Academia Freedom

My 1st Year of Law School Was Just Like Being in a Moshpit

It started first semester. You were my, my boos. Please note: This picture does not include additional books & sources that I read/took notes from etc.
It started first semester. You were my, my boos. Please note: This picture does not include additional books & sources that I read/took notes from as a 1L.

Moshpits aren’t my thing.

On a holiday break from college, my friends and I attended a rock show. We didn’t know much about the bands. Tickets were affordable. We were bored. So it goes.

Bury Your Dead (BYD). A normal person unfamiliar with the night’s lineup would have made contextual leaps based on the band’s name. Sometimes Imani finds other nexuses.

I rocked jeans, lime green flip-flops and understated makeup. In we walked. Multiple stage dives greeted us. My stomach flopped.

One of my professors says lawyering is about semantics. Trust, Imani. Not recklessness. Sometimes people stage dive, and nobody falls. Aight.

Law school. In I walked. Learn your environment, Imani. Socratic Method. Getting called on.

“Ms. Jackson,” did I care to elaborate on (seemingly) esoteric points of the law as evidenced by the case it took me two hours, a Google history lesson and five dictionary trips to read?

Are we rocking with the majority opinion or does the dissent warrant consideration? As a coffee shop hopping, love bug leftie, I usually root for the underdog. But, is that this professor’s thing?

I’d try.

Success was perfect. Liberating. When I didn’t know the answer… Stage dive. Would I catch myself? Toiling. Reading. Noting. Study groups. Panic attacks. Dreams about class/assignments/justices/dicta/policy/issues. Can sleep please be my happy space, God? Thanks, Mgt.

Competition. The curve. Meh. Part of why I transitioned from performance theatre to creative writing in my arts high school was a desire to dictate my lane without it being relative to what everybody else had going on. Law school sees it differently.

Fists. Ideas. Someone repeats what was just said as if an epiphany god made it rain. People light up. Are some ideas more palatable from certain people? What did I sign up for?

At the BYD show, I didn’t realize I was in a moshpit or that they spontaneously form. Then a cluster of raging, sweaty people surrounded me. Someone punched me, and several ran into me. My flip-flop was swallowed by a crowd. My face hit the wall.

Ready to (try to) fight, the crowd was gone. I’ve actually never been in a fight. A new moshpit formed. Whoever hit me was in that mass of people pummeling each other. Masochism.

Sometimes you gotta move on. Appellate brief. Oral arguments. Midterms. Finals week. Walk by faith and not by sight. And sometimes sight reminds you why you’re there.

A man who lives under a bridge a block from campus spread his blanket beside a shopping cart one evening. I was leaving the library. It was freezing. Blasting the radio and heat in my Jetta, while envisioning a pre-wine to-do list, the man’s blanket broke me. I’m going home to an apartment in a gated community. He’s settling in beside rocks. Sobbing, I turned onto the highway. God, I’ll do this. You let me be here. I’ll do it.

This experience hasn’t been all or even mostly bad. I went first for oral argument. It went well. My partner is a genius. We signed our lives over for the pretend client with dedication until our brief’s submission night and argument morning.

Three attorneys, who I had never met, grilled me for 10 mind-blowing minutes while I defended the rights of a pretend man that pre-law school Imani would have written off as a creeper. A meek legal voice left my lips. With a crescendo-esque cadence, theories flew  and before I knew it, OMG adrenaline. Can I go again? Please? What about these other cases, Your Honors?

Were my client’s rights being infringed upon? Were tenuous connections used to inappropriately authorize invasions against a man deemed a creeper, whose  non-traditional interests shouldn’t be at issue?

Then the February bar takers passed with an almost 83% rate, besting competitive state schools. Strike, Rattlers. There’s always illumination in a tunnel.

Ultimately, law school relaxed me. So much is piled on my classmates and me that if we freak out about each thing, everyone will drop dead. Since I put too much time, money and effort into the education thing to go out like that, I learned to breathe. Sometimes.

That is not to say that I regurgitate statutes or 100% know the demographics I will serve. I won’t pretend that law is demystified. It takes three years to graduate. I have one under my belt. It takes bar passage to be licensed.

But, I’m learning a lot. I read/write/analogize more efficiently. I respect expertise. I notice things I didn’t before. When I renewed my lease, all that crazy jargon formed clearer ideas about what my landlord expects from tenants.

Then there’s the fact that I got my ass kicked a lot. I sent manic texts to a few trusted people, all in the legal field. I cried in a bathroom, on the highway and in my pillow. But, all the lawyers and judges I’ve met said that the worst is behind me.

It helped to cling to words. I’m so grateful to use my journalism degree as a writer while navigating this space. My editors are tremendously understanding. P.S. if you’re reading this and we’re social media buds, read me to feed me. I post links often.

In all seriousness, questions remain. I lost some things. Patience for folly. Unneeded weight stressing about stress.

A sexy marketing/journalism job offer in a big city came during first semester. I could make big girl money! Have my beaming brown face plastered on press releases! Diversity!

A mentor-turned-friend once said that my content is more relevant than my countenance. I thought he was just trying to make me feel better because modeling agents said I was “commercial.” Now I get it. I want to absorb all the life, knowledge, love and wisdom I can to make anything I curate worth the recipient’s time.

Romance. Someone I dated began waxing poetic about everything. He appointed himself as my biblical liaison and counselor. Um. What?  Maybe I missed my blessing. *Flashes back to kind collegiate men.* Their family members they had me meet. Dinner dates. Ideas we volleyed. Full stop. Everything happens for a reason.

I accept my role in my journeys. I have complexes. I love to be confided in. I hate being vulnerable. My family is profoundly loving and periodically stressful because they are truly standouts. I just want to carry our name well.

This post is not a rager or rhythm & cry-baby. It’s a victory song. I didn’t need that green flip-flop, although I had hobble-swag back to the car. I’m currently good on some normative success markers. These unorthodox dots will connect.

Adios, 1L year. You rocked and rolled. The homies and I will see another show.

Note: I didn’t actually say that creeper bit in my argument. That was subtext.

Also note: I wrote this forever post ago and wanted to wait until my grades posted and mental arbitrary hurdles were hopped. Here’s to 2L year filling my soul with gooey goodness.

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