Someone suggested I give my posts snazzier titles. I not writing this to attract followers, though I am thrilled to have them. This blog is a personal challenge – to write every day so I’m counting the days. I won’t stop the day count but I will try to add a bit more detail to the title.
I’m about a quarter of the way through Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” As any good book should, this one is not only taking me on a journey with Cheryl, it has taken me back to a journey I took many years ago, during the summer after my first year at college.
I entered college as a sophomore thanks to a multitude of advance placement classes taken in High School. I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I got to skip all the entry level, lecture hall Freshman classes everyone else had to endure. Looking back I realize I hadn’t won at all. I’d been thrown into the deep end before I’d learned to swim. I was the only Freshman in my advance level classes. Despite what my transcript said, I was a Freshman in attitude and experience. I felt overwhelmed and lonely. My family couldn’t afford the expense of on campus housing so I was a day student. I commuted to school, taking an hour long bus ride each way. I didn’t get to go to the dorms at the end of the day where I could get the support of other students trying to figure things out. I went home where I felt trapped in the past. Everything had changed since I’d graduated high school and yet nothing had changed.
I had barely adjusted to college before my first quarter ended. It was as if someone had hit fast forward and I was struggling to keep up. My second quarter was only slightly easier as I began to adjust but that was about to change.
The third quarter I was given an opportunity which I should have turned down but as no one smarter than me was there to advise me against it, I said yes. The school was introducing a program for undergrads, like me, who declared Pre-Law as their major. For as long as I could remember, I wanted nothing more than to go to law school and become a lawyer. I’d been part of junior jurists programs over the summer in junior high; all through High School I’d worked in a law office after school and during the summer. I jumped at the chance to be an undergrad guinea pig. I became one of twenty undergrads invited to take classes at the law school. I did two undergrad classes and two law school classes that final quarter. I would be taking graduate level classes! It was also implied, if not outwardly stated, that anyone in the program who eventually applied to the law school would be given preference.
That is how, less than a year out of high school, I was enrolled in Constitutional Law and Contracts. Some of my fellow students were a decade older than myself. I worked my ass off. I barely recall my undergrad classes that quarter. I immersed myself in the law books. I was often kicked out of the law library so they could lock up and go home. I’d get on the last bus back to the valley, fall into my bed exhausted and get up the next day to start it all over again. Call me crazy but I loved it. I can distinctly recall one day in Con Law when the professor was explaining a precedent and it was as if heaven had opened before me and shown me a bright and beautiful future – I saw all the implications of that precedent unfurled before me. I was absolutely certain that I was on the path to my future. I was going to law school, I would be a lawyer, all was right with the world.
In preparation for the finals I joined a study group. They trusted me to prepare study cards on the 1st, 2nd and 5th amendments and a portion of Contracts curriculum. I felt that I belonged! We met every evening, weekends and during lunch. It was an intense and heady time. Sadly I cannot recall a single one of their names.
The finals each lasted two long hours. All bodily functions ceased during those hours. I don’t think I swallowed or blinked once during either test. Every cell of my body was devoted to finishing that final, to remembering all the details I had been cramming into my head. Then it was over. The grand experiment done. I was once again just one of the thousand of undergrads criss-crossing the campus in a post final exam haze.
Weeks later the simple white envelope that would change the course of my life arrived in the mail.