Being home for Christmas has been somewhat unnerving. True, there have been all the comforts of coming home to rest – not having to cook for yourself, an endless supply of toilet paper, and an easy recognition of your personal preferences and habits. But there are also all the flaws as well. Family are always the people who know how to really twist the knife deepest, no matter how far you grow beyond your childhood, or how far away you may currently live. But there are other more subtle flaws that can come upon you unawares that are very unsettling. Certain objects of everyday use that have resided in a particular drawer or cupboard for 20 years will no longer be stored in the same place. Routines of getting the mail, bathroom use, and bedtimes are disrupted. No longer is it just your roommates hogging the shower, but it’s a whole host of obligations and behaviors you had set aside. Finally, there comes that time when some central place to your former life no longer smells right because you haven’t been using it. There’s no identifiable ‘bad’ smell, the place just no longer smells like home. It can be unsettling to confront the idea that the place you came from no longer exists. It unbalances your ability to look forward.
I came to law school in the fall eager to DO Something, though I wasn’t sure what. I did realize what I was getting myself into. The work was actually not as strenuous as I’d thought, but I haven’t been exploring all the options I thought I would be. This three year period is supposed to be discovery time for me, and so far, I’ve discovered very little. Not that I haven’t been living, mind you. I have accomplished certain social goals to keep myself from studying too hard, and I’ve managed to make Portland a little bit more of a familiar place for myself. Still, I’m worried about the recurring theme I hear when I bring up my dissatisfaction to others. There’s this idea that I’m doing all the right things, and working hard but not too hard, and that law school is something I need to get through, a challenge to be met that I am so far rising to.
It’s the wrong idea. Law school isn’t something I just need to get through. I want to live my life, not just ‘get through’ it. So I need to be very aware of how it’s shaping the person I am. Am I becoming more of who I want to be through what I’m doing now, or am I fading in some way? What are the things that I will choose to integrate into my life and what will they say about me? Do they count for more in the pressured environment of law school, or are they merely the things I should have been giving time to all along?
There is an idea that the truly great among us are defined by how they stretch and expand despite the confines of the environment. Like a tree that grows around and eventually encases a fence, or the tomato that grows over its little box, there is something compelling about the idea. We all want to stretch a little, to break the bounds we feel upon us. Often we don’t through fear or sloth or even the rationalized concern over shattered bits of environment we might propel in our stretching. And fear and rationalization and sometimes even sloth are legitimate. After all, the slow growth into and around your personal fences can be painful. Personally I’d rather be in an elephant box than a tomato box, with space to grow and the opportunity for mild but continual change, but so far I have been unable to find one of my own. We can hope law will be such a box, but somehow I think not. Ah well.