I am starting law school tomorrow. This is the one thing I hope to achieve.
Tomorrow is my first day of law school. The last two years of my life have been consumed with LSAT preparations, applications, sweaty-handed tours and interviews, scholarship negotiations, and long, tearful talks in the mirror as I questioned if the bubble of anxiety in my heart was going to be worth it in the end. In 24 hours, I will finally be able to answer that question.
According to the handful of other law students I have encountered — friends, acquaintances, long-lost high school compatriots reporting via Facebook — the answer to that question is “no.” Rather, law school has been reported to me as a place whose primary function is to suck out your soul through your eyeballs and replace whatever belief you have in humanity with a dark gray cloud of bitterness and alleged “realism.” Even those who are simply going to law school to make stacks of money they can later swan dive into report the fatigue and suffering of 80 hour work weeks, belittling bosses, and rampant addiction among their peers. As for those who hope to break the wheel of our justice system, well…
It is painful for me to imagine spending three years learning and working only to emerge with a fresh pocketful of debt and a hollow heart, and yet this reality seems all too feasible if I, for a fraction of a second, let my gaze slip from my goals.
Materially, my goals include making law review, remaining at the top of my class, securing meaningful internships with organizations whose missions I hold dear, etc. Yet, above and encompassing all of these well-worn notions of success is something else: more than anything, I hope to remain positive.
When I look inside myself and try to see the woman I will be in three years, I see someone golden, someone bright, someone who has let the bitterness slide off of her and emerged victorious over doubt, both self-made and externally-imposed, that so many relish, if only for familiar comfort.
Sharing this vision no doubt makes me sound like a sneer-worthy special snowflake who has no idea what she is about to get herself into. Good luck to me, attempting to remain bright after witnessing another Black man shot by the NYPD. Good luck maintaining faith in change after seeing another family separated for the supposed “crime” of searching for a better life for their children. Good luck thinking you can still do something about anything when a male judge with an “III” after his name and white hairs sprouting from his nose informs you that your female client was “asking for it.”
To this I say there is a difference between anger and bitterness. Bitterness simply folds in on itself, exponentially reducing any and all possibility for change. Bitterness installs blinders on eyes that are otherwise capable of thinking creatively and envisioning a new kind of future. Bitterness has given up. A righteous anger, however, can be channeled and molded. It is insistent rather than exhausted.
In Rage Becomes Her, writer Soraya Chemaly frames anger as a tool:
“Your anger is a gift you give to yourself and the world that is yours. In anger, I have lived more fully, freely, intensely, sensitively, and politically. If ever there was a time not to silence yourself, to channel your anger into healthy places and choices, this is it.”
This breed of anger is far more conducive to a joyous life than the bitterness and exhaustion that have become hallmarks of the legal profession. Living a life of intensity, be it negative or positive, seems the clearer path to the type of structural change of which our times are in desperate need.
I spent the majority of Monday afternoon on the phone with my best friend. I shared my fears and my anxieties with her; revealed the imposter syndrome that has been giving me the worst vivid dreams for weeks now. Despite whatever I claim my vision is, the subconscious is already working against me.
“Do you want me to pull a tarot card for you?” she asked. Unfortunately the legal system does not operate on an occult level, but I happily agreed. I said I needed something to focus on and channel my energies into.
After shuffling the deck, and me virtually cutting it, she revealed my card: The Knight of Wands.
“You are charged up with energy, passion, motivation, and enthusiasm, and you channel that energy through your inspired action,” she read from her guidebook. “You have a clear vision about what you want to create and, fuelled by your passion and inspiration, you are now moving forward with leaps and bounds to turn your vision into reality.”
So be it — if that is what the cards wish for me, then I will go forward with my singular vision. Tomorrow I will arrive by 1 Train, as opposed to gold-covered horse, but I will arrive with strength and positivity upheld for all those whose lives I hope to help change — and who I know will change mine in the process.