Last week I took my last exam in law school. To complete the circle, I took the exam in the same room as my first law school exam. It's one of the only classrooms on the second floor that has windows, so you actually have an idea of what is going on outside. I remember taking that very first exam and looking outside the windows as four hours passed by and day turned into night. I also distinctly remember how weird and infuriating it was that four hours did not seem like an adequate time for the exam, and how if I just had two more hours I could have answered everything sufficiently. Because that is normal..to want an exam to last six hours instead of four. Needless to say, that first exam was difficult. So to complete the circle even more, it was only fitting that my last exam was beyond difficult. Possibly even the most difficult in all of law school. So difficult that there were times where I found myself audibly chuckling at some of the questions and my feeble attempts at answering them. Ah, the joys of a pass/fail class! Except that there were times during that exam where I wondered if I would even get the meager passing grade that I needed. Here's hoping!
Two days after my last exam I graduated. Like most of my other graduations, it was a surreal experience. It always takes me a little while to process when things end. It feels as if I am just on summer break, killing a week or two before my summer job starts. That is not the case this time. There can be no summer break when you are done with school, and I'm about to start prep classes for that giant test I have to take in July.
The question I get the most lately from friends and relatives is if I was glad I went back to school, specifically law school. Was it all worth it? It's a question I ask myself as well. I wasn't the kid that grew up saying "I'm going to be a lawyer." Even when I graduated from undergrad, when I had a fleeting thought about going to law school, I told myself it wasn't for me and that I was through with school for a while. And when I started working and would talk to friends going through law school, I would always think to myself that it sounded like torture. So what changed?
I try to imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't made that decision to go back to school. I'm guessing I would still be at the same company, but with a different title and much more responsibility. I would most likely be driving a different vehicle and not the 10 year old truck I drive now. Maybe I would have stocked enough money away to scrape up a down payment and would be living in a house. Maybe getting married would have come at a different time.
I remember one day during my first year as if it were yesterday. It was one of those days. I was beat down and felt so defeated for various reasons. To make a long story short, there was an incident with the light rail train downtown and the trains couldn't get through. I called Wife, who was GF at the time, and asked if she would come pick me up downtown. The only place I could think of to tell her to meet me was in front of my old building. So I sat on a bench for 10 or so minutes until she came, staring at my old building, my old life. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to take it all back. To still be working. To still be making money. To not have to worry about school, studying, commuter trains, professors, etc. I wanted my old life back, and all the comfort and complacency that came with it.
Instead, I left that job and that life. I left a debt-free existence and took on school loans. I downsized into a tiny apartment for one year, was thankfully was allowed to live rent-free for another year, and then moved back in with the parents and commuted like crazy for most of the last year until the wedding. I left a life where nights and weekends were care-free and took on a life where there was always something hanging over my head. I took on studying again. I took on exams again.
See, at my old job I didn't see a future. Not for me anyway. And all the experience I was receiving was preparing me to take jobs in the same area and industry, which was not something I wanted. If I ever wanted to switch to another industry, I would have to start all over again. So I guess I decided to start over in a big way. That fleeting law school thought I had years and years ago started to grow. Whereas my current occupation seemed so limited and narrow, a law degree seemed so open-ended. Now, the future I see is drastically different and is full of limitless possibilities.
Law school challenged me in ways I never dreamed of. And it changed me in ways I never dreamed of. And while the immediate future and my job prospects are uncertain and up in the air, I know that things will fall into place. I definitely have ideas about where I want to go and what area I want to start out in, so I can only pray and work hard to make sure that happens. I can honestly say that I'm glad I did it, and can say with certainty that it was worth it.
And above all else, it definitely made me smarter.