Moving three thousand miles away to attend law school is a very interesting experiment in growth and coping skills. Prior to law school I lived within the same 5 mile radius my entire life, and for most of that time a significant amount of my closest family members also resided within a 5 or 10 minute distance from me. Due to this closeness, I grew up with a richness of familial experiences that shaped the way in which I view and interact with the world. No doubt, I believed that I was strong, independent and all of those other adjectives that people who known of those things use to describe themselves, but my move to Boston definitely proved that, even though I had the ability to possess those characteristics, I had not yet arrived in terms of my full adult development.
This became abundantly clear as I found myself missing all the things about home that prior to my leaving I thought I was incapable of missing, like family spats, the feeling of too much family responsibility, etc.
The interesting thing about law school is that there are many people who are also far away from home, and because of this, family begins to take on a whole other meaning. You don’t quite realize the transition as it is happening, but you know it once it is complete.
My experience moving away from home made me appreciate the family members I left there all the more. All the things that I took for granted, the insane phone calls from family members requesting me to do things, the fights, the long durations of silence, all of those things began to take on a new significance. So much so that I almost couldn’t wait to get into some nonsense argument with a relative just to have some feeling similar to what I experienced before I left. Friends I left, not those in name but the real ones, also became much more than just friends but extended family members without whose support, conversations, and consistent messaging about my not missing anything worthwhile by leaving, I’m not sure I would have made it through.
However, other things changed as well. People in school became family as well. Financial and travel restrictions beget Thanksgiving and winter break traditions. Seminal events like presidential debates, elections nights, birthdays, celebrations of indications of law school success all became reasons to celebrate and commune over food and favorite beverage choices of lawyers. Anxiety, angst, disappointment, trials and tribulations all became reasons for much needed triage, group intervention, and (you guessed it) favorite beverage choices of lawyers.
Relationships with strangers became beacons of strength and symbols of endurance and people’s absence, either voluntarily or due to things beyond their control, took an actual toll on the fragile ecology of law school clique-i-ness. So much so, that externships and semester-in-practices could seemingly transform whole group dynamics, even if we pretend they don’t. Planned and staged reunions become the focus of entire weeks instead of focusing on the legal homework of the day, and thoughts of graduation and separation, while exciting, add a new level of fear and anxiety over the proposition of ending what has just started and revisiting the feelings of leaving home, even if it is not truly home that you are leaving.
All in all though, it is not really leaving. It is simply moving forward in an effort to grow and develop as it was the first time, and with a little luck, traditions will be revisited, or fights will be had that will bring us right back to where it all began.
After all we are family, are we not?