Today I thought I lost my iPhone, and I didn’t go looking for it. I stood in the law school library and looked out the window as the bus carrying my dropped phone drove away. And then I went to a desk and started to read.
This could be interpreted as a depressing testament to the pedestal upon which studying has been placed, but I think it is an affirmation of the ability to snatch freedom in a world that is thought of as little more than a tangled web of [electromagnetic currents]. I refuse to reduce my abandonment of the phone—my complete numbness at its loss—to a system of zeros and ones.
I don’t want to write about the future. I think the future, and the weight of career goals that is so solidly entangled in that subject, is the core of the “lostness” of our generation. Friends’ eyes hollow out when they run through the bullets on their resumes. There is a time and a place, but I liberate myself in pushing it aside, and knowing that if I lost it—the plan, the resume, the prestige—I would likely feel little more than the internal shrug I experienced at the lost phone.
I used to be sad, anxious, prone to panic. I used to think that with the right amount of discipline and the highest level of drive I would be able to sculpt out a future for myself that would fulfill me via propulsion to the top of some kind of metaphorical Everest, so tall that I wasn’t quite sure what the top exactly looked like, or what that kind of altitude would do to my head.
Then things changed.
The first step was therapy. A wise older woman sat cross-legged and asked to see my calendar. She didn’t ask silly questions about how I felt. She just took out a pen and attacked my overstuffed planner. Anything I hadn’t spoken of fondly, with attachment and happiness, was suddenly gone. My hours were empty and they were mine. I learned that there doesn’t always need to be a goal. I learned that I will still wake up in the mornings and accomplish things, however small, even if they aren’t written down. I learned how to quit.
The next step was a study abroad program in India. I learned the hard way—after months of swearing and literally punching my fist into computer screens—that if the internet is still in the ‘90s, you can spend those minutes of loading thinking about things. You can go grab something to eat, or have a conversation, or think about the meaning of solitude. You can look around the internet cafe and see that someone is crying, and if the internet had been going any faster, that person’s sadness would be left unnoticed. Indian busses arrived five hours late; class was cancelled without notice; I slept on a blanket for six months. That country took our American plans, soaked them in curry and gobbled them up, and we had no choice but to adapt. Also, I lost a total of five cell phones in the course of six months. I think that goes with the theme here.
The last step was growing up. Graduation. Learning to be my own little universe in the infinity of the actual. After practicing for years the art of not looking ahead, I was forced to make a decision about the next step. I vowed, despite my instincts, to trust in something greater than myself, to believe, despite all rationality, that there was a certain rhythm to things that would rock me into the right place. Now, when people ask why I came to law school, I say the taboo, job-losing statement: “I don’t want to be a lawyer”. I came to law school because I wanted to be a kid again. Excited to struggle through books, one word at a time. Afternoons open to play—with dolls or legal concepts, your choice. No goals beyond the quarter. The trust I had in the future allowed me to make the right decision for the present.
Today, I still struggle with the panic of my generation. I worry about debt and careers and grades and my social life and my love life. I have days and weeks where everything is a grim struggle, and I try to remedy this with small steps: visiting cafés without wi-fi, taking foot baths, trashing to-do lists, sitting in silence with a glass of wine as my company, attaching myself more to papers and books than to laptops and keyboards, humming Beyonce songs in my head when people tell me their summer job plans.
Of course I’m not immune to the tsunami of ambition; my heart pounds so hard when I get called on in class that I can literally see my chest pumping through my shirt—a terrifying health phenomena that I didn’t know was possible before law school. So I don’t mean to be pedantic and tell you that I did everything right and now I’ve reached enlightenment. I just want to impress my genuine belief that true autonomy does not exist until artificial, success-driven goals are carried away on a bus. There is a rhythm to be trusted; it got you this far. You are alive, which is a pretty good place to be, relative to what you’ll be for most of time in the grand scheme of things.