dal niente

Month: August, 2012

Parenting

Look for sites like this:

 

http://raisingchildren.net.au/

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Hitting Children

While I was in a criminal law class the other day, the idea of “legal chastisement” came up.  Basically, the idea of whacking your children when you think they’ve done something wrong.

I know a lot of people who were beaten as children.  I wasn’t one of them.  Not that I needed it: my parents used psychological warfare on me. I also got more than enough bullying during elementary school.

 

A lot of people make a case that when it comes to parenting, sometimes your children are just bad enough that you have to beat them.  I don’t agree with that.

 

Some of the people in class even went on to say that they were beaten as children, but that it was okay, because they were horrid children who deserved it. I don’t agree with that either.

What I wanted to say was “well, maybe if your parents loved you more, they wouldn’t have beaten you.”  But that would have sounded really harsh, and people wouldn’t have understood what I meant.  Let me qualify that statement then.  It’s not that I would have meant that they weren’t lovable.  It was the parents, who didn’t love.

 

And that’s not necessarily an evil thing.  IF you go back a generation or two in Asian families for example, family is more about duty than it is about love in the modern, western romantic sense.  There is a love in older chinese families, but it goes with confuscian ideas of the group being more important than the individual.  What I”m getting at is that in the old days, for Asian families as well as many other families, an intention to love children had nothing to do with anything.  I won’t get into Asian family philosophy, but what I’m getting at is that in new generations, we’re no longer living at the cusp of extinction.  We have enough food on our plates.  We are living in luxury.  You don’t need your kids to work the land or to ensure that you retire comfortably.  There is no excuse for having children who you do not intend to love.

 

Hitting children is, in summation, a cowardly, lazy shortcut to your own failures at communication.  It isn’t the child who is out of control– it’s the parent, who doesn’t have any control.  Violence is that bridge– it diverts the attention from the issues at hand to an overbearing continue/stop decision regarding physical pain.

 

Training children is a lot like training dogs– but there’s one major difference.  Dogs come in all sorts of different breeds, some of which were simply not made to be socialized with humans.  Human children are human– the potential is there.

 

Children don’t understand the use of violence– they only understand that they are being hurt.  I work at the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre in Sydney– I see it all the time.  Most of the time, children’s request are “when can I move out?” or “when can I leave home?”  The question isn’t “Why do my parents hit me?”  My professor tried to bring up a point, which, unfortunately, was mostly ignored by the class: when you hit a child, a child doesn’t understand why he’s being hit.  The association made in the minds of most youths after sustained child abuse is usually that they get hit because mom or dad was angry.  They don’t associate it as linked causally to a bit of bad behaviour.  Children don’t feel they deserve to be hit– but when they ask when they can leave home, it’s because though they feel they know what they like and don’t like, the fact is, they are being hit, and whther they like it or not.  It becomes a fact of their existence.  

Later down the line, such acceptance of violent behaviour as a means of communicating displeasure leads to women (and, for that matter, men) suffering from battered women’s syndrome, or for them to perpetuate violence on others.

 

Think about the parallels here.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if everytime a coworker did something sneaky, you could spank them?  Would you give them a knock on the head?  If your girlfriend or boyfriend was in a bad mood and refused to reasonable? If they threw a tantrum?  Would you beat them to tell them to smarten up?

 

Why aren’t these sorts of behaviours justifiable against adults?  Ohhh, right: because they’re adults.  Because “we” and “they” are supposed to be rational, and we can communicate things to them.  New for you: adults can be rational and still act badly.  And the law is, you can’t even punch a convicted felon without getting in trouble for it.

 

So why is it that somehow, we are accepting the hitting of children, who are physically and mentally more vulnerable than adults?

 

I think that there’s this idea that if the punishment is fair, and that if we’re not talking about downright unreasonable child abuse, that it should be okay to hit a kid every now and then.  It serves some greater purpose, right?

 

I’ve never had children.  However, I’ve worked with children for years.  I’ve worked with some of the meanest and most badly behaved children you’ve ever seen– kids can barely run straight, who are already punching, kicking, and going at eachother with scissors– and I’ve never had to hit a kid.  And I’ve always turned them around.

 

I’m not saying that everyone can do it– I’m saying that it is possible, and you can learn and teach yourself to be an adult who communicates properly with children.

