maarmie's musings

Sunday, August 13, 2006

UM Ann Arbor and other odd ramblings

My recent other cockeyed plans have fallen apart after just one of two days of mulling, but this law school plan is becoming more concrete every second I think about it. The more I chew on the idea, the more I feel that taking this step would be taking the next step toward my destiny, that this was always meant to be my purpose, the reason I was born. I've tearfully asked myself that question many times in the face of lifelong rejection by my family. I've allowed my own deep well of pity to overflow and engulf me. Why was I ever born, anyway? I'm pretty sure that's the question that has plagued me most throughout my 34 years of being me.

I grew up learning about men's superiority to women, and, as a result, I grew up hating women and denying my own femaleness (what does that mean, anyway?) in an effort to be a second son to my father. I have always prided myself on my "masculinity", and it has taken me a lifetime to realize that my strongest traits need not be categorized as such. Why can't being "female" include being strong, intelligent, fearless? When I was a kid, it was unthinkable, so I played rough and tumble with my brother and his friends. I didn't cry - or, at least, I didn't let anyone SEE me cry. The thought of wearing skirts or dresses repulsed me. Instead, I wore faded corduroy pants handed down from my brother. I played in the bay when the tide went out, walking barefoot on painfully shelly sand bars, messing with fiddler and horseshoe crabs. I dug in Dumpsters with my brother, spent my spare time playing basketball, football, running and roller skating. To be "male" was good, I learned both covertly and overtly. To be "female" was to be inferior.

I also learned about racism from an early age. It was nothing to hear the word "nigger" being bandied about at family functions and to hear all kinds of racist and sexist jokes being openly told among family members to rounds of laughter I was too young to understand. As I grew older, I began to understand these jokes, and, while I don't remember ever laughing along with the rest of them, I distinctly remember not disagreeing or even actively thinking the jokes - and the beliefs behind them - were necessarily wrong or untrue. If someone rewound the tape of my life and I saw myself smiling or laughing then, it wouldn't surprise or shock me. It would, however, reinforce my horror at the destructive cycles families repeat over and over and over.

The United States is superior. Americans are superior. This is also something I grew up to believe. Of course I can see these beliefs don't originate with my family. They originate with the culture. In so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways, Americans are taught from the time they are born that their way of thinking is the right way, the good way, and that the rest of the world falls short in terms of how to run a society, how to conduct business, how to exist as individuals. Americans are very good at making fun of anything that is different. Of categorizing "different" as "inferior." Of having a "my way or the highway" attitude. And we back it up with firepower and brute force. To me, that is the first sign of just how inferior we really are.

If you start talking about God and Jesus in front of me, I instinctively tune out as urgently as if my life depended on it. Organized religion scares me simply because so many people I have known (and been related to) have used religion as a crutch for unspeakable thoughts, viewpoints and deeds. Hypocrites, most of them. I'd rather see them in coffins, dead, than hear one more word from any of them. Though I don't subscribe to any kind of organized religion, I still feel that everyone has some kind of purpose on this planet and that our jobs are to figure out what that purpose is and to spend the rest of our lives fulfilling it. I've always thought - and have told others - that I feel my purpose is to help others, even at my own expense. Always, always. Even from the age of 10 I have been sticking up for the underdog and have been shunned and mocked as a result. It seems most people like to side with the winning team and that, for them, loyalty is something that can be taken away as easily and quickly as it is given.

I've always wanted to change the world, and law school might be the way to do that - or at least try. My whole life I have told those around me that I can't stand how things are, how power is distributed, how so many people are treated as second-class citizens, how the white male wields all the power and uses it in ways that horrify me. As a result, I am not interested in specializing in environmental law, corporate law, international law or intellectual property law. Public interest - civil rights - law is the only kind of law that draws my attention, and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor - ranked at number nine in the country for law schools - apparently has a very good public interest law program. My undergrad GPA is a smidge below the school's median range, and a lot of where I go will depend on my LSAT score, but UM Ann Arbor is my top choice right now. The tuition is steep. Classes alone cost $35,000 a year, the same as Harvard Law School. If I go there, I will have to get some kind of scholarship, and I'm hoping that my years as a journalist combined with my current job experience and my volunteer choices would make me a highly desirable candidate.

The school also has a kind of dual enrollment curriculum that would allow me to get a law degree AND a master's degree in a discipline of my choosing (sociology with a focus on gender) in four years - instead of three for the law degree alone.

So, here I go. I'm going to pursue this. First step: Buy an LSAT study guide and prepare myself for the test in December. Concurrently research other schools so I can apply to at least 10 of them when I get my score back. I'm not going to get my hopes up hugely high right now, though, because I'm going to have to forget the whole idea of law school if I do poorly on the this test.


JfA said...

I'm curious as to why you included parts of your history as a reason to go to law school. Do you think one need be masculine, racist, secular and nationalistic to do so?

maarmie said...

I think you missed the point of the post. I'm showing how I was raised to believe all these things I no longer believe, ideas that I am now against. That's part of the reason I am so passionately AGAINST sexism, racism, etc. and why I want to be a CIVIL RIGHTS lawyer.