Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pompous and Circumstance: A Law School Graduation Story

Well, I finished the damn paper. It was a long road, made longer by my numerous false starts and general loathing of my topic. Believe it or not, I finished writing it in the chair at the salon as I got my hair highlighted (I had to be pretty for graduation). I missed out on fun with Olivia, the P-Funks, and the Hardy Boys because I was working on the damn thing. A word about the Hardy Boys: so named in honor of the ridiculous, yet mostly harmless situations they seem to get themselves into. There are two of them, Frank and Joe, and when I join them on adventures (does this make me Nancy Drew in a rare cross-over novel?), the experience is invariably bookended with me shaking my head and muttering "I can't believe I'm about to do this" or "I hate them both" before, and shaking my fists at the sky and wondering "Why do I let the Goddamn Hardy Boys talk me into this shit?" afterwards. For all my bitching and exasperation, I usually have fun and get a great story out of it (I think the funniest involved an all-night diner, a lot of vodka, and a minor viral video sensation. The best one's title involves the phrase "Mexican Standoff," so it is best not discussed here.). Thus, it's fair to say that most of my protest is pure posturing. Even though the night usually involves so much eye-rolling that I sometimes fear they will get stuck in the "up" position. The point is, I missed out on what could have been either a) a night of hilarity, or at least amusement or b) a chance to test new and exciting curses on my friends.

Two days after I hit "send" on my final paper, it was time to graduate. As soon as I was officially done, I tried on my snazzy law school graduation robes. This would be better with a visual. You're not going to get it, because I don't know how to blur faces out on Photoshop. I will, however, transcribe the following exchange between Finn and myself as I walked into the hallway in full regalia:

Lola: Well, I guess this is how they're trying to keep us humble…

Finn: What? By dressing you up as a character from Harry Potter?

Lola: The hood's not staying where it's supposed to! I need—

Finn: A wand?

For those who've never seen it, J.D.s graduate in doctoral robes. Which, have long (though, not nearly as long as master's degree robes), bell-shaped sleeves with velvet bands on the sleeves. And velvet on the front. Lots of velvet for May. And then, there's a "hood" (which is a misnomer; it's more like a really weird collar. It hangs around your neck, looking kinda like a normal collar, but then it hangs down your back in a giant loopy-tail thing. With two colors in satin representing your school's colors and then a band made of, you guessed it, velvet, which denotes your degree. Law is purple. We were fabulous.). But, the cherry on this sundae is the hat. It is made of, wait for it—velvet!—and looks, in the bag, like a normal four-cornered mortar-board. HA! It is bigger than your standard mortar-board, and, most importantly—floppy. It was like a graduation beret. Topped with a purple tassel of course. Not even being dressed up like Albus Dumbledore could dampen my joy at this momentous event; I was going to walk across the stage and graduate from law school summa cum laude (I may have numerous personal faults, but I'm pretty good at school. Yeah, I'm kinda bragging a bit, no, it's not particularly attractive, but I worked my ass (and two boyfriends) off, and I'm pretty pumped about it. So, get over it); something that, despite my continuous complaints about law school, has been my dream for the better part of my life. So great was my joy that I even agreed to meet the J-man and family for breakfast the morning. We agreed to meet at my apartment between 8 and 8:30 a.m.

Those of you who've had the dubious pleasure of dealing with me before 10 a.m. and a cup of coffee, you know I'm not a morning person and can probably see where this is going. My father (and the older of my two younger sisters, actually) is always a few minutes late for family stuff. His favored tip-off is calling five minutes after he was supposed to arrive and saying "I'm just down the road." It is purposely vague. We have come to understand that "just down the road" means "approaching the interstate exit," which is a good 15-20 minutes from his house. D has been about an hour late for my birthday dinner for the past two years running. As she lives an hour away, I think it's fair to say that she's been leaving her house at the start time of dinner. Needless to say, I was pretty sure I had until 8:15 at the very earliest. I woke up around 7:25 and started getting ready. Slowly, groggily. Cursing myself for the poor decision to forego setting my automatic timer. At 7:30, my door buzzer rang. WHA? As I scrambled into a robe, and to the door, I realized that D was not on time, but early. I quickly got my coffee-maker ready and gave D instructions for working it. The J-man calls:

J-man: Are you almost ready?

