Articles of Frustration: Part 12 – The Upswing

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January 2015 – April 2015

The end of law school was near.

I continued applying for jobs and trying to follow up every lead that I could.  At the same time, I was becoming increasingly involved with school life and extracurriculars.  For someone who had seriously considered becoming a recluse for the rest of law school, such a development was striking.  At UVic, there is a sacred, yearly ritual known as “Skit Night”.  During this most holy of holies, a downtown theatre is rented out for an evening and a variety of comedic sketches get showcased.  Alcohol is available at the venue and many students show up with their own supply of alcohol, show up fairly drunk, or both.

Suffice it to say, Skit Night is usually memorable.  This year, my name had somehow been tossed out as a possible co-host/MC of the evening’s festivities.  Along with two fellow 3L’s, I began devoting a substantial amount of time and effort to writing, filming and rehearsing pieces for Skit Night.  Funny as it may seem, I probably worked harder on this event than anything else in law school.  It was a great treat for law students on the cusp of final exams and I took being selected as a co-host pretty seriously.  While the preparation itself was hard work and more than a little stressful, I remember feeling happy and engaged throughout.  Time seemed to fly in the weeks leading up to Skit Night and it was not long before we were all on stage making asses of ourselves and our colleagues (not to mention the faculty, administration, the Dean, etc).

It was incredible.  Of course, there were things that went wrong.  Production bloopers, jokes that didn’t land and actors that missed their cues all abounded .  But, the entire theatre was uproarious in its laughter and energy.  The reviews of the entire evening were almost universally positive (or so I choose to believe) and the entire experience put me over the moon. I remember walking out into the cool, rainy evening after the post-show party and smiling during the trek home (I had long since missed the last bus).  For the first time in well over a year, I felt as though I might really miss law school when it was finished.

You might be wondering what all of this has to do with a series devoted to my search for an articling gig.  Admittedly, this saga has morphed slightly into a general memoir of the last three years of my life.  However, I draw several connections between what was going on in the rest of my life and my seemingly never-ending quest for legal employment.  Firstly, I had finally shed the silly, harmful idea that my success or failure in securing articles reflected on my worth as a person and a professional.  I was STILL without articles by this time, but it did not bother me nearly as much.  It had taken me longer than most, but it had finally struck home that I was a fun, clever person without the approval of some fucking hiring committee.  Even more importantly, I knew that I had things to offer the world even if articling NEVER panned out.  What is ironic is that I thought that I knew all of this going into the process.  Like many important lessons, I suppose it was not enough that I knew the answer by rote: I had to stumble through failure and doubt to truly appreciate its meaning.

A good example of the above is an interview process that had started, progressed and ended all in the few weeks leading up to Skit Night.  In early February, I noticed that Canadian Blood Services (CBS) was looking for a 2015-2016 articling student to work at their headquarters in Ottawa.  Being a hemophiliac, CBS and its mandate had been crucially important to me on several different occasions.  As well, and as a result of my overall health situation, health law had always interested me.  I completely retooled my standard articling cover letter and tweaked my resume in order to better secure a shot with the organization.  About a week after replying, I received a phone call from Ottawa inviting me to take part in a telephone interview with CBS.  The call came during class and I awkwardly ran out into the hall to answer it as soon as I recognized the area code.

Although there is a certain amount of excitement that comes with all job interviews, the CBS position was especially enticing to me.  Besides my personal connection to the organization, I thought it exciting to work in the nation’s capital and on the cutting edge of contemporary health law.  Similar to several previous interviews, I endeavoured to read all that I could about Canadian Blood Services.  I memorized its structure, its various services and its mission statement.  Several sheets of paper were scrawled with my research, as well as with several questions that I thought would be pertinent to ask, should the opportunity present itself.  The interview was scheduled at 10 AM on a weekday morning when I did not have class.  My instructions were to call a telephone number that had been provided and to connect to a conference call with two interviewers.

