Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll probably tell you that I’ve been spending a downright unacceptable amount of time in the law library this past week. And no, it’s not just because I’m drawn to the high ceilings and the fact that the library workers don’t demean me by making me open my backpack on my way out (seriously, though, why can’t Bass follow suit?). It’s because this Saturday, I’m taking the LSAT. Cue shrieks of terror.
If we’re being perfectly honest, ever since I decided in May to take the test, I’ve been weirdly excited. Or if not excited, at least I’ve been proud of myself. It’s become my go-to crutch whenever I hear that people are headed to a Bain info session, or to a Bridgewater meet-and-greet at Miya’s (which I blew off to, yes, study for the LSAT). Absent a job or any marketable skills, studying for the LSAT has been my default way of reassuring myself that I still have a purpose in life. But as the test is fast approaching, I’m trying to change my way of thinking about it.
To back up, seniors have now entered the point of our academic careers where it seems like everyone is marching dutifully into their futures. And if you don’t have a job already lined up, either you’re sacrificing sleep and sanity to get one, or you’re taking the other socially acceptable path: going to more school as a postponement of real-world plans. I fall solidly in the latter camp. I don’t know what I’m doing next year. But that’s okay, I tell myself, because I’m taking the LSAT. I’m going to law school eventually (please, God), so that’s my plan, right?
That’s why the idea of the LSAT had always been reassuring to me — it was so distant and nebulous (while at the same time official-sounding enough to garner approval from peers). It allowed me to cast myself in that same narrative of the ambitious, high-achieving Yale student embarking on the next steps of our choreographed, competitive lives.
As you’re reading this, my test is almost exactly 48 hours away. The time has come. It’s no longer an abstraction; and with that knowledge comes this feeling that I’ve been going about it all wrong, in the same way that I worry that too many seniors go about the job process all wrong. A 22-year-old’s first job is not merely something to check off on a to-do list or add proudly to a resume. Nor is stumbling into law school something to pursue just for the sake of self-validation.
Don’t worry, I’m not having an existential crisis about becoming a lawyer; I’ve known that I wanted to go to law school basically since freshman year of high school. But in the past months I’ve lost sight of why I really want to go to law school. I’ve relied on my law school plans as a way of making myself feel better in the face of my
peers landing starting salaries I won’t see for at least five years.
But that’s not the real reason I’m taking the LSAT. I want to go to law school because I want to be a lawyer; and I want to be a lawyer because I want to use the law to implement real changes in American policy. I want to pick fights with The Man, and I want to know that because of something I’ve done, I’ve made someone’s life tangibly better. And I want to do those things because they’re what matter to me; they’re what I believe will make me happy. (Or at least I seriously hope they do.)
And for all the people in the senior class packing the rooms in the Omni trying to get a job in finance or consulting or advertising or anything under the sun, I wish them the best of luck. It sounds like it would make me miserable, but I hope it makes them wildly happy, using whatever value system makes sense to them. Because while it may seem hard to believe when we’re trapped here, surrounded by the tunnel-vision of “get a job, move to a major city, make the dollars,” that’s just one, narrow view of the good life. Yours is allowed to be totally different, just as much as it’s allowed to be exactly that. I’m not saying don’t do finance; I’m saying do it because that’s what you want to wake up doing every morning.
When we graduate from Yale, our first step, be it a job or be it graduate school, isn’t just a matter of getting on a path that will allow us to feel self-assured. It’s another chance to move ever closer to becoming the adults we’re going to be. So when I take the LSAT this weekend, I want to remember that I’m doing this for future me, to allow me to become the crusader I hope to be, and not to make current, insecure, unemployed me feel validated over dinner table conversation.
Victoria Hall-Palerm is a senior in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.