Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Hope Deferred

Tonight I found myself lying in bed with tears streaming down my face.

I could vividly recall the dream I was having when my tears woke me. Not one of those recurring ones that we strive to make sense of. Like the one where my teeth are falling out in shards by the mouthful. Or I show up at college in the fall, to find that I had forgotten to secure housing the spring prior.

This one was new.
But not new.
It was an invasion of my subconscious by my conscious life — if not outwardly expressed.
Of my semi-constant questioning of the choices that I have made throughout my life.
Of one choice in particular.

I chose not to go to law school.

When I was in elementary school, on one of our many visits back to the William & Mary for Homecoming, Dad took me to visit the new law school building. We walked into a randomly selected classroom and seated ourselves in the back row. As the class ended, we got up and made our way out with the rest of the students.

My dad apologized for dragging me to the "boring law class."

But I loved it. I understood it. And from that moment on, I wanted to be a lawyer.

But life intervened.

After graduating from college in 1993, I was done with exams. The thought of coming back to school in three months and starting all over again made me want to break out in hives. So I decided to work for a while first.

By 1997, I was married and was a self-employed corporate communications consultant. And I decided I was ready to go back to school. In a two week span I decided where to apply, signed up to take the last available sitting of the LSAT, found a college professor who remembered me (whaaaat?) and was willing to write a recommendation on short notice, and got a copy of my college transcript.

The day I sat for the LSATs was also filled with tears. I was positive I had failed.

On the way home, I managed to steer my car to Burger King, Smoothie King, and McDonalds to get all of the foods I was craving. And I went home and did not move from my La-Z-Boy for the rest of the day. Except probably to get more food.

The next day, as I considered my emotional breakdown and weird, very specific cravings of the day before, the pieces of a puzzle began to fall into place.
I ran to a drug store.
The stick turned blue.
And my law school application was never completed.

Now I am 47 years old. I have one child successfully launched into adulthood, another in college, one in high school, and one in middle school. I have a successful business that has helped support me and my family for more than two decades.

And yet I am awake at 2 a.m., dreaming about what might have been.
My third son, Joshua, is in law school. In a weird twist of fate, one of his professors taught an undergraduate law class that I had taken. In my dream, it was the anniversary of a landmark decision that was handed down when I was in the professor's class. I remembered that I wrote a paper about that decision. 

I became desperate to find that paper. I tore my house apart looking for it. It had to be there. I had to have saved it. It was my only connection to the only law class I ever took. I was frantic.

The professor appears and asks why I want to find the paper so badly. 

I struggle to respond. Finally I say that I wanted to remember what I wrote. To be reminded that I had had deep, important thoughts once.

The professor tells me where to look ... in his office ... among his papers. He kept a copy. I asked why, after all these years, he had kept it.

"There was a time that we thought of you as a prodigy," he mused. He sounded just a touch disappointed.
And that's when I awoke. Crying in bed at 2 a.m. over a dream unfulfilled.

You see, my husband started school yesterday. He had his first day of classes at Georgia Tech where he is getting his second master's degree. I joked with him that the next degree is mine. He doesn't get a third until I go to graduate school.

When he first applied, he offered not to. If I wanted to go now, he said he would wait, but I demurred. I didn't yet know what I want to study.
Creative writing?
Behavioral economics?
Or ... law school?

I wouldn't change a thing ... except I'd want Sandy in this photo.
Please don't get me wrong.

I love my life. 

I love my family. 

If I hadn't made the choices I made in my life, I wouldn't be here now. 

And I want to be here now. 

But I have 30 ... 40 ... 50 years left to live. And I don't know how I'm going to live them.

When my tears woke me from my disturbing dream, I felt absolutely compelled to write about them.
But after less than two hours, the tears have dried.
The urgency has dissipated.
The desire has waned.

But I am left with the feeling that I have missed something in my life.
That there is something yet to do.
That I'm not complete.
That somewhere along the way, I sold myself short.

And one day ... one day soon ... I need to fix that.

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