Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's my age again?

Friends, I am confused. Yes, I realize that I am older than many of my friends and acquaintances. This is because I met the love of my life in the year that I was mentally checked out of college and preparing to jet out of town, which was coincidentally the year that he showed up for freshman orientation. Over time, I've gotten used to being maybe a couple of years ahead of the curve.

At the same time, I have many friends who are older than me, or at least the same age as me, with a few extra notches in their life belts (wedding rings, children, 100k careers). As of May, I will have been out of school for five years. FIVE YEARS! Where did that time go, for real? I think, or I guess anyway, that I stopped being "just" out of college around the time T graduated. Definitely, that period of my life was over by the I left Durham. My mid-twenties are now bleeding into my late-twenties; it's a subtle change, but started far earlier than I expected to.

But now that I am going into law school, and seeing just how young my classmates will be, I'm feeling genuinely behind. Kind of. I'm sure I'll go back and forth about this for a while. But here it is: most of the incoming Law School Class of 2011 that I can find on Facebook are part of the '08 graduating class of some other university. That is to say, they are coming to law school directly from undergrad. And I just found the blog of a woman, aged 25 (TWENTY-FIVE), who just graduated law school and just got engaged and is so excited for the next chapter in her life.

I am not generally in the business of justifying or publically validating my own choices, though lately I feel compelled to do just that. That said, I am truly glad that I did not choose that route (undergrad, law, career/etc.). For one, I can't imagine it; I literally cannot imagine it. For another, I didn't even know I wanted to do law until, like, a year ago. And for still another, I would have NO CLUE about all the things I know about myself that I think are going to make me an awesome law school student and even better legal professional, eventually, hopefully. My convictions are bourne largely out of the people I have known, in my college town, in the ESL classes I taught in NoVa, in my travels, in Durham, and everywhere I have found myself randomly dancing with strangers around the issue of migratory status and the power it holds over our destinies.

And all that said, I am jealous that somebody would "have it all figured out" and be done with law school at an age that beats by one year the age I even realized I wanted to go. The logic is obviously flawed: I went through X, Y and Z experiences which lead to my decision to go to law school at age 26. Stranger decided to go to law school at age 21, therefore she must have gone through X, Y and Z by age 21. Wrong! Getting to law school is not conditional upon having experienced X, Y and Z; X, Y and Z are merely possible precursors to law school.

[Side note: I realize that my justifications are getting far too cereberal and long-winded. Please, humor me. I promise it's not my intention to be pretentious.]

Back to it. This stranger, the 25-year old with the law degree, surely knows a lot more about law than I do. She is far more qualified and far more prepared to enter the legal profession, and rightfully so. My 21-year old classmates, the future 25-year old graduates, will be equally qualified as me. This all creates the illusion to me that they are smarter than me, got there faster than me; in short, they beat me. I'm already pre-disposed against them by their youth.

These are not pretty or nice words, I realize. But I am having to come to terms with the fact that I'm a lot older than I realized, and that though it may seem like I fell asleep at the wheel, I have only been bravely trying to figure myself out. That's a process you can't rush. So I must remind myself: life is not a competition. The only person I'm racing against is me.

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