" /> The Merits of the Case: September 2005 Archives

« January 2005 | Main | October 2005 »

September 04, 2005

On Being Different

I've been thinking a lot these past couple of weeks about fitting in. Because I feel like I don't. And it's okay, it doesn't really bother me; I've spent a lot of time in my life not fitting in.

It's human nature, of course, to look around at other people and to look for those with whom you have some kind of connection. That's just what we all do when we spend any time with a group of people. And many of us (maybe all of us?) compare ourselves to the people we meet. It's the unconscious comparison, I think, that allows us to find those we have something in common with. In my contacts with my classmates in the past couple of weeks, I have discovered several things about them and about myself.

I am, quite obviously, the oldest person in my section. How many times did I blog about that before I started? I kept saying that I didn't want to be the oldest one, and that I was certain that I wouldn't be. And I'm not the oldest one in my class. I know for a fact that there is at least one student who is, as the dean told us all on the first day, in his or her 50s. That student (or students) is in the evening section, however. Along with all the other students who are anywhere near my age. When I sit in class and look around at everyone else, they all look so young. They all are so young. I sit next to one woman in several of my classes who is only 6 years younger than me. And I know of one man who is 10 years younger than me. The average age in my class is 24, so most everyone else is significantly younger. I believe that in my Civil Procedure class I am the oldest person in the room, because I think even the professor is younger than me.

This age difference is evident in the way I dress and my hair style (not to mention my wrinkles!), even though I think my appearance can sometimes be deceiving. I'm not sure if I necessarily look like I'm 39 years old. The significant difference is most evident in the conversations I overhear. After only three weeks, Friday classes are spent discussing what happened at the Thursday night SBA bar parties, for example. While many of my classmates are spending time together socially on Thursday nights, I am spending the evening commuting to and from my home/minivan/kids/dog in the suburbs, making dinner, running kids to two different football practices and attending school board meetings. (Upon discovering the fact that I drove a minivan and had children, one of my classmates recently asked me if I was a "soccer mom.") And I'm okay with that. I love my life, and I've already done the social bar scene in undergrad and then for awhile after I graduated. I don't have any desire to do that again. None of this is unexpected, of course. I've known all along that my age would set me apart. I guess I just didn't expect it to be so glaringly obvious.

The difficult thing about this for me is that I'm not exactly sure how to overcome these differences. I'm not even sure if I need to overcome anything. It might just have to be what it is. I will admit to wondering from time to time if I wouldn't have fit in better in the evening section. Logistically, I couldn't possibly take classes in the evening unless Randy got a new job, but I'm not sure I wouldn't try to switch if it was an option.

I have also noticed that I frequently feel as if I'm leading a secret, double life. When I'm at school I am a law student, even if I am an old one. From the moment I get on the train until the moment I get off, I am immersed in Torts and Civil Procedure and Legal Writing. I love reading and thinking about this stuff, and I can see how it could become all-consuming. However, when I walk through my front door each day, I become Just Mom. I am still the person making dinner and doing laundry and packing lunches and helping with homework and driving to practice and the orthodontist and the grocery. Kim the law student is incidental to Kim the mom. I am still a law student, because as I'm making lunches and doing laundry I'm thinking about Torts and Civil Procedure, but the kids don't want to hear about intentional torts and diversity jurisdiction. They just want to tell me about what Joey did on the bus and about what supplies they need for their English project at school. I have spent such a long, long time being "just a mom" that it's odd for me to have this completely separate existence from them that for once doesn't have anything to do with their school district or their lives.

I suspect that this disjointed/split feeling will fade a bit over time as I get used to juggling these two very different parts of my life. And despite the feeling of being split, I find that I am feeling extremely happy. I love law school so far even if I am old, and I feel so lucky to have these great kids and this great life AND to get to do something that I really want to do. I count my blessings daily. And sometimes when I'm feeling especially different at school, I think about how much I've accomplished in the last 17 years, and about how much my classmates still have to do to get to the place where I am. The getting here is fun, if not a lot of work, but the being here is absolutely amazing.