 

Children didn’t ask to be born.  You have no right to take shortcuts or substitutes towards building a proper relationship, since you put them in a position to piss you off.

 

I appreciate that parents never know what to expect, and some people don’t even want to be parents.  But for all the things that people could do to make the world a better place– it starts with how you treat your children.

 

Endangered

I didn’t realise that Vgcats (www.vgcats.com) is still doing webcomics!! Ah, the nostalgia.  I still read a bit of Megatokyo every now and then, but that series is so slow, and Piro has been pissing me off for a while now.

 

It’s my dream to one day be smooth enough to tell someone off like this: http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=312

Grab Bag

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Substance as Metalife

Biochemically, there is a definition of living– it’s usually a binary status that people can agree on in a textbook sense.  It doesn’t have to do with brain activity, it just means that your body is alive.

On the other hand, there is “living” in colloquial sense– doing all the things that every commercial on television is about: buying  a car to take your kids to soccer practice; buying life insurance so that you know your love ones are protected after you kick the bucket; going to the movies; making tacos; cleaning grass stains out of your kids’ white clothes with the new formula of laundry detergent.  You get the idea.  Almost everything on television (with the exception of the payouts you get from life insurance) are all about you being alive, and being alive beyond simply just existing– they have to do with you taking action.

We’re already familiar with metadata, whether or not we know that we’re actually using it.  Some of the earliest examples of metadata are the index cards you used to find at libraries–there is information in books, but those cards are information about where to find those books.  Metadata is information about information.

The relationship here is between data and the data that is only possible after the original data exists.  That is to say, there couldn’t be any metadata unless there was data to begin with.  

What I’d like to toy with is the idea of metalife–  that is to say, a kind of life that can only exist based on living.

The first thing I should point out is that this theory is a social one.  It assumes connections that go beyond the individual.  Thus, person’s metalife may be affected by their own life, but in larger part, it is determined by the collective of lives that the individual associates with (in which their individual life is one out of an infinite denominator).

Okay, lets get out of the technical bits and straight to an example.

What’s the point of an analysis of metalife?

I think the importance of metalife is that the richer your metalife, the more fulfilled you are with life.  In a sense, building a metalife is the “point” of or existences.

That leads us to the question then, “what is my metalife composed of?”

While metalife  is a spiritual, mental and intellectual category of non-physical units, life itself is quantifyable in physical units.  Your metalife is the sense of “being alive” that you derive from living in action.  Being alive, on the other hand, is most easily described like the bottom of Maslow’s heiarchy of needs pyramid– you can quantifyably compare “how alive” a rich person is by counting how he has more health care at his disposal, more security, better clothing (armor), and good food.  (I’m assuming a hypothetical rich person who doesn’t spend all their money on trying to OD them selves on drugs).
  Compare this to someone who is the polar opposite, stricken by poverty: eating badly (if at all); no shelter; no clothes; no security; and a much higer likeliness of disease and illness.

So, if you had a sliding scale, you could somehow get the sense that actually being alive was a variable proposition– some people are clearly in a better position to be alive than others.

Modern capitalism makes at least two false propositions.

The first is that it takes X more units of Y to be alive.

The second is that metalife and life are one and the same.

First, lets look at the first proposition.  The fact that you’re reading this blog means that you have access to a computer. That probably means you’re at least in a certain socio-economic class– and that you probably won’t die easily.  You likely have enough food, shelter, and health to be alive.  

And that’s my point.  You’re already fine.

You’re not someone in a developping nation who is starving, and has a life expectancy of 20 years.  You’re not at significant risk of being shot, imprisoned without trial, raped, or mutiliated– your basic life functions and the security of yoru person are a given.

But capitalist society would have you think that you need something more, because you need to somehow guarantee your aliveness.  Thus, instead of just eating a balanced portions of food, the need for sustenence is extended into the luxury of higher forms of eating.  Cola.  Beer.  Fine dining.

Lets get on to the second point.  Does having a beer improve how alive you feel?

It might, actually.

And this is what metalife is about.  Metalife is about the sense of being alive that you get from activities which normally just maintan your existence.  So maybe beer isn’t the greatest fuel for your body– but, the social interaction that comes from you being drunk, the experiences that you get from interacting with other drunk people (good and bad) may give you a definite sense that you are alive.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I had my interview with the big law firm on Wednesday.  I got some pretty good tips all around, both before the interview and after the interview, from [Visual Noise], [RW], [Secondee], and even some people I met at RW’s party last night.  The most interesting one was one that I picked up at the party yesterday.

