The difference between us
Thursday. 4.12.12 6:44 pm
“I, um… hm.” The hesitation lasted longer than I anticipated. I glanced up from the latin cuisine set before me and toward the latina sitting beside me. I answered the only way I knew how.
“I suppose I just want to do well—wait, no. I want to do good.”
“See, that’s the difference between you and I, Jonathan,” Dinara tells me with a smirk. “You want to do good. I want to do well.”
Dinara and I have grown remarkably closer over the past few months. Scheduled hour-long lunch dates evolved into dinner dates that lasted for hours, followed by art shows, movie debuts, riverside walks, and fireside talks. While there is a remarkable chemistry between us, I can't bring myself to give what I suspect she wants: true commitment. A label, even.
Her future career goals are standard fare as far as law school goes. The mantra she’s pushed on me over the past couple months, “prestige matters,” might as well be the slogan for these risk-averse brainiacs that surround me here. They long to work for top law firm, making top dollars, and living in the top cities. Even if the cost is, in my opinion, their soul. Personally, I could never work for a firm that represents BP oil against residents of new orleans who lost their homes and livelihoods -- even if they were paying me 20,000 a month like her and so many others.
To be fair, I've been getting a lot of pushback on my career decisions as well. Not only from my classmates like Dinara but even from people I hold in higher regard like Caitlin.
She doesn't really get me anymore.
Not sure if she ever did.
But more on that later.
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'tis a good day to saunter
Monday. 4.9.12 11:39 am
Joel is the kind of person whose smile illuminates his entire face – you wouldn’t have to look at his mouth to recognize his grin. I reckon it’s in the eyebrows. He’s got this way of arching them at just the right angle when he smiles – and he smiles frequently – that endears you to him. There’s a certain.. genuine quality to him that is stronger than that found in others ‘round these parts. He’s a good guy.
There’s a steady confidence to his ways I couldn’t even begin to feign. Joel was actually the first student here that really engaged me. The day of orientation, all 80 members of my section toured campus in various countenances. Some were genuinely excited, others merely donned that mask of eagerness. Everyone was remarkably nice and at least tried to be friendly. Well, almost everyone.
The ever-present outlier I am, I could not help but allow my pensive nature to overtake any desire I had to mingle and quickly found myself in the back of the throng of students. I lumbered behind the group, sauntering and taking in the sights rather than brisk by them to keep up with the horde. Joel, perhaps noticing my Thoreau-like saunter, slowed his own pace down and engaged me in conversation.
“What do you think,” he says to me with an eager expression?
“.. I don’t.”
I think I won him over with that quip. He laughed, introduced himself, and told me some of his story – lived in Pittsburgh, Maryland, North Carolina and Saigon. Went to H for undergrad and is now back for law school. As the year passed, he quickly established himself as one of the sharpest minds in the class, quick to speak up and usually with the right answer.. but never in the smug or condescending way one would expect.
I’m not entirely sure what it is he sees in me that makes him want friendship. I suppose, and hope, that it’s the same genuine quality in me that I see in him.
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Thursday. 1.12.12 11:55 am
“Now, what is it that you want to do with this fancy degree of yours, Jonathan?”
Placing the only water-filled glass down on the table, I turn my head away from Kells' aunt as I contemplate her question. Whilst biting the right side of my bottom lip, I look up across the table to the grizzled city prosecutor seated across from me.
“I suppose,” I begin before turning my attention back to his wife, “that I want to do good.”
She leans her body forward as if to speak, but then pauses and retreats back into her seat. With a finger pressed against the side of her chin, she looks at me with one of those thoughtful gazes. “Good,” she starts, “I believe you will… I believe you will.”
The three of us, as well as Kells, the girl who invited me to the supper, are joined
by five others: the elderly couple’s 25 year old rebellious daughter Jo and her boyfriend Hameed, Jo’s friend Yuki and Yuki’s boyfriend Samuel, a carpenter down here in Austin, Texas. Another attorney rounded out our dinner party, a friend of Kells' aunt and uncle, a.k.a. our hosts.
A recurring theme of my Fall semester involved me figuring out just what the hell I should do upon graduation.. I reckon roughly 85-90 percent of my peer students will go straight into working at a big law firm, make somewhere around 200-300 an hour (and work 60-80 hours a week) and spend their foreseeable future ensuring that the powerful corporations they represent maintain their power.
I reject such a life. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with making money; it’s just that my time is worth more to me than mere dollars. There are so many fucked up things going on in the world today for me to just turn a blind eye to and pursue capital gain above all else. As someone who recalls being fairly happy whilst living off welfare and foodstamps, eating ramen noodles and mac and cheese every night because it’s all momma could afford, I suppose I’ve got a unique perspective that many Ivy Leaguers couldn’t truly empathize with.. so, yeah.. I can do without a shitton of money. Especially if the opportunity cost is my soul.
So, in an effort to figure out just what the hell to do with my life, I’m spending my winter Trimester in Austin rather than Cambridge. I’m currently working at an anti-Capital Punishment non-profit for school credit. The work is .. depressing, but that’s another entry for another day.
How do you know if you're on the right path? Hell, how do you know if there is even a "right path" to begin with? The only thing I do know is that I don't want to be one of the thousands upon thousands of graduates who can look at the world, diagnose all the problems, and do nothing about it.
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Thursday. 12.22.11 8:02 pm
“Hey, pal?” I say aloud. She’s a few paces ahead of me, leading us back to my home. To be honest, it kind of felt like our home by this point. “I know I said I’m only capable of producing young strapping boys like myself and all,” I continue.
She rolls her eyes.
“What is it, bay?”
“A part of me likes the idea of us having a babygirl… Ophie, short for Ophelia. From Halmet.”
“… You do know how that story ends, right?”
“… Fuck you.”
“… Isn’t that how we got into this mess to begin with?”
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Thursday. 11.17.11 4:32 pm
Imma show 'em something: Firemarshall Bill
Tuesday. 11.8.11 2:22 pm