There is a Jane Austen quote that has been ringing through my head as I've been wading through the uncertainty of the descent of my first year of Law School. She says, “I have no notion of loving people by halves. It is not my nature.”
To me, the first response reason that this quote appeals to me is because I thought it was the way I felt about people. But the thing about the constant rambling changes of your 20’s, is that you realize that the person you spent all your adolescence becoming is gone with the enclave of adulthood. As a teenager, I was the one always in the middle of the room. I knew everyone. I really loved people and wanted to be with them all the time. I was like that through college too.
With my departure from the Peace Corps and back into my childhood home, Law School was my next great journey. I had been toying with the idea for years and had been talked out of it so many times. There are no jobs, it’s too hard, you wouldn’t like it, etc. etc. But one thing the Peace Corps gave me was a first hand look at the ways that gross miscarriages of justice were carried out. And they weren’t okay with me.
I spent a lot of my life listening and internalizing the way other people critiqued me. I found a lot of my identity in being well-liked. I think that’s what made me almost apologetic about my weight for a long time. Like I was making people uncomfortable because I didn’t look the way I was supposed to. I was always half asking if the choices I was making were okay with everyone. But law school was the one that was all mine. I saw in Africa how much the law can matter if you let it. I saw how far education and hard work could take an issue from people who don’t give up.
Coming back into an old familiar setting as a completely different person didn’t seem to work too well. My old childhood friends didn’t recognize me anymore. I was tired of hearing everyone give their opinions on what I was doing and if I was doing them properly. It came to the point where I was just done with people who were getting in my way. This resulted in many nights alone, in bed with a book, or wistfully apartment hunting in cities with good schools. For someone who had always been in the center of everything, I logically waited for a breaking point. I waited for the time when I would recant my relentless ambition, and try to have a sort of balanced life.
But I don’t love things by halves. I never have. My dad always implied that this was my fatal flaw. I realized this after I finished watching the movie The Paper Chase. On the surface, its supposed to be about the tumultuous first year of law school and the dynamics between professor and student, but it’s really about a first year law student who falls in love with the professor’s daughter, a girl who tells him to just relax and not to take school so seriously, to explore more, be spontaneous. The movie ends with the iconic scene where he takes his unopened exam grades and throws them in the ocean.
I sat there watching the credits and just thought, “ What. The. Fuck.” This movie enraged me. I had no idea what was at all appealing about a woman who undermined his schooling the whole movie and dragged him into her alternate reality world where a hyper-focus on school was detrimental, but one on their relationship was just fine.
I have been derailed by a guy more times that anyone should. And they were always at really crucial junctions in my life. Internships, student teaching, Peace Corps. I had this huge thing to focus on, and yet a relationship took center stage instead. They ruined everything. I don’t love anything by halves. This includes people and apparently, my future. I’ve spent the last year virtually alone. I'm terrified to have any tie somewhere that might unseat me.
I think that maybe there are people that are only meant to do one thing really, really well. And I think those people sometimes have feelings of inadequacy, because they have uncorrectable tunnel vision. I feel like I have the potential to be a really excellent lawyer or somebody’s really cool wife. At the ripe young age of 24 though, I don’t know how someone can be both. And I choose, most ardently, to go to school.
Maybe this is something you grow out of. Maybe you don’t. But as it stands right now, I make no apologies for wanting my JD instead of a husband. For wanting to put a brief to bed instead of a baby.
I don’t choose to do anything by halves.