Saturday, May 30, 2009

Apologia Pro Vita Mia (in search of)

Warning: this thing is autobiographical; read it, if at all, with that understanding. And also with the understanding that my story is not very interesting or noble. It just happens to be the only one I am competent to write about. I have personal knowledge of former classmates who came from less, worked harder, and met with greater misfortune on the road to their JDs. I find their stories repay inspection in better currency than my own.

On May 9th I graduated from Dickinson. I now have a JD degree. I am the first in my family to earn a professional degree, and I am aware of only two cousins with four year degrees. If all goes well, in November I will be notified that I have passed the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bar exams. That notification will mark the end of a long and less than fully happy journey.

In August of 2002, and several years into my working life, it occurred to me (there is no more accurate way to say it) that I should perhaps go to college. And so I did. I had a full time job, so I attended the local community college in the evenings, including over the summer semesters. Two years later I transferred to a four year institution. I earned my BA from that school the month before entering law school full time.

I entered law school full time because I understood it to be a consuming thing, and I didn’t want to perform in a middling way in both law school and at my job. Better to dedicate myself to one thing. That choice was financially ramified, as it meant that I would take on loans and forego a salary for three years. Alas, I dedicated myself to law school and still performed well-nigh middlingly.

The three family dogs died during law school. Two we put to sleep after my first year’s spring exams and before I wrote for the law review competition. I don’t have much to say about their deaths, except that folks who put their dogs to sleep in the way I did should not see Marley and Me, however attracted to Jennifer Aniston they may be. The third was put down this past fall, and left the family home a cathedral of melancholy until the puggle Sammy was acquired (actually rescued from a breeder who somehow supposed a dog looking more like a beagle, and less like a pug, to be a liability). Now my parents dress the poor thing up and take her around as though she were the grandchild I have as yet failed to provide.

An aunt died this spring, and I am embarrassed to say I did not go to the viewing or funeral; she inconveniently died during the busiest week of my semester. She was my mother’s biggest fan (outside her sons), and a very fine woman. It is not a stern enough rebuke to say I should have known better. I did. I should have done better. The law is indeed a jealous mistress, but jealously should not be respected above love.

Now I am in the unfamiliar position of pleading my professional worth, a manifest thing if you ask me, to employers. I am also studying for the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. And that’s all good. At least it's what I signed up for. But it's a restless time.

I am not one of those folks who, if now hit by a bus, could lie on the roadside and say I have no regrets as I shuffle off the mortal coil. I regret many of the decisions I’ve made (not the least but nearly the latest of which is not attending my aunt's viewing and funeral), and I simply haven't done enough of consequence. The thing that most gets me up in the morning, that gets me through the next outline and the next cover letter, is the idea that soon some thing will happen, some opportunity will present itself, that but for the path I followed (but-for causation!) would have remained undiscovered; unavailable. Thus will all that came before be redeemed. And thus will I find the avenue and inspiration to contribute to my fellows on a scale and to a depth my happiness and sense of worth seem to depend upon. That thought keeps me looking ahead; to the day I can be a guy who says he has no regrets. Meantime I am careful around buses.

And folks who consider such looking ahead an unholy or chimerical striving, an unrequitable sacrifice of the here and now, should consider whether they have already arrived, unreflective, to the thing that redeemed their prior acts and omissions, and which leavens all subsequent failures with consolation. That glorifies the here and now.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why the switch from Latin to Italian in the title? (mea --> mia) Just wondering whether I missed some ironic nuance. Maybe Augustine --> Machiavelli?

David Hutchinson said...

You haven't missed something. Unless it was the fact that I am only half educated with languages, and should probably not attempt to use any other than English when I write.

Marie T. Reilly said...

I probably provoked it with the Spanish title in the previous post.

The possible ironic suggestion of the ---> link between Augustine and Machiabelli in an autobiographical muse by Hutchinson is intriguing indeed.

Could the reference be to early Hutchinson, unspoiled by higher ed ---> post Hutchinson, perhaps defined by it?

Only Hutchinson knows for sure. And I suspect he'll keep us all guessing.

David Hutchinson said...

I am simply incompetent with languages, I tell you.

But I, like Augustine, was a practicing libertine in my youth; and God especially knows I'm now more like something Machiavelli (who gets a bad rap) would admire than I am like the mature Augustine. Alas, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Moreover, the mature Augustine was even less than "half educated with languages." Caveat lector.

Kelly J. Bozanic said...

Dave, thank you for this. I, too, believe there is a "pony" in this mess.

David Hutchinson said...

In my more lucid and less embarrassing moments I understand that my life has ponies dancing all around (one of which is the association of folks like you). I guess my anxiety, such as it is, comes from wanting to deserve by actions what I've been given by accident and by grace.