Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Q & A, Part 1

Yesterday, I asked for questions, and you came through. Today, I begin to answer!
From Leslie:
I'd like to know how you ended up going to law school. What about it appealed/s to you? Looking back, would you have chosen a different path?

From Diabolina:
What was your fave subject in school growing up?
Why law?
I will answer these together.

English has always been my favorite subject. This spans all the way back to kindergarten, when I really enjoyed writing nonsense.

Some things never change.

I still have some of those little vignettes. They're even illustrated. I have some butcher paper with a Crayola picture of me on a bike carrying a bunch of newspapers. The accompanying text explains that I would be the best papergirl ever, and I would deliver papers all over the world.

Silly little dreams for a silly little monkey.

English continued to be my favorite subject throughout high school. I wrote for the paper and literary magazine. I won journalism and writing competitions, including one national contest. While I did rather well in all subjects in high school, English remained my best and favorite subject.

When I started college, I began taking all the classes I needed for medical school. My dad is a doctor, and there always seemed to be an unspoken assumption that I'd become one, too. I aimed to major in biology. After my first semester, I was very unhappy with my classes. I didn't do terribly, but they were so tedious. Boring. Sterile.

The best part of my first semester in college was my mandatory expository writing class, lovingly dubbed "Expos" (pronounced "ecks-PAAS"). Expos was the bane of every first-year's existence.

But not for me.

Expos was a joy. My classmates thought I was crazy. It was the only class I had that did not involve numbers, formulas, or chemicals. It didn't even seem like a class. My assignments were to write!

And I got an "A." I was the only one in my professor's two classes.

My second semester, I decided to take a Shakespeare class and a modern English literature class. Another "A." And another "A."

I became an English major that semester and joined the daily paper, and I quickly found a new home writing for the paper's weekly entertainment magazine.

The years went by in a flash. I read a lot of books. I wrote a lot of papers. I wrote a ton of articles. I became an editor.

And then it was senior year. And I didn't have a plan.

I couldn't apply to medical school.
I didn't want to get an advanced degree in English.
I had no interest in becoming a teacher.
I doubted that I had any business prowess.

As Avenue Q so perfectly put it:
What do you do with a B.A. in English?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree.
Then I remembered I still had one relevant skill at the time, aside from being able to write well.

I'm good at standardized tests!

I took the LSAT and did well enough to go to a decent law school. I went. The rest is history.

So, to answer Leslie's question, nothing about law really appealed to me. What appealed to me was acquiring a professional degree that would afford me a viable career. And, to answer Diabolina's question, law was basically a default option for an English major who didn't want to pursue a career in academia.

What can I say? As creative as I am, I rarely let the creative side win. Pragmatism always triumphs.

Looking back, I do sometimes wish I'd chosen differently. My good friend and fellow editor went on to write for Us Weekly for a few years and later taught English at a prep school in New York City. (How very Gossip Girl, indeed!)

I think of his life and get wistful over the imagined excitement of interviewing Brad Pitt, but he thinks of my life and longs for the financial stability that I've established. I also think of how brave my brother was to pursue a career in entertainment. I wonder if I could do what he does.

I'm happy with my job these days. I was unhappy for a long time, but now I'm at a place where good work is truly appreciated, and praise is given freely. Hours are no longer crazy, and supervision is not oppressive.

And I'm good at my job. There's no question about that.

I don't know if I can say I'm thrilled to be a lawyer quite yet or if I will ever be able to say that, but what I can say is that I'm really fortunate to have the job and life I have.

Stay tuned for more answers tomorrow. If you have any more questions, feel free to continue to ask!


  1. Oooh, thanks for answering my question.

    Honestly, it's true. What can you do with a BA in English (besides teach)? Not much, which is why I'm kind of stuck in my crap job for now.

    I'm not even sure what doors my MA will open (outside of academia, that is).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! :)

  2. nice answer[s]. YTFS! really. :)

    yay. my [s] is an [s] and not some random icon.

  3. "I don't know if I can say I'm thrilled to be a lawyer quite yet or if I will ever be able to say that, but what I can say is that I'm really fortunate to have the job and life I have."

    I am so using this answer the next time someone asks me if I like being a lawyer. I think you perfectly summed up how most lawyers feel.

  4. I bet you would have been the best papergirl ever.

  5. i heart this monkey post above all others. i saw avenue q with sable crow (a fellow English major) in October and almost pooped.

    the background explains alot about how beautifully you write. there is such an ease to it, such a rhythm that tho innate comes with practice. it is truly enviable, mami.

    i found myself in the same quandary at graduation. decided to get a master's in journalism really just to delay the inevitable.

    and tho i am still searching for the right path, i wouldn't trade those 4 years of writing and reading and analyzing and loving my life.

    kiss you.

  6. Hi there.

    My delicious friend Diabolina suggested that I check out this post. And I'm glad I did.

    In college (where I met the fair Diabolina), I went with the nebulous "undeclared" until I was absolutely forced to pick a major. Since I was living in the moment, I thought it would be lovely to have the most fun major ever, which to me was English/Creative Writing, with an emphasis in fiction. As in, more useless than just a regular English degree.

    Where does a fiction writer with not enough discipline to actually write end up? Marketing. It's like the career dumping grounds for wandering pseudo-writers.

    I almost went the law route as well, since my dad is a judge and I, too, have always been good at the standardized tests. Couldn't quite go through with it, though.

    Anyway, I guess this is a verbose way of saying, "Hey, I liked your post. I like your voice. I shall return and read more."

    Big ups to D-Mo for turning me on to you.

  7. I love the insight to "your path". Nice.

  8. such an early over achiever... when I was 5, all I wanted was $500 so I could buy myself a candy store... yup, that's how I planned on supporting myself. Dream big, small fry.

  9. i wonder if i could've achieved my dream of writing for a soap opera had i pursued higher education.

    i'm really happy for you that you're liking your job more these days :)

  10. Ha, somehow imagining you as an English teacher makes me giggle :)


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