About ten years ago, I was in D.C. for business, and I extended my trip for a few days to visit a dear friend and his wife. She was in law school at Georgetown and he was in a job that he loved. Because I’d had plans for law school since I was a little girl, I asked if I could tag along to sit-in on one of her classes. It wasn’t likely that I would ever have the opportunity to attend Georgetown…ahem…I was, after all, kicked out of college and took a total of ten years to actually graduate. With…umm…a dismal GPA. So I had to jump on this chance to see what an amazing East Coast law school was all about while I could.
And…it was…heavenly. Swoon. I sat-in on one class and was absolutely mesmerised. It was riveting, it revolved around justice, and our country, and I was in. F-cking. Love. I remember the professor using the word capricious several times and the way it fell from his lips was like listening to Vivaldi. It was musical. Glorious. Beautiful. Never mind the fact that, at the time, I didn’t even know what the damn word meant. But it sounded smart, and pretty, and I swore to myself that regardless of my situation I would never let my lifetime dream of going to law school die. Not. Ever.
So I continued to plow through college, working my a-s off to get to class (even though I hated sitting in school with 18 year-olds while I was a fat failure who’d been asked to kindly LEAVE a few years prior). I took my LSAT and got a pretty good score, applied to a part-time evening program at a well-respected school in St. Paul, and was accepted. The day I received…my goodness I’m getting choked-up even thinking about it…the day I received my acceptance letter was one of the best days of my life and certainly my most proud. I remember standing in the kitchen of the condo I’d purchased and moved-into not long before and reading it over and over to be sure I’d understood it correctly.
I had also just started a new position within the organization for which I worked. A position that was demanding, and challenging, and that I loved. I started to worry about my increasingly full plate and how on earth I would be able to succeed in LAW SCHOOL while having just taken on a brand new mortgage and brand new demanding job. My new boss suggested that it would be “incredibly difficult” for me to balance it all. And his tone suggested that he didn’t think it was a good idea.
I deferred my enrollment for a year, the school was gracious and understanding, and I told them I looked forward to starting the following fall. I worked that year and had phenomenal professional success. I loved my job. When it was time to attend orientation for law school, I went, and I got very very worried. How ever would I be able to go to law school and do it well when I was working 50+ hours per week? How in the world would I do my lifelong dream any justice if I half-assed it? How would I do right by my employer and the people we served if I was splitting time between my work and what would surely be a demanding academic schedule?
And then I made a big mistake. I asked my friends who were attorneys what they thought. They were vocal and unanimous. “DON’T DO IT!!!” They nearly pleaded with me. The debt wasn’t worth it. None of them were pleased with the work they were doing. Law school was horrible and they’d all done it as 22 year-olds without full-time jobs. The combination of my own fears and the words from my trusted friends was too much to ignore. I humbly withdrew my enrollment two weeks before class was to start.
I convinced myself temporarily that really, no REALLY, law school was not for me.
But then something happened. I suddenly felt completely lost and out of sorts. Wait…what now? I was always supposed to go to law school. I’d planned on doing so since I was in fourth grade. What do I do NOW?!!! It began a long line of possible career path ideas that I thought could take its place. Because certainly, doing what I was currently doing, was NOT going to be able to sufficiently take the place of my lifelong dream. No sir.
- I could get an MBA. Yeah that’s it…an MBA! Can I get into business school with my LSAT score?
- I could get a Master’s in Non-Profit Management. YES! Maybe THEY would let me in with my LSAT score!
Then I met my husband. And my little girls. And at first I kept on keeping on with my search for WHAT THE F-CK I would do now that law school was seemingly off the table. As we spent time with my husband’s phenomenal divorce attorney I thought that might be the ticket.
- I should be a divorce attorney! YES! I can help people at one of the very worst transitions of their lives.
But then I realized I’d be helping people at one of the very worst transitions of their lives. And it felt gross.
- A therapist! Obviously! Yes! I can help people work through their issues so they can move on and be productive and happy!
But again…as we jumped into therapy ourselves and struggled through tragically sad and frustrating things that were happening in our lives I realized that I’d had enough listening to sadness. I didn’t think listening to more would be helpful.