“Everyone has a tick,” he explained.  “Some people scratch, some people slouch back and forth… my trick? I wear a ring.  And whenever I feel edgy, I just rotate the ring around my finger– it sounds dumb, but doing that looks a lot less stupid than a lot of other kinds of ticks.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The interview, I think, I went pretty well, but it’s hard to say from these sorts of situations.  I was interviewed by a senior partner and a solicitor, which is to say, someone really important and someone who is a normal lawyer.  I had a good chat I think– it was a lot more informal than I thought.  The fact that my CV had so much experience on it was probably a good thing, because it meant that we could keep the talk focused on what I’d done and what I was good at, rather than things like philosophy or anything related to Australian politics, which are more fluffy in an unpredictable kind of way.

I think that the partner was pretty interested in me, but the junior, a bit less so.  Some people suggested that maybe it’s just because the junior was new to the interviewing process, and didn’t want to butt in since the partner was doing most of the interviewing– fair enough.

I’ve found though that it’s really hard to not look at things that are important to me and to critisize myself in retrospect. That’s the thing– I usually move look forward at all times.  It’s one of my strengths, to see that things are always going to get better.  But this clerkship?  This is important to me.  And that interview? It was important– but it’s in the past, so naturally, I keep looking at it, and second guessing my performance.

Not that it changes anything.

It’ll be 2 weeks before the list of 2nd stage interview candidates comes out.  There were something like 150 people who were interviewed for first stage interviews, which will be culled to probably about half for the 2nd stage– and ultimately, they usually take between 30-40 people. 30 or 40 people… out of 150.  Those are some odds, huh?

It’s true, I don’t have to be number one to get in there… but the truth of the matter is, I’m up against some pretty talented competition.  Not only that, but they have the home team advantage– I find myself constantly struggling to keep up to date with Australian politics and economic stuff.  I dred the possibility of that kind of thing coming up in an interview, so I tend to steer conversations in the direction of skills and experience instead.

There’s not much to do at this point except carry on with my usual work and just hope for the best.  It’s out of my hands at this point– it just depends on how strong the competition was.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I started watching a new anime, Sword Art Online.  I’m really enjoying it– it’s clever in a way that might only make sense to gamers.  I’ve never been really into MMORPGs, but I’ve played enough of them to really appreciate the attention to details and the cleverness of the stories.  I liked, for example, that when everyone started the virtual game, everyone was equipped with the same, cheap ass leather-armour, just like in typical MMORPGs.  [CM] and [SiB] are both enjoying the anime very much.

A special mention is Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, which you can watch on Youtube.  This show is hilarious, but you have to be in the mood for it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9gN5Gtabq8

On the other hand: Fuck you Naruto!!!  I could probably compress every 5 Naruto episodes into 1 episode.  The pace of each episode is so long and drawn out, you can really tell they’re milking it and stalling.  Which is a god damned shame– the latest episodes have Shikamaru, Ino, and Choji taking on their back-from-the-dead master, Asuma.  Shikamaru is one of my favourite characters of all time, and Choji had some potential for a good backstory– but they just presented the ideas so poorly.  For such an important, epic matchup, they delivered it with lousy animation direction and terrible scripting.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

If you haven’t seen the Dark Knight Rises (Batman) movie yet, you should.  Interesting stuff, quite fun overall, even though Batman is actually not-as-important as everyone else in the movie.

At the Gates

Tomorrow is the interview.

 

That means that, aside from plans to cook up a kickass lamb roast, my entire evening / night / morning will be spent obsessing about practicing my lines for the firm.  Fundamentally, I dislike interviews because I don’t like talking about myself to people I don’t know– blogging being the only exception, but that’s mostly because of the anonymity.  However, this is how the game must be played.  If nothing else, this is all just another game, and I am, as always, if anything, a gamer.

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Listening to: Journey, Trial by Fire  (to get my epic on)

 


Today:

I did a bit of training yesterday with [Campbell] down by the riverside.  The middle knuckle of my left hand is bruised for some reason, and it’s annoying.

Hosting the in the afternoon Baduk Club.  I got a fair amount of schoolwork done this morning, so I think it’s a much deserved break.

