Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking Back

I woke up today looking forward to what the coming year will bring.

I woke up today looking back at what the last few weeks, months, and years have brought.

New Year's Eve does strange things to the way people think. As far as I'm concerned, anything that (temporarily) inspires overweight people to get on a treadmill is worthy of academic consideration.

But, in my own mental meandering, it was a summer day that I found myself reflecting back upon. While rearranging my room, I came across the journal I kept over the month I wandered around Europe. The following excerpt caught my attention:

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London, Leicester Square, 6/29/04, 2:00 pm.

...Penn is a very homogenous place for all of it's so-called diversity. The pressures to conform to the same ideal of success are palpable. It looks something like this:

1) Stress over grades. You may do this privately or you may subject the world around you to your turmoil. If done publicly, I reserve the right to exploit your insecurity.
2) Plan on fleeing Philadelphia. New York, Boston, and Washington are acceptable post-graduate places to relocate.
3a) If you are in the College, apply to graduate school.
3b) If you are in Wharton, get an I-banking internship your Junior summer in preparation for a financially successful and emotionally unrewarding career on Wall Street.
3c) If you are in Engineering, go to medical school. Go straight to medical school. Tell everyone how you knew this while in the womb.

The social pressures to do these things stem from a desire, as I see it, to be successful as soon as possible. What this culture fails to understand is that we all have our own notions of what that is. I have entirely convinced myself that I want to go to law school for reasons of career aspiration, legal fascination, and a desire to continue learning. But, law school is a choice that I feel like I fell into. What else am I going to with a degree in Classics? Justifying an undergraduate expense in excess of $150K to parents, even ones working as educators, is not an enviable task. Responding to peers, friends, and family with shrugged shoulders about the future is a sign of weakness these days - and not self exploration...

...I hope it is never too late to decide to cross the ocean or the world on a whim. But, before it becomes more difficult, I felt I owed it to myself and my family to try my hand at this cliched emersion experience. And I'm having an incredible time.

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I'm happy to say that law school has been the right choice for me. I love the path that I can feel this experience leading me down. But, there are times when I feel like I'm running down it too quickly. Law school is very destination driven. What markets are you looking at? What firms are you interviewing with? I'm much more about the journey. There's a huge part of me that still desperately wants to be whimsical. I want to go to Thailand, bar crawl on Broadway from end to end, and play in the World Series of Poker. I want to get to know each and everyone of my classmates for the people they are before they get to where they are heading.

The way I felt two years ago strikes at the heart of the way I feel today.

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