I'd meant to write on the eve of my departure from France, as it seemed appropriate to document how much it felt like the Third Act in a play or a movie. A culmination of things, victory achieved not simply in the domain of academics but elsewhere as well. Personal self-actualization through the activism in which I'd become involved, securing a job whose description fills me with incredible joy, a job I actually can't wait to begin in September, the amicable completion of relationships, the type towards which I'd figured myself a long time antagonistic, finishing the book, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
I'd measured my time there by this metric: It was a joyous realization to discover just how many people I had to say goodbye to in preparation of my leavetaking. Amidst all of that ecstasy came the passing of a dear, dear law school friend of mine, an event to which I came to terms by seeking my earliest of refuges
. The nature of the company I often keep has made me more familiar than most with the circumstances that likely attended his passing. That isn't to say that I was completely unsurprised; it is only to say the battle hardens one, prepares one, and proximity to that sort of thing makes it easier to deal with, if not understand. The most exacting challenge was to be support for those among us who did not have that shielding, that scar tissue, and were thus rendered that much more sensitive to the cutting.
What, perhaps more than most things, carried the flavor of Endings was the cessation of my time as a founding contributor at The Morningside Muckraker
. Since December of 2013, when I was introduced to a classmate's dream and offered the chance to participate, my time at The Morningside Muckraker has been an odyssey, embodying some of the best elements of my law school experience, creating an opportunity for me to write and write and write, to speak and to nurture my habit/passion for the written word in a fashion that took full advantage of my position as a law student, to build a platform and discover what it felt like to use it for good. In that final issue, I was returned to many of the things I confronted 1L year, the things that terrified me, the things that enthralled me, the things that would proceed to change me in ways more profound than I could have ever expected. Nowhere is this spiritual ouroborus more evident than in the fact that the girl I wound up sitting next to in the Civ Pro exam I nearly missed ended up becoming one of my dearest friends and my editor for this piece
Immediately upon my return, I spent time with my best friend, passing an afternoon at a new shisha spot in Little Egypt. From New York City, I proceeded to Wallingford for my 10-year high school reunion where I got to see just how much life had happened in the interval since our 5-year. Married, engaged, with one classmate expecting. Several in the middle of their careers, another on his third startup in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, here I was still in school (albeit, finishing up). What I realized most starkly this time around was how fitting an opportunity to network the whole weekend was. Earlier that week, I'd run many graduation-related and Bar Exam-related errands, and was walking around with my cap and gown, tapped on the shoulder occasionally with a word of congratulations from a stranger, and reminded in that moment, of what I was getting ready to do. Maybe it was the fading tendril of jetlag, but those moments always felt like the temporary parting of a curtain. Oh yeah, I'm graduating from law school.
Home for a day or two after the reunion to see the family and those who have already arrived from Nigeria, to watch Mad Max with the family (that incredible, kinetic, super feminist Slipknot music video), then back to New York for the two-day graduation ceremony.
On the day of the University Commencement, Michael Brown would have turned 19.
I passed Wednesday night with a good friend who treated me to a steak dinner and another curtain-parting moment. I felt more of the occasion that evening, wearing my #DecolonizeTheCanon shirt, than I had wearing that resplendent cap and gown.
At his apartment, his bookshelves were ripe for pillaging.
Then came Thursday and the (more important) law school graduation. It was a momentous occasion, or had become this for me by now, as I was a Class Marshal and charged with leading some of of the procession, guiding the pack of law students down the path and to their seats. That morning, I wore my robe and cap on the train from Brooklyn to Morningside Heights. Again, the well-wishes from strangers. Somewhere between 42nd and 72nd Street, a middle-aged brother in shades and a suit eyed me in my gown, stared off into the middle distance, then, on his way out, gave me a discreet fist bump. Later on, as we're lined up and proceeding down steps and a ramp to where the tents are set up, a group of kids--beauteous, diverse shades of black and brown--pop up by a small gate, practically climbing over themselves, waving at us and congratulating us on a job well done. (God bless whoever brought them.)
When I was younger, I figured these sorts of things only mattered to graduates and those in their immediate orbit. Family. Friends. Classmates. But now I know better. On a subway train, full regalia turns the graduate into a celestial body whose gravity pulls words of congratulations from strangers in circumgyration. We in those gowns, being seen, speaking at the podium, clapping furiously for each other, all of it matters. And to more people than we may ever know.
A good friend and very much a leader in our law school class, in introducing a professor to whom a prize was being awarded, spoke passionately and at length about injustice and social justice and the law and what it looks like as a student and as a professor to fight on behalf of people who cannot afford it. Every speech hit me to the quick. But perhaps my happiest moment was watching a friend to whom I'd become wondrously, impossibly close over the past few years walk across that stage, shake our Dean's hand and, doubling back around, whisper three words to me before heading back to her seat.
At the reception afterwards, on Ancel Plaza, I got to show her off to Mom, and our mothers met and we laughed loudly and looked lovingly at each other and this friend joked afterwards about the odds on how soon before our mothers were putting together our wedding arrangements. An uncle of mine, following me around the entire afternoon, got it all on camera, and I will be forever thankful to him for that. The rest of the afternoon was a whirlwind of Mom finally meeting some of the most important people in my life, almost all of them for the first time. My clinic director, several of my classmates in the clinic and best friends, the friend who had kept me sane while we were both stationed in Palestine, the mother of a friend and classmate with whom I'd attended middle school and high school, and so many others.
My Newsfeed is awash in photos of friends, loved ones, in their garb, surrounded by their team, their family, their friends, their lovers, their support network, their squad. It is all joy.
To cap it all, over pizza dinner, Mom asked me to wipe my fingers, then handed me an envelope containing insurance and a set of keys. My reaction is caught on camera, and will live on my hard drive for as long as I live. At one point, I think I murmured to myself 'this only happens on TV.'
The past few mornings have been spent gardening, preparing the front and back of our house for the swarm of guests that will invade our domicile on Sunday following the graduation of my baby sister from Amherst College.
Growing into adulthood (somewhat belatedly, perhaps) has been very much a piecemeal endeavor. But I feel, in the last few days, as though some of the largest of the bricks have been lain down. This time, the age I feel in my bones and in the deepness of my voice and in the occasional slowness of my gate strikes me as earned. It is attended by no small sense of accomplishment.
And though I was supposed to begin studying for the New York Bar Exam this past Wednesday, I have decided to give myself a week. I won't soil my sister's celebration by retreating to my work so swiftly.
Something has ended in me, for certain, with this most recent graduation. (There is certainly no more schooling in my immediate future, I hope) But they call it Commencement for a reason.
This time around, there is much less apprehension.
This time around, I can stare ahead at a somewhat unknown future and smile, grateful.