When I get home, my cousin is cooking dinner for all of us, and then [CM] and I are going on a date, probably for San Churros!  They basically make these deep fried donut-y things, which you dip in chocolate sauce.


Tuesday:

Badminton !!! Yes, I’m going to be playing badminton in the morning with [CM] and some of her classmates.  I played once about two weeks ago with the same group.  That was the first time I’d played badminton since about 2007.

 

I sometimes find it hard to believe that, although badminton played such a central role in my life in Montreal 1.0, it’s really an auxiliary thing to me now.  When I went to play with CM three weeks ago, it was fun to get back into it– obviously, I’m not in as good form as I used to be, but in many ways, you never really forget.  It takes a while for the muscle memory to shake the dust off, but as each teachnique unlocks, it’s like revisiting the past.  Before the end of the day, I was in the spirit of my old self– yelling out “GO!” and “NICE ONE!” in the tradition of my old captaining of the RsM teams.  I love it when the players spontaneously cry out in joy or dissaopintment– when people are letting their emotions vocalise, and when they’re willing to push their bodies in pursuit of a point, that’s something special.   The players I’m with are a bunch of casuals, who would probably be only D or E grade players by Badminton Quebec national standards (I’m not even sure if there is an E grade).  But, they seem to be genuinely enjoying their time on the courts.  I don’t think they realise how great a time in their badminton “careers” they’re in right now, when the game is innocently fun and exciting. 

Then after badminton, it’s off to school until 9PM.  The highlight of the classes will be a moot in class, where I’ll be trying to convince my class that a personal assistant who had an accident slipping in a parking lot during a break away from work should GTFO with her claim for workers’ compensation.


Wednesday:

Working at the legal centre.  I’ve been given a “promotion without promotion,” as in, more responsibilities, but without more pay.  The thing is, I’m a volunteer, so…

Anyways, in light of [Secondee]’s finished contract with the centre, there’s usually a new solicitor who steps in– but this time, there isn’t.  She’s got no replacement.  As a result, several of us are being designated “Team Leaders,” and we essentially do the organising solicitor’s tasks for the day!  It’s actually more of an administrative role than a legalwork related one, but still… that’s pretty cool, I guess.  I mean, I never have to take work home with me, so having to do a more complicated thing at work doesn’t really bother me too much.  I think it’s definately something advantageous to bring up in the interview though.


 

Thursday:

THE INTERVIEW with the firm.  I don’t really have much to say about this, because it’s exhausting just trying not to think about it.  The interview is at noon or so.

In the afternoon, at about 14:00, I’m going to the Baduk Club because I’ve organised a special event– the Austrailan National coach is coming to our club to do a seminar.  Last time he was here, he played something like 7 simultaneous games and crushed everyone.  I look forward to seeing him again.  I’ve gone to his Baduk Academy a couple of times and it’s always been inpsirational for me.  Especially when I get stuck at a certain level, he usually gives me a few ideas to work on which change my gameplay significantly.  It’s going to be funny, because I’m going to the club straight after my interview, so I’ll be wearing full “corporate attire.”  Meaning, the almost $600 dollar outfit that I had to spring for to do the cocktail evening and the interview.  It’s a bit overkill, even to meet the Aussie National Coach, but still.  Good for shits and giggles.

 


 

Friday:

Just class, thank god.

After class, going to a going-away party for Secondee, partly because she’s been really helpful during the applications.


Saturday:

Work at the newspaper company.

Gonna see a dance production with CM afterwards in the evening.

Might go to [RW]’s party briefly to make an appearance, since he’s really given me so much mentorship throughout the whole clerkship application process.


Sunday:


On the seventh day, he rested.

Cut Throat (Y/N)

A memo circulated electronically to our class:

All 4 copies of Alex Ilkin’s book have now been stolen from the High Use Collection.

We are astounded that some law students could be so dishonest and unethical. The library will have to pay $1300 to replace those books. This is particularly annoying because Ilkin’s book is not even that useful for the assignment. Ilkin’s book is written for lay people who are running bodies corporate and the answers to the assignment problem are in the legislation and cases.

