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OP-ED "Why I tossed out my law degree"

Most lawyers hang their law degrees over an imposing rosewood desk. I hung mine over the basement toilet.

My husband would shake his head every time he came out of the crapper, and urge me to move it somewhere more dignified. “It’s so sad,” he said. “You don’t value it.”

“What do you mean?” I replied. “It’s the perfect place for it.”

He was right, of course.

When I looked at my degree, all I saw was years of wasted effort, and time I would never get back. I knew I hated law school after the first month, but stuck it out because it was a clear path and I was tired of feeling lost. Besides, I loved telling people I was in law school. It was impressive. I was going places.

So I told the voice inside me that was bored and depressed to suck it up. At the end of first year, I had the perfect out: I was pregnant. After my son was born, I could have easily left law, but I didn’t. No way. That would have meant I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was convinced I had a plan.

Instead, I lactated my way through courses on business organizations and real-estate law. Sometimes I napped. The following year, I had my daughter. Law school became a retreat, a reprieve from the wailing and mucus of my living room.

There was no question of quitting now, and I attacked my classes with renewed vigour. I was going to be a lawyer, damn it!

I threw myself into extracurricular activities, working at a poverty clinic, volunteering on civil-liberties cases and even joining up for the law school book club.

It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t like the work. I was over that. What mattered was that I stay on track. My last year of law school was a blur of kids’ birthday parties and desperate late-night searches for exam outlines.

During that time, I developed a chronic eye twitch. My right eyelid spontaneously broke out in spasms several times a day.

My husband suggested (gently, oh so gently) that I wasn’t happy. Maybe law wasn’t my thing.

I explained to him (there may have been some yelling) how crucially important it was that I finish law school. If I didn’t graduate, I would resent the kids for stealing away my brilliant law career. That’s right. I was doing it for the children.

My eye twitch got worse.

During my articling year, I started to unravel. I couldn’t focus during the day, and then I would panic when I got home, pulling all-nighters to catch up.

I started crying more, hiding in the bathroom stall at work, hoping no one would notice. I kept emergency concealer in my pocket to cover the redness around my eyes. When that didn’t work, I told my co-workers I had severe allergies.

On the day of my call to the bar, my husband and I talked seriously of separating. For the first time in weeks, I didn’t cry. I felt nothing (unless confusion is an emotion).

How had my path, the one I had meticulously followed, left me so hollow and burned out? I accepted my certificate and decided to take some time off.

Over the next few years, I pieced my life back together. I discovered I still had a marriage. I discovered I still liked a part of myself, especially when I followed my genuine interests. I took up photography because it felt good, not because it looked good on my résumé.

Sometimes I thought about law in the vague way one thinks about an old, lost sweater. Where did that go?

My law degree gathered dust in the washroom, but it still had its uses. I still told people I was a lawyer. I was just on a break, a long break.

When my law society invoice arrived in the mail every year, I paid it so I could legitimately say I was a lawyer. I still hadn’t reconciled who I was with who I thought I wanted to be.

In the spring, my then-nine-year-old daughter and I were cleaning up the basement for a summer renovation. We needed to take everything off the walls.

I took down my law degree and held it in my hands. It was six years since I had practised. My daughter stood behind me and asked me what I was doing.

Cont....

by Anonymousreply 1911/15/2012

“Just looking at my law degree,” I said.

“Mom?” She hesitated before she went on. “Are you a lawyer? Like, if my friends ask.”

“Mmmn, yeah, sure. Technically.”

She stared at me, a tiny but thorough therapist. She didn’t care either way; she just wanted a straight answer and, for the first time, so did I.

“No.”

It came out as an exhale. “I thought I wanted to be one, but I was wrong.”

I packed the frame with my other degrees and called the law society a few days later to surrender my licence.

It took me six years to let go of my law career. When the official form came in the mail, my hands shook – not with fear, but relief.

As moments go, it was more fulfilling than any ceremony with hundreds of people. But then, for the first time in years, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone.

Marcia Walker lives in Toronto.

by Anonymousreply 111/14/2012

Privileged Twat.

by Anonymousreply 211/14/2012

Lots of people study law, finish the degree, get a job, hate it and then do something else.

This woman apparently knew she hated it while she was still studying and never took a job.

by Anonymousreply 311/14/2012

I pulled the same shit in the '90s with an undergrad degree in Finance. It just seemed to go with the work I was doing at the time. I was smoking a lot of pot during that decade.

by Anonymousreply 411/14/2012

You are not alone.

