Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Where be his quiddities now?" or "Cemeteries Give Good Perspective"

After a string of catastrophes and failures, I decided to become a lawyer. And if that doesn't sound like the first line of a great novel, I don't what does. But seriously, the decision came from a mix of frustration, ambition, altruism, and blind optimism. So for the past few months I've been cramming for the LSAT and looking at schools and programs.

I've also been reading blogs like this one that are pretty discouraging about the whole idea of practicing law. Clearly, the industry is not what it once was, and a legal degree, even from a top school, is no guarantee that graduates will get a decent job. And some law schools are coming off as almost criminal with their inordinately high tuition and low job placement, sinking their alumni with anywhere from $70,000 to several hundred thousand dollars of debt without the prospects of a legal job.

Anyway, yesterday I went to a law school fair and talked to a lot of different schools. At first I was overwhelmed with all the fancy options. But then I started to think about paying tuition at a place like Pepperdine and living in a place like Malibu. A pretty campus and even proximity to family are not worth that much debt to me. I went from being overwhelmed at all the possibilities to despairing over the prospects of any of them.

So I went for a walk to the Provo Cemetery. This is not as irrational as it might sound. Exercise (even something as moderate as walking for 90 minutes) makes you feel better, and there's no place quite like a cemetery to give you perspective on life and living. When I got there, I stood in the chilly shade of a spruce tree and waited for some kind of inspiration.

I started reading headstones, and the inspiration came quickly. It's a little cheesy, but here it goes: Not one of the headstones said anything about being an attorney or a judge. They all had some sort of declaration of faith and a family title. Mother, son, daughter, father, grandfather, grandmother.

If I get into my top school and have a satisfying and rewarding career while ridding the world of crime, rehabilitating criminals, and defending the Constitution, that'll be swell. But if I don't, that's okay because it doesn't matter nearly as much as my relationship with my family and my God.

I felt much better when I woke up this morning.


  1. Weird. Not 30 minutes after I read this I was reading Joseph Frank's biography of Dostoevsky and came across this passage about the Russians not really belonging to the Romanticism of the age: "The suffering of the world, the mystery of the universe, the impulse toward the sublime in love and heroism, the grief and despair over a dreamt-of but unattainable beatitude, the Hamlet-like visits to cemeteries, the romantic pallor, romantic beards, and romantic haircuts--all these and similar things gave evidence of restive spirits." Though I guess yours wasn't really Hamlet-like (and you don't have the romantic beard!), I thought it was a weird coincidence.

    Good luck with the LSAT and law school. I take the GRE in a couple of weeks but am kind of a lost soul. I suppose I can always subscribe to the Mr. and Mrs. Brown Fund for Aimless Children.

  2. Eh…I'd say it was pretty Hamlet-like. Also, it's good to know that I'm in good company!