I went to law school, never once intending to be lawyer.
It’s a certain kind of privilege that lets a person do that – a privilege that allows you to accumulate a loan without spending nights awake worrying about it; that permits a deep drunk slumber without fear of what the fuck you’ll do instead.
I didn’t write it off immediately and I didn’t take my education for granted. I went to all my lectures; I did my readings; I had heated debates and opinions and ideas. And I volunteered at a Community Law Centre to see what it would be like. For a few hours each week I would sit in a small room listening to messages recorded by anxious parents wondering why their children had been suspended, and what rights they had, and what they could do with little money and less power.
I didn’t hate it. I just wasn’t very good at it.
What I was good at is writing, and so I moved to London, got a job at an entertainment app and worked my way up. I now write for a living, sometimes 15 articles a day, churning them out like breathing. I stop to make tea. Or to shop for lipstick. I like my job.
What I didn’t count on was all my friends from law school becoming lawyers, and I do know how stupid that makes me sounds. All of them, the ones who seemed enthused by the legal process and the ones so distracted by relationships and parties and the sun the sky – they’re all lawyers now. Some live in New Zealand, some in Australia or London; some work for big firms; some clerk for judges or work as in-house counsel. But off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone who did what I did, which was take the knowledge and the skills and channel them elsewhere.
And I’d be lying if I said I don’t trade off my law degree.
When you want to be a writer you trade with the currency you have, and the suggestion that maybe I don’t have to be here, doing this, is sometimes enough to interest people. Holding an LLB is a recognized signpost of diligence and intelligence, even if I could point to pictures of successful lawyers who once dressed as Nazis at parties. Even if my profile picture on Facebook shows me chin-first in a wine glass. Even if many practicing lawyers I know are only a few coke-fueled steps west of falling the fuck apart.
What I did doesn’t surprise many people who know me, though they do ask why?
Why, when you could be earning so much money? Why, when it’s such a reliable career path? Why, when you could write as a hobby?
I think it’s because I couldn’t be happy as a lawyer, and I chose happiness. I think it’s because I trusted myself enough to take a gamble – though, if I’m honest, real trust wouldn’t come in the shape of shiny back-pocket law degree, but in a Masters in Creative Writing. I think maybe it’s because I like to believe that while uncountable numbers of people would make better lawyers than me, few (some, maybe a lot, hopefully not) are as dedicated to being a writer as I am.
But it’s really not that easy having so many friends with money and prestige and security. For all my arrogance, it’s not easy at all.