I quit an MD program after 2 1/2 years. All I had to show for it was huge debt, because what you learn the first two years of "basic science" is literally useless if you don't go into practice.

I'm in software now, happy, and make good money, and my life is my own.

by Anonymousreply 511/14/2012

I wish I'd had the guts to stop. I hated it, but had no idea I was allowed to let alone should be happy.

It has come in handy in the work I do, which happens to be regulatory and legal in nature, so it wasn't all that bad.

by Anonymousreply 611/14/2012

It's so crazy. Sometimes you just get caught up "proving yourself" to people. And the guilt and feeling like a disgrace if you quit is institutionalized.

I'm convinced certain professional degrees have just turned into money-making schemes. Not to mention the "degree inflation" of "DPT" and "Doctor of Pharmacy" Maybe 30-40 years ago it meant something to go into law or medicine. But the education system is sick now.

by Anonymousreply 711/14/2012

Spot on r2.

I hate these people who whine about their entitlement, but even worse take spots from people who truly wanted them.

There were women with whom I went to business school who quit working to be stay at home mothers within two years of our graduating. While I don't have a problem with people who stay home to rear children, I do have problems with people who lie about career aspirations on applications and take spots at schools with 10% acceptance rates for applications.

Blah blah...people change, I know. But, don't whine about how stupid you were and how lacking in self-awareness you had been. Also, really, you couldn't predict the outcome based on your entire life to t point.

by Anonymousreply 811/14/2012

OP = Aviva Drescher

by Anonymousreply 911/14/2012

typical whiny martyr frau

by Anonymousreply 1011/14/2012

[quote]I hate these people who whine about their entitlement, but even worse take spots from people who truly wanted them.

Professional grad schools in the US have always been credentializing mechanisms for the powerful classes. So this should come as no surprise.

You think GWB would've gone to Harvard and Yale if his parents weren't in the elite?

by Anonymousreply 1111/14/2012

Excellent post OP. You are not alone. My license and law degree are buried in the closet. I knew that I hated it from a 1L. I was a poor kid w/ a GED who had bootstrapped her way into law school. I discovered that to be a successful lawyer, I would have go against my value system.

God had other plans. Two weeks after being sworn in, Drs found tumors that they thought were malignant. Nothing worse than the thought of dying, without living your own truth. I paid dues for 5 years. Never practiced although I have helped many folks. I started a small computer business and I try, not to look back.

It's difficult sometimes, because no one else understands it. They think that you have thrown away the keys to the kingdom. Perhaps the thrill was about the chase, once I go it in hand. I wanted another challenge.

Thanks for your post OP.

by Anonymousreply 1211/15/2012

OP, you should include a link to the original source in order to avoid confusion.

by Anonymousreply 1311/15/2012

R9 - HA! Aviva Drescher wouldn't have a clue how to clean her own bathroom and wouldn't know how to find her basement with a compass.

by Anonymousreply 1411/15/2012

The GlOBE and MAIL/????

REALLY OP?

by Anonymousreply 1511/15/2012

Oh boo hoo hoo hoo! So much was promised me by the universe! Boo hoo hoo hoo!

by Anonymousreply 1611/15/2012

My dad attended 2 years of med school and constantly told wealthy women he had both an M.D. and a Ph.D. So he could fuck them and find ways to get money from them, which he consistently did.

So, why even get the actual degree(s)? You can simply research what it's LIKE to have them, and make a shameful but handsomely-paying career out of it.

by Anonymousreply 1711/15/2012

I thought this idea that higher education means a ticket to the better life was only an American idea. I guess even this Canadian never stopped to realize that an education could have meaning in and of itself, and that if she believed she heard promises she was going to get some sort of pie-in-the-sky by means of a degree she was sadly mistaken and not listening carefully enough.

There is no simple path to wealth and/or happiness.

by Anonymousreply 1811/15/2012

Wow. I thought I was the only one. I have two degrees that I don't use. The second one is in nursing. Worked for a year and had to white knuckle my way through every single day. Finally quit without even having another job, I hated it so much. I loved the people, the part about having life in my hands, not so much.

And by no means did I come from a privileged background, my family was solidly working class. I am still paying back a significant amount of school loans.

What I took away from the whole experience is that I have to do what I want to do and not try to force myself to do things I don't like just because it pays the bills.

by Anonymousreply 1911/15/2012
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