So there is no possibility that the people who have stolen Ilkin can benefit from what they have done, other than chapter 15, nobody is to refer to Ilkin’s book in their assignment answer. You are not to reference the book and you are certainly not allowed to use it and then not reference it. That would be plagiarism. We all have copies of Ilkin and we are endeavouring to get a version of the book we can put into the Turn-it-in program. All of your assignments will be submitted via Turn-it-in and so detection is inevitable.

Chapter 15 has been put on the digital HUC so everyone in the year can access it and everyone can refer to it in their answer. For the benefit of those people who stole the book and have a stunted understanding of fairness, this is to ensure a level playing field. Law school is a competitive environment, but it is a fair environment. Everybody should have access to the same materials. That is the whole point of the library. It is a resource that all law students, regardless of financial means, can access.

To those people who did not steal the book, please do not be concerned about not being able to use Ilkin. When barristers appear in court and when judges write decisions, they almost never refer to textbooks. They refer to the law. This is found in legislation and cases, not commentary. This is what we will expect you to do. All of the answers are in the legislation and cases. (You can refer to texts other than Ilkin, but those texts will inevitably be general).
To those people who stole the book, we cannot stress enough that while thieves may not be caught at university, this kind of dishonest behaviour is almost always detected in professional workplaces. Your contemporaries and supervisors observe your work very closely. Nothing is secret in modern open-plan offices. When promotion time comes around, nobody is going to promote an employee who has been observed behaving unethically. Nobody wants to work incredibly hard themselves only to have their department or employer’s achievements and reputation destroyed by a dishonest colleague. One bad word from a colleague who has seen you behave improperly and your chances of promotion will be over.

Ivory Tower

I went to the cocktail event last night, and I was surprised at myself– turns out I’m more social than I give myself credit for.  I blended in with the crowd pretty well, and got a lot out of the evening.

 

Actually, that’s an understatement.  I felt great after everything.

Before last night, I always had this dread in the back of my mind that at some point, I’d be faced with a point when I’d have to decide just where I stood in terms of what kind of work I was willing to do.  On one hand, there is everything I am– all my most cherished experiences have to do with public service, education, and community.  On the other hand– there is the reality that most of the work out there is corporate work.  Attach all your stereotypes here of “the man.”

 

I went into that cocktail evening expecting something sinister and seductive– I had my guard up.  But I wasn’t ready at all for what I saw.

 

Instead, I met a bunch of lawyers, around my age, who had been working for the firm for several years.  Not only did they seem like genuinely nice people, but they were extremely passionate about their work and everything about their demeanours suggested that they would be great people to work with. No alarm bells went off.  I guess you can say I was surprised at how down to earth and “normal” everyone was.

 

I’m not sure what I expected, in retrospect.  Maybe not quite pitchforks and horns.  But I certainly expected them to be a bit more cut-throat, and to talk about closing all the “big deals” and all that.  Maybe my impression of corporate law was skewed by the fact that when I went to the careers fair, I remember very clearly that one of the firms’ representatives told me “we don’t really care if you do courses in international human rights– we’re a corporate law firm.  That’s not where the money is.”  Maybe I was giving that guy too much credit.

Instead, I felt that everyone that I met, be they solicitors or partners, were all quite human, and quite emphatic.

I got to speak with their Pro Bono and Community Services team, and it sounds like an incredible place to work for– this is one of the biggest firms in Sydney, and the amount of weight they could throw around for good causes?

 

I always worry about the nature of the system though.  The truth is, the firm doesn’t discriminate who our clients are.  It defends huge multinational corporations– and everything I know about the way the world works tells me that these borderless companies didn’t get to be as big as they are without kicking more than a few people down.  I don’t want to be a part of kicking people down.

But I’m justifying it to myself– I’m telling myself that when I get there, if I get a job, I’ll fix things from the inside.

[LordCrane] and [CaptainK] told me that corporate people are caring people too– but I dunno.   I mean, I intrisically know that most people are not obviously evil, like stealing right out of someone’s hands or punching some random person in the face.  But the fact is, the large corporations do do that– it’s just taht they do it legally, in ways that have come to be socially acceptable.  As nice as LordCrane and CaptainK are, I don’t think they understand the perspective that I have when it comes to the majority of people who live disadvantaged, and who have no prospects of breaking out of the cycle because capitalism has them right where they want them.  I’m making a lot of generalisations here because I don’t want to get into all the specific examples right now, but I think to myself that people like LordCrane and CaptainK are part of the deception– being nice people has nothing to do with it.