The days seemed to crawl by, but at last the morning of the phone interview arrived.  I called the number provided at 10 AM sharp, took a breath and waited for the people on the other end of the line to answer.  Though I had done telephone interviews for other, non-law positions before, this was a first in terms of articling jobs.  My interviewers were pleasant, friendly and eager to put me at ease.  Because CBS is a rather peculiar hybrid between an NGO and a government department, the interview was mostly scripted.  Even so, I found it much more difficult to gauge the atmosphere and the attitudes of my interviewers over the phone.  The interview questions were about 7 or 8 in number and generally involved open-ended, behavioural scenarios.  I felt that I answered mostly coherently without becoming tongue-tied and I even elicited some laughter.  The entire exchange lasted approximately 45 minutes.  Towards the end of our conversation, I asked some questions that I felt were pertinent (and that I actually wanted the answers to, of course).  In closing, my interviewers assured me that I was a pleasure to speak with and that I would be hearing back within the week.

It was obviously exciting and rather nervewracking to wait around for an answer.  With that said, I was so busy with Skit Night prep that I did not have much time to ruminate.  The answer came by way of standard form e-mail to my university inbox.  It said something along the lines of: “Thank you for your interest in a position with Canadian Blood Services.  Unfortunately, we will not be pursuing your application at this time.  We will keep your information on file and we encourage you to apply in the future with our organization.  Thank you.”  I would be lying if I said that this, particular rejection didn’t sting.  In the week prior to receiving this e-mail, I had begun to daydream about Ottawa life, what friends I could hang out with there during my articling term and even what condo prices would be realistic.  Even until very late in this whole process, I let my imagination run away with me.

But, one of the silver linings about repeated failures is that, at some point, you just get used to them.  I was sore about the CBS job for a day or two and then I just sort of forgot about it.  I wish that I could be more poetic about it, but that was it: I just kind of moved on.  To this day, I think it would have been a cool job and it sucks that I did not land it, but I just do not (and did not) dwell much on it.  This self-awareness about my own lack of attachment to failure empowered me and contributed to the great semester that I was having.  Pretty soon, there was less than a month left of classes.

Sometimes, life is kind enough to pile on the great stuff just when you can use it most.  In addition to the boost that Skit Night gave me, I had also gotten involved in a relationship that began in the middle of January with someone I had met in Victoria.  I knew that, due to geography, it was not bound to last very long.  Nevertheless, it was lovely spending time with someone that I really liked and enjoyed being around.  That type of companionship helped me to look forward to just about every day that was left of my last semester.  We hung out, watched movies, went for walks and laughed endlessly.  I think about that period almost every day and smile.

April finally arrived and, with it, came one, last surprise.  Unbeknownst to me, a couple of my friends had planned a surprise going-away party for me.  Since first year, I had become known for hosting a bar night every Thursday evening at a pub that was close to campus.  “Hosting” is a pretty strong word, considering I did not do much besides post obnoxious-sounding advertisements on Facebook that encouraged all my law friends to join.  Still, I had maintained this weekly event since 2013 and it had acquired something of a following in recent years.  On my last Thursday in Victoria, I had thought to enjoy the final installment with the usual group of people who frequented it.  Instead, I was met with some 50-odd people who had received a Facebook invite to the last occurrence of this UVic staple, all apparently in my honour.  The friends who had planned it even got up to say a few words about me.

My own words are not giving this event near the justice it deserves.  It was a big deal for me and it was something that I will always look back on with emotion.  At the risk of sounding repetitive, this kind of commemoration was huge for someone who used to think that law school held nothing but disappointment and hurt feelings.  The fact that 50 of my fellow classmates had come out to wish me farewell and show appreciation for some, small ritual that I had spearheaded was absolutely mindblowing to me.  I cannot think of a better way to have ended the semester or my law school career.  Similarly, I never imagined that I would be so lucky to go to school with such loving, supportive people.   Both then and now, I feel infinitely more fortunate than deserving.   Despite all of the up’s and down’s of the last three years, I realized finally that I would miss just about everything about law school dearly.

Less than another week flew by before my suitcases and I were packed tightly into a friend’s car.  The short car ride to the airport seemed to crackle  vividly with the memories of the last few years.  I remembered the good, the bad and everything in between.  Mostly, I remembered how I felt on my very first day as a 1L in Victoria and just how different I had been then.  My legal studies were at an end and I was no closer to securing an articling job.  The future was anything but certain and I never would have imagined being in such a situation as a clueless first year.  The truth of all this seemed like it should weigh heavily on me.  I felt curiously calm.  I watched the trees and and the lakes fly by and didn’t think much about anything at all.

As our car hit the island highway headed north, I took a long, last look at the Olympic Mountains in the distance.  The sun glinted against their snow capped peaks.   They had just managed to poke out through a thick curtain of fog. I smiled to myself.

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