I am done with law school. I finished four days ago.
To be honest, I thought I would have more to say after I finished my last final on Thursday. Turning that test in at the end of the three hours meant that I was not only done with law school, but I was done with 22 years of formal education.
I came home expecting to feel the need to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. After all, writing is what usually helps clarify my thoughts and emotions. In reality, I needed a few days to process that my formal education was over. I needed to sort of adjust to the idea that my years are no longer determined by a school calendar. No more Summer, Fall, Christmas, and Spring Break for me. Now I have vacation days that I can use when convenient or necessary. Craziness.
Endings are weird, especially endings you know are coming.
When it comes to most of the important things in life, we don’t necessarily know they’ve ended until after the ending has come and gone. Most of the time we don’t know if a hug from a grandparent is the last one. We don’t know that a kiss with a spouse will ever happen again. We don’t know that a laugh and a wave will be the last interaction we have with a dear friend. We don’t know when our last phone call with our parents will be. Unexpected endings don’t just occur with the loss or end of a relationship. In all honesty, we usually don’t know the last time we get to call a house our home. We don’t usually know when our job will change. We don’t usually know when we will transition from one season of our life into another.
Once an ending has occurred, we don’t get to go back and change it. We can’t hit the delete button and rewrite the pages. For good or for ill, it is finished. A new chapter has started.
Occasionally, we do get a clear ending.
I’m experiencing one right now. Fifteen days from now, my father and I will finish packing up a UHAUL, drop the keys to my apartment off at the realtor’s office, and begin the 9.5 hour drive to Kentucky. I’m not going back for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. I’m going back for the foreseeable future. My time as a full-time student is ending. This particular chapter of my life is in its final pages.
This begs the question—how am I going to fill them?
It feels like I’m in a choose-your-own-adventure. You know those books where you get to choose what happens to the characters based on the pages you turn to at key parts in the story. I wake up in the morning and my to-do list is quite small. Yes, I have to pack. Yes, I have to eat. Yes, I have to make sure the everyday necessities of life are taken care of, but outside of a handful of things that I must do before we pull out of the parking lot, I’m footloose and fancy-free.
I have time to read for fun! I’m splitting my time between “The Seven Story Mountain” by Thomas Merton and “A Secular Age” by Charles Taylor. (I realize that Catholic theologians/scholars aren’t exactly fun reading. Law school definitely messes with your concept of fun.) I have time to sit on my deck, listening to the wind chimes and watching the trees dance. I can binge watch a tv show on Netflix and not feel guilty about it taking me away from school work. (I am currently on season 4 of Supernatural…only 10 more to go.) I can meet friends for lunch, spending hours just talking. We don’t have anything to do that can’t be done tomorrow or the next day. Sometimes the conversations are serious. Sometimes they are filled with laughter.
Next week, I am going on my first overnight hiking trip with a friend. It will be the first time I have ever spent the night in nature.* Why did I say yes to this madness? Dad suggested that it was because I had made the decision to go to law school. Specifically, he said, “Once you make a wrong decision, you usually keep making more. I’ve been out for thirty years and I’m still making bad decisions. It takes a lifetime to recover.” He’s joking . . . I think. I actually said yes because I want to try something new. Just because the chapter is ending doesn’t mean that it can’t be packed full of adventures, stories, and memories.
The bar exam looms in the future, but I’m not going to worry about that quite yet. That particular stress and anticipation belongs to the next chapter. It has no place in this one.
I’m sure at some point in the future, I might write a more reflective piece about the last three years of my life. That is for another day. I’m too close to it right now. I don’t want to go back and reread the chapter before I’ve finished it. What’s the point of that? Instead, I want to enjoy this known ending. I’m sure there will be surprises, but that’s okay. Plans change. Unexpected obstacles pop up. I’m ready to roll with them over the next two weeks. I’m ready to take them all in and appreciate each and every one in their own way.
Over the next two weeks, I’m going to slow down. I just want to breathe and appreciate the moments and the views. The worries of the next chapter are sufficient unto themselves, I’m going to focus on the here and now. I’m going to be still and thank God for yet another incredible chapter in the story of my life.
“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.” ―
*For those of you shocked by this, please think about who my parents are. Now take a minute to picture them out in nature overnight. Once you have stopped laughing, please keep reading.