Friday, July 25, 2008

Life Decisions

I've been meaning to write this post for a couple days but got caught up in the madness of planning the Bulldogs in the Bluegrass closing luncheon. But now that that is over I can write about some of the plans I've begun to make for the rest of my life.

At the beginning of this summer, I had no idea what I wanted to do long-term with my life. I was pretty sure I wanted to do Teach For America, truthfully in part because then I could delay for another two years finding a career for myself. However, as I've come to the realization that I am a senior and don't have a lot more time left before I have to enter the "real world," I knew that I would have to come up with a plan for at least the next couple years after graduation. I'm not exactly a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal, and I just can't allow myself to leave my future up to the hands of fate. So basically this has been a summer of introspection for me in trying to determine where I want the path of my life to take me.

Then I checked out a John Grisham book from the library. Stupid me, I had forgotten that every time I read Grisham it always makes me want to be a lawyer, and here I find myself reading him just at the time when I'm trying to figure out my future. So a few days later when I drove my friend Matt to the bookstore to buy a GRE prep book, and I tried to determine whether I should buy an LSAT or GRE book or neither, I couldn't stop myself from buying Kaplan's LSAT prep book. I still hadn't decided whether or not I would take the test or if I even wanted to go to law school, but I figured it couldn't hurt to do a little preparation just in case. Plus many days I didn't have anything to do at work, so this was just as good a way to spend a day as any other.

I began to do a little studying during work. Read a chapter here, do some sample problems there. Then last Saturday I took a full length practice test for the first time. I absconded to the Bellarmine library and made myself do the whole damn thing. When I calculated my scores, I pleasantly discovered that I had done pretty well, especially considering that it was my first time taking the full length test.

Armed with the knowledge that I could do well on this test and several experiences from this summer confirming my hunch that the legal profession could be the one for me (meeting with judges, etc.), I registered on Tuesday to take the LSAT in February. Here follows my tentative life plan for the next five years:

Right after graduation: do TFA, Mississippi Teacher Corps, or Yale Admissions Office for two years. This plan is still hazy, and depends quite a bit on whether I'd be hired by any of these entities. Also, after working for Teach Kentucky I have my doubts as to how effective two-year teaching programs like TFA and MTC are, so I'm going to have to talk to some people about that.

After two-year hiatus from higher education: go to law school. Where? For what? I don't quite know yet. TBD.

After law school: who knows? But I am starting to consider JAG - the military's law branch. This is definitely still in the tentative phase, but I do come from a fairly military family (sister graduates from pilot training in three weeks!), so it wouldn't be unheard of for me to join the service. I just have to decide whether or not that's the path would be right for me.

Obviously, I don't quite have all the stops on my life journey completely mapped out yet, but I do have an outline, and for that reason I consider this summer a success. And now I can have a semblance of an answer when people ask me what I want to do after graduation, which makes me breathe a lot easier.

Whew, that was a long post.


TTran21 said...

Yay, life decisions! I tend to make bad yay, good life decisions!

Jessica said...

I'm glad to hear you've been exploring some ideas, Rebecca, and Law School certainly doesn't seem like a bad idea if it's something you'll really enjoy. But I just want to let you and all the young people know from this side of the grave that it's really really not at all scary to have graduated and not know where my life is going.
I know I have many options. I know I have a family who will support me if I make a couple mistakes and need a little help paying rent or maybe a place to live for a while.
I also know, and will tell you as a warning, that a bunch of my friends who have started 'careers' or TFA or other intensive programs right after graduation are feeling a little swept along by the whole process and maybe even a little burnt out, wishing they could have taken some time to unwind after graduation and think about options a little more.
Senior year at Yale is a scary thing. You'll come back in the fall and discover really quickly that the pressure to have a definite answer to "What are you doing after graduation?" is High. And yet, answering "I haven't decided yet" or something like "I'm staying here in New Haven, and no, I'm not looking for jobs before June" and waiting a moment for the expression of shock to fade from people's faces is not all that hard.
My point is that I think a lot of Yale (and other) students feel the need to apply to jobs and schools and programs not because it's something they're deeply interested in, but because everyone else is applying to things throughout the fall and spring and they don't want to be left out. Check out this article if you haven't read it yet:
And if TFA and Law School are what you really want to do, then that's great and don't let anything I say change your mind. But please please don't be afraid to have a little dead time after graduation in which you give yourself some time and mental space away from being a student to think about what you really want to do with your next chunk of time.
Personally, I've been discovering a lot of wonderful things right here in New Haven that are bringing new joy to my life that I never would have found had I run off to a job in NYC or TFA training after I graduated. And having time to sit around and read novels and ride bikes with my new NH friends instead of working is pretty great too.

Jessica said...

It was this line that really surprised me: "I knew that I would have to come up with a plan for at least the next couple years after graduation."
Totally Not True. If you let go of this now, you'll be taking a lot of unnecessary pressure off yourself. The most you have to come up with is a plan for the day after graduation, whether you will be following your family home to Texas, or maybe having them help you move into a sublet in New Haven for the summer. I have friends who've gone home to live with their families for the moment, and while it's not the greatest thing evar, it does give them time and also motivation to start thinking and looking for jobs, without the pressure of having had to do that during the school year.
etc. Please don't be scared of not having the next 5-10 years figured out. It's really not a problem.