The random thoughts of an architect-turned- lawyer from the deep south living in Washington, DC...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Looking back for a moment...looking forward forever.

I just finished law school. I mean, I just turned in my last paper and...oh my gawd, I just finished law school. I knew this day would come, but at the same time, I never dreamed this day would come. I'm sitting here with a glass of champagne reflecting on all that it took to get me here. These feelings are familiar. Turning in that last paper brought me back to another time. Another accomplishment. Another glimpse into me:

So many words could describe the emotions I encountered in those ninety minutes. I had always been dramatic and this was just another performance, although there was much more riding on this than any play or dance recital. I was also filled with excitement and anticipation of showing everyone what I had accomplished over the last five years. It all boiled down to the one-hour I had to express to everyone the thoughts and ideas that drove this project. I was so overwhelmed thinking of all that I had gone through to get here, and how close I came to not making it. It had been a long road, but today was my chance to shine.

I glanced out over the familiar faces in the room. I stood there, my stomach in knots and my hands shaking in front of professors, local architects, and classmates and I began to present my thesis. Everyone in that room knew how much work I had put into this project and, more importantly, how much was riding on it. This pass/fail presentation would determine my degree. With my emotions riding high, I spent an hour trying to get everyone in that room to see things through my eyes. After completing my presentation, I stepped outside to allow the panel to decide my fate. Never had seven minutes lasted so long. As I attempted to distract myself from the swelling anxiety, I began to reflect upon how I came to stand outside that classroom.

Architecture school was the first thing in my life that did not come naturally to me. This whole new way of “thinking outside the box” was a foreign concept. After breezing through high school, barely opening books, I figured college would be the same. I was wrong. When I entered architecture school, I went from being the smart one, to being the one that just could not get it. During my second year of architecture school, one of my professors actually pulled me into his office to tell me I should think of pursuing a different degree. He told me, “this field is not meant for everyone; some people never get it.”

I stood there, frozen in disbelief. I had never ‘not been good enough’ for anything in my life. I had never even come close to being faced with the thought of quitting. I decided at that moment that there was no way I was going to be a part of those that just never got it. From then on, I was determined to do whatever it took to prove to everyone, including myself, that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to.

Over the three years that followed, I went through a growth process I could never have anticipated. I spent countless all-nighters weeding through projects and drawings with mounting frustrations, pulling back on my social life and missing holidays. I also learned that professor’s critiques were tests of endurance and persistence, both of which I needed to build up. I realized just how hard I had to work to get through this. But more importantly, I realized that I had it in me.

The minutes continued to inch along as I stood outside that classroom waiting for the Director to come and reveal my fate. I remember every feeling leading up to that moment, but cannot remember the moment itself: the moment I received “the handshake” that meant that I had passed Thesis and would be graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture. Little did I know at the time the true meaning of that handshake. It did not necessarily mean that I would become a world-famous designer, or someday own an architecture firm, or even enjoy working in that field. It meant that when dealt this challenge, I handled it with enthusiasm and determination. Receiving that handshake acknowledged the transformation I had made into a more committed and hard-working person and it meant that I was now ready to conquer anything that came my way. I needed to go through those experiences in architecture school to become the person I am today: a person who is truly prepared for this next challenge. I am not only ready, but I also firmly believe that my undergraduate experiences will help me to excel as both a law school student and someday, as an attorney.

That’s the letter I sent to GW Law school (in the form of a personal statement) over three years ago. Apparently, someone over there believed in me because they gave me a chance. More importantly, in a few weeks, they will be giving me a diploma. Because ladies and gentlemen, I got my law school handshake today.

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