doesn’t really feel impressive.
I was a very very young 21 year old when I graduated college. I didn’t want to be an adult, and law school seemed like a great procrastination of life mechanism. (Spoiler Alert: Nope.) If nothing else, law school forced me to grow up, but I still desperately cling to a few immaturities, the most important being that I really and truly want to change the world. Three years ago I didn’t know what that meant, but law school has helped me to better solidify and understand that desire.
Since I don’t know how to feel about the last three years, I’ve decided to decide how to feel. I am pretty accomplished at self-loathing. I spend far more time cataloging my failures than even noticing my successes. However, today I’ve decided that instead of all of the possible negative emotions, when I think about law school I will feel self-worth and fulfillment. When I think of the last three years I will remember the asylum cases and people who will not have to return to prison, torture, and probably death. I will remember being a very small part of a very big case that helped prisoners find justice after beatings that left them permanently disabled. I will remember the day a local organization, after a 10-year process, was officially granted tax-exempt status.
None of those things happened because I was there. If I hadn’t been, some other law school student would have done the work, but I did get to be there. These people let me into their worlds, and shared their amazing stories with me, and for moments in time I got to feel useful and proud. Law school gave me the chance to effectuate change, and the tools to continue doing so. I may never be Amartya Sen – because I’m sure he never cried in front of a sexy professor – but I did one time shakily walk up to a window with my first solo-asylum client – the old man covered in the scars of a torture victim – and cry with him when we heard he’d been granted asylum. And you know what? That’s pretty fucking awesome.