Life in the pretend lane
Oh, to erase bits of knowledge I'd rather not have.
Two of my friends have been kind enough (or perhaps cruel enough?) to alert me to the fact that two of my grades from the last term have been turned in and are now available online.
Back in college, I used to actually look forward to getting grades. I did well in college, and my professors all (or mostly all) knew and liked me. Grades weren't the sort of thing that struck terror into my heart.
My first set of law school grades were a little scarier. I readily admit to being a nervous person in general. I remember talking to a third-year law student the night before our grades were due to be revealed. Let me preface this by saying that I came to law school, like many, with the highest of high hopes, fully expecting to get straight As and make Law Review and be thrown scads of job and clerkship offers. But I'm no dummy; I fully understood that most law students also expect this, and most are disappointed. So while I didn't doubt my competence, I was a bit wary of having it subjectively weighed against roughly 90 other highly intelligent persons'. The student I spoke to, most likely trying to reassure me, shrugged off my trepidation. "Everyone gets Bs," he said, "It's not a big deal. No one really cares about that stuff, anyway."
This was precisely what I didn't want to hear. No!! my mind screamed, I'm not like the others! I'm not happy with a B! *I* care about that stuff! I tried to shake off what he had told me and remind myself that, as of that point, I was a clean slate. I had studied and prepared well for the exams, I had done the reading, I had gone to class, I had left the exams feeling pretty good. But his words echoed in my mind as I tossed and turned that evening, unable to find the mental peace to lull me into dreamland.
The next day in my school mailfolder there was a utilitarian ivory envelope bearing my full name on a preprinted sticker. My hands shook as I started to open it. No, I thought, not here. I ducked into the ladies' room and locked myself into a stall in an effort to pretend I had some privacy. I opened the envelope and unfolded the piece of paper that I had managed to make myself believe bore the definitive denouement of my entire life's work up to that point. And there the numbers were, cold and objective, without regard for their effects on my future or self-esteem.
They were... not half-bad. Not quite automatic Law Review-caliber, but at the same time nothing to sneeze at.
Shaken, I drove myself home. The whole experience had left me a bit numb. I got home, started to dial my mom's number, and then stopped. I glanced at the paper again and began to sob. Perhaps it was the sheer weight of it all, the relief of all the tension I'd been holding onto. Or perhaps it was genuine disappointment that I hadn't managed to reach the top of the class. Either way, I sat at my desk and I had a good cry.
Eventually, I got used to receiving disappointing grades. Hell, I got used to all sorts of disappointing outcomes (en pointe: my numerous unsuccessful attempts to join the Purgatory Crew as a write-on member of Law Review, or my stolen moot court victory, which quite honestly still smarts a bit). And yet, as many undeserved or even deserved misfortunes as I've dealt with, I still dread the latest blow, the new cap on my litany of personal failures.
This isn't to say there has been nothing good from law school. On the contrary, I'm going to quite miss it. I've learned a great deal and I think I'll make a great attorney. And I've been fortunate enough to procure for myself gainful employment after graduation, something not all law students can attest to. I don't think myself ungrateful; I realize that I'm better off than the vast majority of my peers.
Still, it's difficult for intelligent and ambitious people to have to settle for someplace in the middle of the pack, even when the pack is a damn good one. And with each report card, denial becomes a harder and harder place in which to live. I accept that I'm not a straight-A student. I accept that I won't get Order of the Coif. But that voice is still there inside of me, that tiny little fighter who screams Don't give up! Don't quit! You can still be the best! She's been getting more and more chinks in her armor the last few years. And, try as I might to be practical, I still admire her Quixotic quest for perfection. Which is why I hate facing reality, facing the fact that I can't protect her from the latest dose of tough love, law school-style.
I suppose I'll have to look at my grades eventually. But not today. Today she gets to chase windmills.