 

Nice people do bad things every day, basically.  But we’re nice to eachother– and if we operate in the same general socio-economic class, we’d never see the externalised costs that we burden the lower classes with unless we really looked for them.

 

In some way, I guess what I need is a plan on how to be a lawyer and still live up to my ideals of social responsibility.

 

 

Then again, I guess we should wait and see if I get hired first.

The Space Between

I was working at the legal centre this morning, and was chatting a bit with the solicitor in charge of my work, [Secondee].  Apparently, she just broke up with her boyfriend recently.

It’s good news.  The last time we talked about him was several months ago, when we were at a party at RW’s apartment.  Secondee seemed rather distressed, about things, but that might very well have been amplified by the copious amounts of alcohol that she’d had.  Back then, the boyfriend already sounded like a douchbag.  It now turns out that she found out that he was cheating on her.  After a scary night of arguing and what would legally constitute battery, he sat on her couch, fuming for 2 hours, not saying a word, simply watching equestrian on television.  Then, he just got up and left, but not before blaming Secondee for “forcing him into that position.”

 

It’s a good change for Secondee, and indeed, a good time for her.  I don’t know her all that well personally, but I’ve worked with her over the course of her 6 month contract with the legal centre.  Like anyone, she has her ups and downs, and relationships are perhaps one of the most complicated things that one can attempt to get right during a lifetime.

 

I’m thankful that I have [CM].  People probably get tired of hearing that, because Xanga, and blogging in general, is often about brooding and bitching.  I think that’s a large reason why so many people have left Xanga, actually– because somehow, they want to leave all that behind them.  Which is fair enough.

 

But as Secondee’s almost 4 year relationship with the ex-bf finally comes to an end, it brings up the topic– didn’t anyone see it coming?  Of course, all the signs are there in retrospect.  People in relationships know what they don’t like.  They instinctively feel what’s wrong about the situation.

 

I think the general problem though is that they want what’s not there, or they ignore what is.  A lot of why people become so jaded about relationships isn’t because the opposite sex is full of assholes and bitches– it’s because people don’t know what they want.

 

You wouldn’t go into a car dealership, buy a humvee, and then complain that you wanted something more fuel efficient, or that fit in your narrow parking space, or which you couldn’t reach the pedals because you’re too short.  People don’t like the idea of comparing humans to commodities, but there’s a truth in the analogy.  We think we’re such great consumers, being all savy by finding something that looks just the way we want it– but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is how you plan to use something/someone.  What matters is what you need it/someone to do for you.  What matters is what you like about it/someone.  What matters is why you’re excited to engage with it/someone.  What matters is how, the next morning when you wake up, you’re not bored of it/someone.

 

Do we stick to the things we own though?  Did we buy them for all the wrong reasons?  Was it all on a whim?

 

If that was the case, then perhaps we should learn to throw away the relationships that don’t suit us.  I’m not a fan of a disposable mentality, but in many cases, throwing something out so you can have space to find something better might be the better idea.

 

 

 

Why do people get stuck so often in relationships that they should get out of?  Why is it that, where it is so easy to shelve a thing, or throw it out, it is so difficult to end a relationship that someone doesn’t need?  I guess the tricky part is that we don’t always know what we need, and we get too caught up in what we want to figure out what how different it is from what we have.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

One of the other volunteers at the legal centre has a cocktail evening at the same firm as me tonight.  I thought I was nervous– but this guy has gone totally mad under the pressure.

 

We spent 2 minutes this morning practicing handshakes, because he was afraid that he wasn’t doing it properly.

 

“You’ll be fine,” I said.  Not that I’m a professional handshake coach, but really– he’s jumping at shadows.

 

Human minds are funny things.

 

It’s exciting to be alive.

“Why? Because this shit just got real?”

I thought about the question, still unable to suppress my grin.  “Yes,” I replied.  “That’s a good way to put it.”

 

I was in the library of the tower, somewhere on about 50 floors up from ground level.  The view of Sydney was amazing.  I had been invited here by [RW], who worked in the firm.  He was going to help me out by running through a mock interview for the upcoming real thing.  He had gone to his office to get a copy of my CV and cover letter, and when he returned, he basically found me holding one of the books, basically smelling it.