Lola: I just need to get dressed and put on some make-up (ok, I had to shower too, but I didn't have to blow-dry my hair)

J-man: How's that going?

Lola: It will go much faster if I'm not talking about it on the phone. . .

J-man: Good deal, we'll be there soon. I'm just down the road.

I was thinking this gave me at least 15 minutes, so I hopped in the shower. And got out, less than 10 minutes later, to see my father and his family had been let in. I squeaked out "be just a few minutes and scrambled to put on clothes and make-up. But, I was ready by 8:05, so it's all good. And I was even early to my check-in at ThirdTier (yep, my dear friend Amie and I graduated from the same law school). I'll be honest, I was excited for graduation, but also dreading the ceremony. She-funk graduated from her master's program the week before me, and their ceremony was over three hours. Three hours in a heavy robe draped with velvet with no air conditioning promised brutality (a fitting end to law school). Especially since we had a special guest speaker, a faculty speaker and a student speaker. Lawyers love to hear themselves talk. I was anticipating a Gone With the Wind length epic. After our traditional walk to the building, ThirdTier President started speaking. Really slowly. I groaned inwardly and mentally girded my loins.

I was pleasantly surprised. We literally spent as long milling around the Law College as we did at the ceremony. We were finished in an hour and a half. I'm still kind of waiting for it to sink in. Even after I saw my terrible professional shots. I won't be ordering them. I do plan on printing the picture, taken at ThirdTier with my favorite people, the people who made it possible to survive three years of this hell and still have fond memories. WAY better than a picture of me shaking hands with the President of ThirdTier, who I spoke to for the first time as he handed me my fake diploma (a poster of Dean Asshat's inane "inspirational" saying. Which he repeated when we lined up. We all booed.)

So, for a minute, I'd like to give a shout-out: to my law school family. You are the people who made this possible. Through three years of late-night studying, marriages, deaths, breakdowns, break-ups, babies, baby-scares, baby-quiche, ridiculous adventures, ridiculous bad luck, job-hunting in a terrible economy and a million little successes and failures, you made it possible to keep a sense of humor about all this. We made it through and did it with style (and surprisingly few hangovers). So, for being the family that ThirdTier made, thank you, I love you, and CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One Page at a Time

2:18 a.m.

5,108 words.

5 pages to go.

My last all-nighter of law school. Hopefully, ever.

I've had so much caffeine I think I'm going out of my mind. I have 13 hours to finish this. I'm really doubting my ability to do it.

I may still be sane in 13 hours, but I doubt it. If nothing else, I'll be free.

5 pages and approximately 1,900 words to go.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keep on Rockin', Sisyphus

4,572 words. I am starting to seriously doubt that I will ever finish this paper. I feel like I'm rocking out, committing my astute (read: obvious) and insightful (read: banal and completely pointless) observations and suggestions about the law to paper. And then I look at the page count. 9 pages to go. 8 pages to go. 7 pages to go. Go, Lola, GO!

And then I look at the word count.

Fuck it anyway, two people will read this: Kapes and Professor Lawr. Well, four if you count Olivia who I cooked dinner for and Dan who I bribed with a bottle of wine to proofread. I sincerely doubt that anyone gives a shit about what a narcissistic, self-absorbed, arrogant 3L (is there any other kind?) says about anything.

I sure don't, and I'm writing the paper.

As anyone who has ever met me in real-life can attest, I'm completely neurotic about grades. Especially where Kapes is concerned. She has a very high estimation of my academic abilities (probably higher than I really deserve). I have this mortal dread of disappointing her.

On the other hand, the final exams period of your final law school semester is an experience that is soul-sucking on a level that I didn't previously know existed. You're just flat worn-out. Completely apathetic. You've been through the drill, outline, study, review, yadda-yadda-yadda, and you just can't help but think: what's the point? I've given three years, countless hours, a dress size, my stomach lining, healthy lung tissue, two gray hairs and 150 grand to this place. I don't care about issue-spotting anymore. Just let me out! I want to see sunlight!

