Saturday, April 28, 2007

Not with a bang, but a whimper

Thursday was supposed to signify the end of the substance of my law school career. No offense to my Negotiations professor, but that topic-- while quite practical-- isn't exactly substantive. Sure, it's nice to know the fancy names for strategies like good guy-bad guy (a.k.a. good cop, bad cop), splitting the difference, and the visceral opponent, but really, that class comes down to practice. So my last class of substance was to be this past Thursday. The culmination of four long years of law school in my Constitutional Law II course.

It happens that I really like the professor in that class. I find him entertaining. The material is quite relevant and timely (because it's all about civil rights), and it's a subject matter that will be tested on the Bar exam.

But I didn't attend class on Thursday. You see, my throat has really been bothering me, and at the gentle prodding of one of the administrative professionals in the office, I decided to take a trip to the doctor for a strep throat test. It came back positive. Along with a diagnosis of a double ear infection. And I found myself thrown back in time to my first year-- my first semester-- of law school.

Now, when you're a first year law student (or a 1L), you don't miss class. Because you're scared to. And your professors make a really big deal of it. There were two pregnant women in my first year property class. Neither one missed even a full week after giving birth to their children. Our professor wasn't what you might call understanding about these sorts of things. As someone who's been out in the work force for more than a decade now, I find it slightly appalling that no adjustments are made for women giving birth, but whatever. When we went to China to get Marcie in the fall, I missed two full weeks of class. I didn't exactly have an option. And I didn't give my professors one. ABA rules allow you to miss a certain percentage of class, and I knew as long as I didn't miss more than those two weeks, I'd be fine. And I was.

In fact, in the past four years, I've missed 11 classes. Total. That includes the two classes I missed the spring of my second year for work travel. And the one class I missed in the fall of my third year because I was in the semi-finals of a moot court competition which conflicted (I eventually won the competition). And the six classes I missed this past fall for our trip to China. And the class I missed to do my mock trial, which was my final exam for a class this spring. And then this past Thursday.

Eleven sounds like a lot. But it's not, considering I attended class four nights a week for something like 30 weeks a year. Some nights I had more than one class, even. In fact, I have taken twenty-two academic classes. Say an average of two classes per week, fifteen weeks each. So 22 (courses) x 2 (classes/week) = 44. Multiply that times 15 weeks, and you get 660 class meetings. Wow. Can that be right? If it is, and I've missed 11 of 660 classes, that's around .016 or 1.6% of course time total in four years. Not bad. Though, that depends on whether or not you think attending class is worthwhile. For me, law school is just far too expensive to justify blowing off a class.

Anyway, I was saying I have strep throat. So I didn't go to class on Thursday. Instead, I picked up Casey from preschool, grabbed Marcie from her grandmother's house, and took them to the pediatrician to be tested. Casey spent our time in the waiting room running back and forth across the area while I timed him with my stopwatch. When we got into the room to see the doctor, he drove the toy truck around, loudly providing sound effects. And after the doctor swabbed his throat to run the quick culture, he sat on the table and sang. Loudly. When she came back in to run the same tests on Marcie, she commented on his energy level. "Yeah," I quipped, "he doesn't seem sick. But if you think this is high-energy, you should see him healthy!"

The culture sat while she checked out Marcie. Who has two ear infections. Hmm. Sound familiar?

It turned out Casey was positive for strep. Marcie was not, though they agreed to run the longer culture and start her on antibiotics anyway for the ear infections. The kids and I spent Thursday afternoon eating ice cream and watching Ice Age together.

So I missed class. I left a long, rambling, apologetic voice mail message for the professor, and I followed up with an e-mail. . . . what a bummer of a way to end law school. Absent.

When I was a 1L, I attended my final property class of the semester. With strep throat. I told the professor I had it, and I asked if I could sit in a different seat because the woman next to me was pregnant. I was expecting him to tell me to go home, but he didn't. So I stayed through class. I grew progressively sicker over the days that followed, despite the antibiotics. I stopped eating. Couldn't drink. My throat was swelling larger and thicker. I was listless. I was dizzy. I couldn't drive. My mom flew in to help take care of me, forcing Popsicle after Popsicle into me to nurse me back to health. My doctor later confided that he was surprised I didn't end up hospitalized due to dehydration. I missed my first final exam. I called the school and asked if I would be able to lay down if I needed to during the test. They told me to reschedule it, and I did (I did need a doctor's note for that). I laugh when I think about my question now. It must have sounded very strange to them because in law school exams every minute matters. There would have been no time to lie down for a minute if I became dizzy.

It all sounds so crazy to me now. How frantic I felt. And even this time when I found out I had strep throat-- I called a friend of mine who sits next to me in class:

"Should I go and wear a mask?" I asked him.
"Don't be crazy," he said. "You should stay home and take care of yourself."
"But what if he talks about the final?"
"Then I'll tell you what he said."
"And what about the new material?" I worried.
"You took a class on the topic last semester." (He was right; I did.)
"Okay. Then I'll stay home. But please e-mail me the notes right after class."
"I promise. I will." And he did, too.

So even though I do have a Negotiations class on Monday evening, I feel like law school is kind of over. Except for finals, of course. I've been a student for half my married life. I was a mother for a mere 8 months without also being in school. Don't get me wrong-- I'm in for one heck of a summer of studying while I prepare for the Bar Exam. But my last class-- well, I guess it was rather anti-climactic. Since I wasn't even there.

It reminds me of the T.S. Eliot poem The Hollow Men, which ends like this:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

His poem was about the Lost Generation, lost hope, and the emptiness of humanity. I don't think law school has been been hopeless or meaningless. But I sure didn't go out with a bang. Me with my strep throat and double ear infection. I think it's pretty fair to say I went out with a whimper. Or at least whimpering.


Danielle said...

I don't know. I'd say strep and a double ear infection sounds more like a bang to me. Just not the kind you were expecting!
Feel better soon!
And congrats on finishing. I'm so, so proud of you Karen!

Tisra said...

BIG congratulations on your achievement. Who cares how you go out?!

Best of luck with the studying and exams.

Adopting from Taiwan group, paper pregnant with our fourth child

Anonymous said...

As one who by my last final first semester was suffering (literally) from a UTI, sinus infection, and bronchitis I totally feel ya! In fact my last class was Thursday and I am torn over it being either a let down because it whimpered by or a sad day since the professor was taught my first law school class (it was her first class to teach as well) also taught my last...We even brought cameras and took pictures - cheesy right! Talk to you soon, Jennie