Last night I tried to give a toast to my family at our post-graduation dinner, but I immediately found myself too choked up to talk. Even though I was happy and didn’t realize I was on the verge of tears, there’s something about trying to speak that gets my eyes all watery and makes my voice break. Here’s what I meant to say (expanded into blogging fodder):
Thank you all- JP, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle C, my father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and even Landon, for being here today. It’s hard to believe this is it – that we’re all here, celebrating my law school graduation and the beginning of my new career as a lawyer. I’m surprised at how sad and nostalgic I am, especially given that I spent much of 1L year gazing longingly at Rockefeller Chapel out the library window, counting down the seconds until I this day. It’s been quite a journey. JP and I got married three weeks before law school began; we drove up to Chicago two days after the wedding in a car filled with china place settings and crystal glasses. I spent 1L as a newlywed, 2L pregnant, and 3L as a new mom. Somewhere in there I relearned how to think and how to write. Sure there were a bunch of legal terms and case names and constitutional principles throw in there too, but what I’ll carry with me forever from the University of Chicago is the power to think critically, to always inquire further, and to assume nothing. I will never read a news article or blog post the same way, and while that is at times frustrating- I don’t always want to question every sentence on the page- my personal ideology is richer for it. Being a law student at Chicago has been hard, at times very hard, but it’s not a road I have not traveled alone, and I want to thank each of you for being here to celebrate the end of it.
This degree belongs almost as much to JP as it does to me. He didn’t panic when the upbeat and confident woman he married turned into a needy, weepy, insecure mess at her first round of 1L finals. He brought me food so we could have romantic picnic dinners in the Green Lounge and reassured me over and over that I was smart and belonged in the classes I suddenly found so intimidating. He is the reason I inexplicably remember 1L as one of the best years of my life. I loved living in our cute downtown loft, I loved having him to come home to, I loved our nighttime walks around our new city, I loved how much he made me laugh, and I am forever grateful for how much he believed in me. The addition of Landon into our lives only proved again how lucky I am in my husband. He is truly a co-parent and I’ll admit that any time our parenting wasn’t split down the middle, it was because he was doing more of the work. I’ve watched the relationships of a few of my classmates crumble during these three years, but I’ve felt ours grow infinitely stronger. I wouldn’t have made it through law school without him and I hope I can support him half as well in his journey through business school.
I also want to thank my parents who believed in and supported me always. Thank you to mom who I called nearly every day 1L year and who told me near the end of it that it was okay not to make it. It’s funny, but that conversation was what made me realize that I was doing this for me; that it was no longer about pleasing my parents or gathering as many credentials as possible just in case I needed them, I wanted this, and I could do it. Thank you mom and dad for being liberal in your praise, support, and pride – I still have every letter you’ve written to me before the big moments in my life. I read them often, cry every time, and vow to do the same for Landon. Thank you to my in-laws who were always interested in my classes and supported my goals. To my grandparents who could always lift my spirits with their doggedly optimistic view of the world. My grandma always says, “It’ll all work out”, and it always does. And thanks to my uncle and godfather who arranged his flights to come visit us and gave me something to look forward to midweek.
My last mention goes to Landon. Not a thanks, because he really wasn’t much of a help – you could even say I graduated in spite of his efforts, but he was my greatest accomplishment in law school. He is the honors asterisk that isn’t by my name in the program. He was a highlight of my day – picking him up from daycare and seeing his huge smile, playing with him in the evening, cuddling with him at night – he never let me forget that life is so much bigger than law school. I hope that someday he gets a kick out of the fact that he was the University of Chicago JD Class of 2008’s little mascot and that I carried him down the aisle of Rockefeller Chapel in the recessional at graduation. I don’t delude myself thinking he won’t sacrifice for my career goals, but I hope any sacrifice is small, and I pray that he understands how important this is to me, and he always knows how much more important he is. I hope he’s proud of what his mom did.
This isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. I’ll be relying on all of you as a lawyer as much or more than I did as a law student. Thank you for the past three years. Thank you for all the love and support I know I’ll get in the future. Cheers!