The road less traveled by...

I know I've been gone for a while, but I have a feeling this post will more than make up for lost time for the quantity perspective. I don't make any promises about quality. Oh yeah, it will probably also explain where I've been...

I believe in destiny. I also believe in free will. How can I believe in these two seemingly contradictory principles? Well, it goes a little like this. I believe each of us have things we were meant to do, things that fulfill us and make us genuinely, truly happy. But I also think we have the freedom to choose those things or other, sometimes seemingly better, alternatives. When we choose an alternative, we have turned away from our destiny and picked an option that will make us unhappy, no matter how hard we try.

For example, I believe that each of us has someone that is our destiny. And when someone meets his or her destiny, spending the rest of life in love is, in a word, easy...or at least easier. So, why do around half of marriages end in divorce? Because people choose the wrong person. They take the wrong path. They either have jumped the gun and married someone who isn't their destiny or they just let them out of their lives and ignored destiny when it looked them in the face. Free will overrode destiny, so no matter how hard they tried, their relationship simply was not going to succeed.

Which brings me to my point. I've been thinking lately about my path in life. In fact, I've been thinking about it a lot. When I wake up, when I come home from work, when I get ready for bed (which is disturbingly close to when I come home from work). And recently, I've come to have doubts. A lot of them.

When I was a young, my parents' friends would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would answer immediately. "I want to be a paleontologist." The response was almost standard. First, the adult would say how impressed they were that I knew such a big word and then inevitably ask, "What's a paleontologist?" My response, which was just as standard, was, "A scientist that studies dinosaurs." Then I would inevitably get the condescending, "Oh..."

My parents, however, were never surprised by my bookwormish pre-adolescent career choice. They always emphasized their love of books, knowledge, and self-improvement. And I think they also expected I wouldn't want to be a cowboy or fireman after I said my first words to my grandmother at six months and read them one of my bedtime stories when I was one.

Nevertheless, I always retained my love of all things scientific, but it, like me, evolved. While I continued to enjoy the physical sciences (and, as you will learn, social sciences), I became distracted by other things. In elementary and middle school, I fell into drama. I was quite outgoing when I was little. It was a function of moving around the country every two to five years. I learned, quickly, that other kids didn't introduce themselves to the new kid, so I took it upon myself to let people know who I was. Believe it or not, being outgoing, sometimes exceptionally so, would not only attract friends, but often kept bullies at bay.

But drama seemed to find me. One of my parents friends was an agent and, after indicating to my parents that she would like to get me work, she began to find me jobs. For a kid, there's nothing better than an acting job. You get out of school of the day, eat free food, stand were someone tells you to, smile, say some stuff that you don't always understand but have memorized, and get more money then you could ever conceive of. Granted, two to four hundred dollars isn't a lot now, but then, geez, that was a fortune.

When I moved to California, once again, I fell back into drama. I went to one of the main drama feeder schools into the Hollywood actor pipeline, a magnet program in a less than totally desirable area of Los Angeles. I took drama courses because...well...they were fun. Again, I got to get on a stage, be someone else for a little while, say some stuff I memorized, and classmates or an audience would clap. It's a lot better than taking some other electives where I would just sit at a desk all the time.

I wasn't the best student in California. I wasn't bad, I just wasn't good at what I wasn't interested in because I...well...wasn't interested. But in fifth grade, I had a teacher that changed that. While Mr. Johnson deserves a post all to his own, I will say briefly that he had a profound impact on me in an subject I never thought I was good at. And although I didn't know it, on parent-teacher night, Mr. Johnson informed my mother and father that I had scored higher on the required standardized math exam than any of the other twenty-five kids in my class. My parents, bewildered, responded with, "Are you sure that was him?"

That's when I learned I was actually good at math.

But eventually, I left California, albeit as a much better math student, and, at the ripe old age of twelve, I realized that leaving California really meant leaving drama behind. I still did some things in theatre. I took chorus classes in middle school, since in addition to acting I was also into singing both in California and many years before. But I quickly learned, in my new school, chorus classes were really for the kids that didn't want to do anything for an hour. And, shocked by the considerably more restrictive life my new school offered to its students than the one to which I had become accustomed, I became disenchanted and kept more to myself than I had in the past. But something strange happened. I began paying attention in my classes. And for some strange reason, I found the tests easy. Hey, how hard is an exam when you actually know the information you're being asked? Without studying, I started coming home with all or almost all A's. Once that happens, I couldn't let it slide. Now there's a bar. I began to expect it from myself.

So here I was. In seventh grade. High personal academic expectations, drama skills I wanted to retain and continue to develop, and beginning to think about what the hell I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That's when I started thinking about the law.

But what does a middle school student know about the law? I know what I saw on LA Law and on Night Court. They both looked like fun. You get to stand up, talk, and even resolve some problems. I knew you had to go to school for a while to be a lawyer, but I liked school now, so that's wasn't a problem.

