I never set out to be a lawyer. I never thought about being a lawyer. I didn’t know a single lawyer until I went to law school. How the hell did it happen then? A comedy of errors as Shakespeare would say. Yes, blame it on un-named unknown “errors” of a cosmic nature. Somebody somewhere in some region of space is undoubtedly still laughing. I however stopped laughing years ago. Actually I never started laughing, that sound you may think you hear is the echo of screams, whimpers, tears, and moaning, all jammed together in one cacophony of universal refrain that you might have mistook for laughter.
Let’s go back a bit. I recall saying that nobody in my family went to college. NOBODY. In fact, I could easily say that of everyone I knew in my neighborhood. None of my friends parents had gone to college, at least as far as I knew. The only college graduates I knew of for certain were teachers at my school.
So, as I found myself in college, and at MSU, it was all a great new adventure, one that I had no experience with at all. To say I had fun at college would be to do great disservice to the word fun. Fun is a nice little word that is small in stature and thus small in meaning. I had a ball, a gigantic yahoo in college. I was away from home for the first time, away from parental overseeing, conservative mores, and all the rest that passes for the sleepy land of suburbia.
Stay up all night partying? No problem. Nap in the afternoon after that 8:00 class? No problem. I think I completely lost the concept of delayed gratification for those two years. Football, basketball, hockey games. Pizza seven days a week if you were so motivated, dinner at prof’s homes with a group of students, all enthralled to examine the treasures acquired in far off lands. There were horses corralled at the veterinary school across the street from my dorm. There were movies at the dorm, or at neighboring dorms. There was beer everywhere.
There was anti-war protesting, and the pretence that we were causing adults in government to change policy. Lessons in how to avoid tear gas, neckerchiefs to wear as defense. There was Jane Fonda giving speeches and spending the night at our dorm. (She is amazingly tiny if you didn’t know.) There was ice skating on the river in winter, and tramps through the woodlots on campus. There was going barefoot to class and smoking in class and asking a shoed person to put out your cig on the floor for you. There was taking your dog to class, sometimes a class might have three in it at one time. They were all good, being very obedient and sleeping through lectures.
It was freedom, freedom to make every single decision on my own, and I loved it, and felt so very responsible. I had nice roomates and I got good grades, mostly because I was loving everything, even the studying. The end of my first year at State, and now my third year of college brought a deep and abiding concern and sadness. What to do next?
That is where the issue of having no one really to discuss it with became important. My roommates and other friends were pretty much in the same boat. Most of us were first-timers, transfer students from junior colleges, with little or no experience with college life. I guess it seems odd that I did not seek “counseling” at the university, but it never seemed a thought to me. I just knew that after another year, I had to have something to do. What do I do with a B.A. in political science? I took one education class and was so bored that I concluded I could not stomach teaching high school.
My conclusion was that I either came up with something or I would have to get a PH.D. and teach at the University level. That somehow seemed too long, too expensive, and out of the question. Dad never failed to remind me rather often of how much it was costing to go to college. In fact, this may shock the hell out of you, but in total, including law school, it cost him $9,000. Yep, school was cheap in those days, and I worked every summer.
Sometime during that last summer, I concluded that law school was the only answer. It had a finite end, three more years. I of course was caught up in politics, and naive as I was, I concluded that a career in Washington D.C. was my calling. I would secure a law degree and then get a job on one of the permanent house or senate committees dealing with the judiciary. That was naive indeed. Nobody got those jobs unless they matriculated through one of the major ivy league schools. I was unlikely to get in to one of those. U of M was my only real hope, though I was genuinely unaware of that at the time.
Dad, ironically was all for it. He played this game with me for years. He would tell me how expensive something was, how much of a burden it was for him. He would urge me to be frugal, work each summer, and when it came time to pay up my share, he would say, “Oh, I never intended that you would pay any. But I figured that if you knew that, you’d waste money.” It never occurred to him apparently that making that kind of statement to your daughter filled her with feelings of incompetence. He was still doing it when I was in my 40’s, though I never borrowed a dime from him after college.
I recall having to go to MSU sometime during that summer to take the SAT’s. I recall being in a dorm room, and falling victim to a vicious cold. I spent the night shivering, feverish and totally miserable. I dragged myself to the appointed building on campus the next morning and took the test. I drove back to Flint immediately. I didn’t do well at all. I laid that at the doorstep of illness, but perhaps I wouldn’t have done well anyway, I don’t know.
We were in our apartment when I began applying to law schools that fall. MSU did not at that time have a law school, I had only two choices, U of M or Wayne State in Detroit. I had no desire to go to Detroit, but I applied to both. I was turned down by Michigan, expected given my poor SAT’s. I got into Wayne fine. I was thrilled to get in to law school of course, but so sad about leaving MSU. It was heaven to me. An intellectual paradise and somehow, I missed that this is where I belonged. I would not truly realize it until years later when I returned to school once again, this time at Marygrove College also in Detroit.
I was simply a person born to university life. I loved the intellectual give and take, the eclectic nature of the different disciplines and the international variety of people one saw each day. I revelled in lectures and exposure to things impossible to contemplate at small suburban high schools. I walked through libraries so different than those I had experienced at home. It was a microcosm of the world in a few hundred acres and I was part of it. We solved the world’s problems in hours of discussion. We looked down our intellectual noses at the teeming masses of middle-class drudges who spent their time worrying about correctly trimmed hedges and the latest fashion chic. We were the future elites of the world, or so we were led to believe. It was all mostly a crock of course, but we didn’t know that then.
So it was with deep pain and frustration that I graduated from MSU. I was thoroughly dismayed and the fact that law school loomed next was little comfort. I was leaving my precious beautiful State for the brick and cement of a inner city university wherein almost everyone commuted. I did not feel special about going to learn the trade of lawyer. I felt cheated that my haven of MSU did not possess the law school I needed it to.
It was the first of many compromises one makes. Or maybe it was the fifth or sixth I’d already made in life. Life doesn’t ask your permission, it moves along according to some cosmic rhythm, and one does the best one can to keep up. I was just trying to keep up, trying to make the best of this cosmic joke that was my life. The older I got, the more I realized that life was never going to conform to my expectations, it just was as it was. I am still not sure if that was my fault or not. I definitely was not carpe dieming very well.