Even the knowledge that without this paper I will not graduate is not enough to spur me into a rockstar speed-writing session. Every sentence is like pulling teeth. I feel like Sisyphus pushing that rock up the hill. I push and I push and I push, and I still have 2,500 words to go. This grade-neurosis combined with my lack of motivation is a lethal combination. Back to the grind.

Keep on rockin', Sisyphus.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Excuses: The Fight to the Finish

Paper update: 3,865 words out of the required 7,000. So, I'm over halfway done. And actually on a respectable writing roll (4.5 hours of reasonably constant writing). And, I'm fairly confident that at least 2,500 of those words don't suck. And my footnotes look like real footnotes (E texted me for the express purpose of reminding me that I am anal and turn on the formatting to make sure that there are two spaces in between sentences. She was eerily right. I had just turned on my show formatting for that very reason).

Real-time update: my sadistic little computer checked the box that includes footnotes in my word count. Little fucker. It tricked me. I lost approximately 1,200 words. On the upside, I have 1,200 words worth of footnotes. Which means that if they don't actually expand on and illuminate my topic, it will look like they do.

Real-time update: Ranting now about a weird little tort concept in my home state. I know that Kapes finds State Supreme Court's interpretation of this doctrine every bit as stupid as I do. Actually enjoying writing this section of the paper. Mostly because I get to make snarky comments that I know will make my favorite professor giggle. And I get to sound erudite while being snarky. And, I get to say "erudite," which is a fun word even though it sounds dirty. And, I get to say it's scholarly. Which makes me happy.

Real-time update: Olivia is sitting with me while I write this paper, but she does get to watch "Julie and Julia." Plans for the summer: making lobster for dinner. Starting with live lobster. I will sing "Lobster Killer." 3,562 words.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Common Law: The Fatal Disease Common to all 3Ls

I have been staring at my utter travesty of a final paper for just over a week now. I have added about a paragraph. And some snappy subsection titles.

E calculated what I needed to get on my finals to preserve my graduation honors for my final transcript. Considering I only have 4 graded credits this semester, my performance need not be stellar. Just how much I can phone it in, she elected not to tell me. For which I am exceedingly grateful, and give her, as a token of my appreciation, this handsome shout-out.

3L-itis has settled in. Full force. I need to turn in a good 25-pager to Kapes, lest I ruin my perfect record of only being awarded As by her. My grade neurosis, when combined with the utter lack of motivation that accompanies 3L-itis, is a dangerous combination. I obssess about wanting to do well, but cannot do anything proactive about it. I can feel the all-nighter coming tonight.

My senior year of college, this would have been no problem. The Circa 2006 incarnation of Lola once wrote a 25 page comprehensive exam in one night, with a broken arm, after a trip to the emergency room. 22-year-old Lola was awesome. (Mutebutton typed it for me. Once upon a time, Mutebutton was also awesome). I'm a little less certain about my chances now. Technically, I only need to write 16 pages tonight. And then I get time to edit it. But, still, there's no all-night cafe I can drink muddy coffee and chain-smoke at.

Z: Can't you just crank out a piece of shit?
Lola: Believe me, I'm in the process of doing just that.

I took my last in-class final last Thursday. With the most aggressive proctor ever ("Write your phone numbers on the check-out sheet, YOU LITTLE SHITS!"Ok, he didn't actually say that, but E and I swear he stopped just shy of saying "fucking phone numbers").

All that's standing between me and graduation is a take-home final that I'm taking pass/fail and this paper. This should be inspiring, but I still can't get it up.

The other contributing factor to my utter lack of healthy fear?

Ready for this?

I got a JOB! A real-life, big-kid, includes benefits, job. As Finn said, "I guess this is God extending the olive branch." (The day before I got the job saw me at the health center, sick as hell, getting my car towed. We're not exaggerating God's "playful ribbing" of me)

Look out, Big City, Hurricane Lola is set to make landfall this summer.

Assuming I finish that stupid paper.