The need to actually go to these tomes of legislative information is mostly behind us, with the digital age upon us.  Regardless, being in a major law firm’s law library, high above the city, is one of those Hollywood moments that is the kind of cliche that you never really wonder if you’ll ever live out.  While it was true that I was just a guest there, I couldn’t help but feel suddenly that RW was right– shit had somehow gotten very real in the last five minutes.

It’s been a bit over a year now since I started law school, and a bit short of a year and a half since I left Montreal to meet up with [CM].  These were both huge decisions in my life.  The decision to apply for law school over two years ago represents me, wondering if I could do better than odd jobs that didn’t care about my education.  The decision to come after CM when she told me she was going to move represented me, taking responsability for my love life.

The two events are important because, all too easily, I think that we, and I include myself in this “we,” tend to consider these sorts of major choices as “optional.”  It’s optional to go after the really hard degree.  It’s optional to get on a plane and go halfway around the world to take a chance to be with someone you love.

But that’s all life is about, really.  Options.  You never really have to do anything outside of the routine if you don’t really want to– the routine will still be there.  In a first world setting where we’re not going to be forced into situations of do or die, we can’t be complacent with our survival.  Change requires an acknowledgement of responsability for our own direction, as well as the ability to pursue it, without knowing precisely if there will be any payoff.

 

RW stood beside me and started pointing out several landmarks available from the high-rise view.  “Your hometown, Glebe, is somewhere over there.”

 

It was a few minutes before we started working on the mock interview, because, frankly, I was too excited.  Being there was a major wakeup call.  I never imagined 5 years ago that I would be in this position, which makes that typical interview question (“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”) seem even more ridiculous: who knows where tomorrow leads!

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

I have a lot to thank RW for.  When I first arrived at the NCYLC, he dumped over 60 pages of legislation on me and told me to be ready to discuss it in about an hour.  At that point in my education, I’d almost never read a piece of legislation yet, nevermind a full document without teacherly commentary.  I was a total n00b back then, and didn’t know the first thing about the law beyond what I had garnered from Alley MacBeal and Law and Order.  He had expectations for me from day one– not because he knew me, but because that’s the sort of person he is.   Almost a year later?  I’m suited up and standing with him at the firm he works at, and he’s helping me apply for a job at his company.

“You see what you did there?” he interrupts.  “You said ‘a lot of my peers might do it like this…’ why do you do that?  That suggests that your peers matter.  This interview is about you– don’t waste word count sounding like you’re not confident about your methods.  Just talk about why your way is best, and stop sounding like you always have the competition in mind.”

“Okay,” I reply, taking a moment to think.  This shit is hard.  He’s right though.  Something about being in lawschool has made me acutely aware, at all times, of how my peers are really smart people– it’s something I never used to care about during my undergrad, or at work, because I was supremely confident in myself.  Nowadays?  I still do well in school, but doubts always loom: do they know something I don’t?  Am I getting too old for this?  How do they remember all that?

“That’s an okay answer, but I think that you’re thinking too much about applying for a healthcare job.  This isn’t public service anymore– all that stuff about human connection and stuff, say it once, but that’s it.  You should always be thinking– how do I make this skill relevant in a commercial context?”

“Client relations and teamwork?”

“Yes.  It’s not that empathy isn’t important– but you can leave it hanging on goodwill.  It needs to be functional to us.  Don’t say anything that doesn’t get tied to the main idea– we’re a commercial firm.”

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

The fact is, I’m very excited to have an interview at this firm.  It is a huge commercial firm, which is quite different from the sort of policy work that I wanted to do.  However, the firm does have a huge department that deals with policy and civil liberties issues as well– but it’s not where you start off.  Those sorts of projects are reserved for the trusted– I’ll have to pay my dues the old fashioned way first.  I’ll have to spend a few years learning the trade and working for “the man.”

From a personal perspective, I feel somehow that I’m selling out– so I sometimes have doubts.  I find myself in the same position as Marshall from How I Met Your Mother— he always thought he’d be working to help people, not a puppet to Goliath National Bank.  (Apparently this turns around at some point, but I’m only up to season 5 so don’t spoil it for me!)

I’m not rationalising my desire to work for this firm– I’m still keeping it keenly in my head what it is that I want to do in the end.

 

But first? I need to get through the interview.  I’m a clear underdog here, so it won’t be easy… but we’ll see how it goes.