Then I started looking for something to do that would get me ready for law. I learned that to be a lawyer, you have to be good at arguing, so I got into debate. However, my love of drama kept me into the speech side of "speech and debate," rather than the nitty-gritty, research-heavy, flow-sheet-crazy, argue-until-you're-blue-in-the-face debate side of "speech and debate." Oh yeah...and the girls in the speech events were much cuter.

When I got to college, I immediately sought out speech. My university had a speech and debate program that offered me the opportunity to compete in a way I had never before and, in time, my new team became my family away from my family. And even to this day, my coach remains my other mother. But, I spent nearly every weekend with my team, whether it was competing or partying on a bye week. But speech and communication (because, of course, I picked a major I thought would benefit me in law school) introduced me to a new love: Rhetoric.

Rhetoric was incredible. It had great thoughts from great minds and so much of it started with Aristotle. How cool is that? It's got to be cool if it's based on Aristotle! In this new and exciting world of rhetoric, I looked at communication events and determine why they were successful or unsuccessful by looking at communication models and offered my own thoughts and opinions on why the communication events successfully or unsuccessfully met the models and produced an expected or unexpected result. And every once in a while, I would suggest improvements to the communication models as well.

Yeah, I loved it. But I had planned to go to law school and, while I loved rhetoric, it was only a step in the chain to being an attorney.

And, after a major and a thesis in the subject, I said goodbye to rhetoric when I left undergrad. After all, thanks to my interest in rhetoric and my strict attention to my other college grades, I had law school in front of me. And I was elated with law school. Because I loved it.

In law school, I discovered the rules that made everything work. Suddenly, phrases I thought I understood, like "corporation" or "option" or "property" or "contract" or "crime" or "enumerated powers" had different meanings. I learned this amazing and wonderful historical process by which we have govered ourselves. And I can still remember the day in law school when I had the epiphany that these grandiose governmental institutions, Congress, the President, the Judiciary, the State Legislatures, the Governor, are all really the same thing: People. People who, despite their many differences, are all committed to the same values. Freedom. Justice. The Rule of Law. And I realized that these words, concepts I simply accepted my entire life, were both newly mysterious and exceedingly precious. They offer so much and can be lost so quickly. To hear someone say that is one thing. To truly, actually, realize it for yourself....well, that's another.

But when I left law school, I began to realize that the beautiful, raw, unadulterated body of law that I loved in law school was gone. I was dealing with problems, lots of them. And no one cared about these grandiose legal concepts that I had loved to discuss with my classmates in law school. People only cared about a legal concept if that concept got them to where they wanted to be. And the development of the law wasn't a concern, it was an argument to give to a judge for the benefit of a client paying in six-minute increments. I discovered, in practice, the law was something entirely different.

So, I've been trying to learn how to practice this profession and trying to determine if I enjoy it. So far, I can't say I do. I don't like the gamesmanship, the emphasis on speed rather than thoughtful deliberation, the information overload, and the lies. Especially the lies. The lies are a spit-in-the-face of the honorable profession that I signed up for. Add that to the fact that even in public practice, "the law is a jealous mistress" and, yeah, I've got doubts. In fact, I think, right now, doubts are about all I have. Well, doubts and stress.

I thought moving to the public sector would give me a little more time, but it hasn't. I'm working the same hours and sometimes more hours...ten to eleven a day, and most weekends. But the stakes are higher and the salary is lower. And I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my blog.

But above all, I wonder. I wonder if the first answer was the right answer and my childhood love of dinosaurs would have been a source of lifelong fulfillment. I wonder if my affinity for math was a guide to a profession I gave short shrift. I wonder if I should have gone for a Ph.D. in Rhetoric. I wonder if I should have looked for other passions that I may not have recognized before. I wonder if I put something into my head in seventh grade and ignored anything that may have told me different. But most of all, I wonder whether I let my free will turn me away from my destiny. Whatever that destiny may be.


Alecia said...


"A predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control" -

"Beyond human power or control" --
If it's truly your destiny to be a lawyer and stay a lawyer, you will be. If it's not, then there's a whole set of new paths that have yet to be traveled by you. Things you can't yet see, but will make perfect sense in the end.

Worrying about the "what ifs" is almost like regretting. Regretting is wasteful and ignorant. Regretting means you've not learned from the path you've already walked. You're not ignorant, so don't regret or worry.

Life is many things unseen. But the story ends just as it should. Even if we don't understand the reasons at the time.

Find happiness, even if that means taking a path that is a lot less straight, and a lot more scary.

Good luck,

Postmodern Sass said...

A few years ago when I started thinking about doing my PhD, one of the nagging doubts in my head was, "But I'll be 40 by the time I'm finished!"

Then my very wise friend Peter, who is 43 and just last summer finished his PhD in information systems, said, "And how old will you be if you don't?"