Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Done, but not

I finished the paper at 2:05 AM. I battled a gut twisting stomach ache that made my legs shake and left me tucked in a ball under my table (twice), a frozen computer, and jittery caffeinated hands which taunted me in the final hour by hitting the wrong keys any time I typed faster than 20 wpm, but I emerged victorious. I got home around 2:45, took forever to fall asleep, and got about 4.5 hours in before waking up late and racing back to campus to meet with my professor to discuss the paper. I think there's nuggets of good information and analysis buried somewhere in the 28 pages, but I really can't be sure. I'm afraid to read it now.

This paper had a backstory that was supposed to make my life easier (and it did), but which also added a unique stress to the finished product. In the fall when my world was crashing, one of my favorite professors insisted I drop two of my classes and replace them with an "independent research" for him, to be completed at a later date. This is what allowed me to ignore law school almost entirely for those two months and I am so, so grateful for that. I planned to write something during the winter quarter, but then Landon got a million ear infections and no one was sleeping and I was constantly behind and I just never worked on the topic he gave me. Over spring break I went into his office, full of apologies and confessed to not even remembering my original assignment. He waved it off and gave me my choice of a few options, the last one being a particularly interesting topic that I was actually excited about researching. It was so refreshing to write a paper with a purpose beyond the grade and credit; I was going to help him write a law review article by gathering, organizing, and synthesizing information on a fairly new corporate law topic. But then my four classes and other outstanding paper got in the way, and by the second week of class I was freaking out and feeling guilty for neglecting his project. When he heard I had another substantial he said, "why aren't you just getting that credit for me?" and I replied, "because I didn't want to ask you for anything else." He said that was ridiculous and told me his paper could be my second substantial (all law students have to write two to graduate; almost any seminar paper can be made into a substantial one with the requisite length and level of research). That was one of my happiest days this quarter. My cyber law paper now only had to be 15 pages long and I got to write a substantial paper on a topic I actually found interesting for a professor I actually liked.

The downside to all this was that I now really cared about my paper. It didn't help that my two best grades in law school were from this professor's classes (corporate law and securities) so he had a uniquely high opinion of my intelligence which I didn't want to disillusion. I haven't felt smart in this building often and it would be sad to tarnish the only two times in three years that I did. So even though my professor insisted he didn't want his project to be a source of stress, it was. It was no longer about getting credit, I wanted to do a good job, and I wanted the paper to be useful to him in his own larger project. I hope it succeeded; I put more time and effort into it than I really had to give. It was almost refreshing to care again about my work product. I haven't been kidding when I've said I've lost any emotional connection to my grades - this year has become about survival and graduation. But I used to care, I used to be proud of the things I handed in, and I used to count down the days until grades were posted because I knew it was going to be a good one. That all came to a screeching halt after my 1L fall grades came out, which I think kicked off the depression and self-doubt that plagued my 1L year (but that's a different post entirely).

The point is that while I can check another item off my to-do list, my lingering attachment to the paper is making that check mark less immediately satisfying. Also crashing the "Hooray! I'm done!" party is exhaustion and the fact that I have yet another paper due at 4pm today for my workshop. I need to read a giant article and write a 3-5 page reaction. Small potatoes compared to my last two projects, but the thought of staring at another blank word document is almost nauseating. At least I'll be coming home from school tonight on the same calendar day that I left in the morning. I'm giving Landon his bath, soaking up all the giggles and cuddles before bed, and enjoying some down time with JP. It's been about four days since I've talked to him outside of IMs, whispered phone calls in the library, and Landon hand-offs out in front of the law school. I'm also looking forward to eating real food at a table and not over my laptop.

And then tomorrow I'll start studying for those three exams I'm supposedly taking next week. Ten more days...


  1. I know exactly what you mean about it feeling good to care about what you are doing again. I used to love doing research and take a lot of pride in what I was doing. Now I am just gunning for the finish line. It feels great when I get into it and I see a glimmer of what used to be, but most of the time I just have to force myself. But I remind myself of all the wonderful things I have in my life now that I didn't have when I started grad school and it suddenly doesn't seem to matter very much.

  2. ugh i know how those jittery caffinated hands feel when they wont hit the right keys...grr! but you did it!

  3. The end is in sight!! Good luck.

  4. Right there with you. And I understand still caring. I think you'll be fine though - and he knows that you have a billion things to do. That's why he offered to let you do the substantial for him instead!! Now, check it off your list. Take the night off. Get to bed early. And move on.

    One and a half week babe. Then you are done. you can do it!!!

  5. Whoo-hoo!

    good luck on all the rest of your assignments!

  6. Oh, girl. Hang in there.