- An IT specialist. I should be a CIO for a Fortune 500 Company. YES. I love finding ways for systems to make my team’s work more efficient. I love systems that help us work smarter. This is it!!!
I actually applied and got into a Master’s program for this one. It seemed so perfect…in my mind…not so much for any of the people who know and love me however. And finally a professor in my program, a big wig for IBM and also an attorney, asked if I’d ever considered law school. Ummm…(crickets)…maybe?
So I started looking into law school again. And my pretty good LSAT score had expired. And my admissions to the fabulous part-time evening program had expired. And I would be starting over from scratch. But I decided to pursue it all the same. I set-up informational interviews with esteemed and incredibly successful Twin Cities attorneys with whom I’d worked in my career thus far. They were encouraging, amazed at my husband’s enthusiastic support, but very clear about how hard it would be with children. And a full-time job.
I signed-up to take the LSAT again. And canceled. Twice. And finally, with my attorney friends still discouraging me, I decided against it. I didn’t really want to go to law school anyway. Just a childhood dream that I was having a hard time shaking. Right?
Then I found writing. WRITING. And I love it so much I can hardly stand it. And I want to be a writer. And I want to be an author. But (who do I think I am) I want to be a writer AND go to law school. I want to chronicle the absurdity of quitting my corporate gig, joining the youngsters in law school, and how I make it work with a family. Or more to the point…I want to write about following my dreams.
When I saw the psychic earlier this spring I mentioned law school. I wasn’t going to but I just had to ask. And she was discouraging…”law school, people ask me about law school all the time, and I’ve never turned over [tarot] cards that would suggest they should go.” And she turned them over. And she said “until now. I have never seen this in my career. You are supposed to go to law school.”
I promptly told her all the reasons I can’t. Part-time at night would mean three nights per week, PLUS working full-time, PLUS studying every waking minute, PLUS (and this is the biggest part) providing the stability and support and structure and safety the little girls expect, crave, and depend upon at our house. Going on weekends means the same thing only reverse which days I’m in school and studying. In our current family situation I cannot…CANNOT…go to law school part-time and work full-time.
Now, I know, I know…technically it can be done. People have done it. Under more challenging circumstances than my own I’m sure. But let me reiterate…this WILL NOT work for our family.
But I can’t give up my salary and go full-time. It’s integral to our being able to live in our little house near the girls’ school. It’s necessary in order for us to…oh I don’t know…pay bills. My salary being part of the mix is non-negotiable. But so is my time with my little girls.
And so I’ve given the dream up. Kind of.
I literally have dreams in which Walter Mondale tells me he expects to see me in law school at the University of Minnesota. That I have to go there. One of the best law schools in the country. One that does not offer a part-time program.
When we dream about winning the lottery the first thing that comes to mind is enrolling at the U of M for law school full-time, during the day, allowing me to study at night and on weekends…but AT HOME…with my little girls.
The other day, my mom met a woman who asked “what does your daughter DO?!! She is meant for greatness.” The first thought that popped into my mind when she told me that yesterday afternoon, as I was sitting in my living room in pain and feeling incredibly antsy, was LAW. SCHOOL.
And then something came to me. And my antsy feelings dissipated. And what I actually WANT was clear. It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen the way I need it to. I’m going to somehow raise, or stumble upon, or an “angel investor” is going to give me three year’s worth of my salary so I can quit and go to the University of MN full-time (and I’ll somehow convince them to please allow me to attend in spite of my less than stellar academic past). Starting fall of 2013. I will graduate in the year I turn 40.
And then I thought of all the people who deserve help more than I. And I questioned who in the world I think I am to put such a ridiculous thought like this out into the universe.
But instead of letting that get to me, which is just a disguise for my paralyzing fear about ACTUALLY attempting to make ALL of my dreams come true…God forbid we shine like we’re supposed to, I put it aside and made the decision that I WANT THIS. I CHOOSE THIS. AND IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
Call me capricious if you’d like. Call me a writer if you will. And hopefully you’ll call me an attorney in four years.
TODAY: What if I stop pretending I don’t care about, want to go, or still dream about law school? What if I declare what I want, plan for it, and watch it unfold as it’s supposed to for me, my husband, and most importantly for the loves of my life…my little girls?