Vanishing act

BY JEREMY BLACHMAN

“I COULD TOLERATE the Hark last year; but this year… I don’t know what happened.” One of my friends said something like that over dinner (not at the Hark, thankfully) a few nights ago. And while it would give me a great excuse to write about the Hark and how I’d rather Dean Kagan’s “build a new bathroom in Pound” funds had gone to “get some better food in the Hark,” that’s not what it made me think about. What happened to my Hark-hatin’ friend, to me, and to our 550-odd classmates is that we became 2Ls. And being a 2L, compared with being a 1L, just isn’t the same.

There are the obvious technical differences: we know what direction to turn in the tunnels, we know how to refill our Crimson Cash, we know that the coffee wasn’t always free and that there weren’t always tampons in the women’s bathrooms (actually, I don’t really know that firsthand – but I take everyone’s word for it). We know that mandatory meetings by OCS, OPIA and the Financial Aid office aren’t really mandatory and that skimming that last chapter of reading doesn’t make you a bad person. We’ve lost that feeling that sometimes hit in the back of the head that told us perhaps we ought to be outlining, forming a study group, briefing cases, stalking professors at their office hours, buying study guides, highlighting with more colors (side note: anyone else pick up that awesomely-cool erasable highlighter that one firm was giving out at their interviews? One side is pink, the other side is white – when you rub the white side over the pink you’ve used, it vanishes. This is almost as revolutionary as the combination tampon-highlighter they’ll be giving out in the women’s bathrooms come exam time. Twenty minutes of amazement in the library before I could actually bring myself to stop erasing my highlights, leave the stuff highlighted, and turn the page. I’ve had the thing for twenty-four hours and it’s already out of ink. I highlighted my entire TV Guide.) or (is this really still the same sentence?) calling our friends at other law schools to get them to search for our visiting professors’ old exams. Not that we did any of that stuff. But at least we wondered if we ought to be. This year, no more. I know people who haven’t opened their books yet – who haven’t bought their books yet. I know people not on the seating chart. I know people who don’t remember what classes they’re in.

But more than that, there’s an intensity change between 1L year and 2L year. Last year, everything felt important, like it had stakes, like it had meaning, like it was ‘real.’ “I’ve got to do a journal,” “I’ve got to send out resumes,” “I’ve got to go to this meeting,” “I’ve got to work on my memo,” “I’ve got to brush my teeth twice a day.” It was easy to care about stuff, because everyone cared, and because the institutional culture told us to care. This year, it’s harder. We know that missing a subcite isn’t criminal; that you can be on the “executive board” of XYZ club basically just by showing up, that the free food opportunities aren’t going anywhere. Everyone passes his classes. Everyone gets a job. Everyone survives. There’s not that “I could fall off this cliff” feeling of danger. Our professors aren’t white tigers in a Vegas stage show. And while that’s comforting and stress-un-inducing, it does make 2L life a little less interesting.

And so we’ve lost the intensity – and at the same time, in some ways we’ve lost our community. Our section, the same people in every class, the same experiences-in-common to talk about over crappy food at the Hark. We’ve all made friends, but it’s easier for days to elapse without seeing them, harder to find time-in-common, easier to go to class, go home, and check out. Of course, part of this is the interviews. They take up time, they take up energy, they take our pure souls and turn them into stone. In some ways, the interviews have been cool though, because they’ve helped to restore that missing sense of community, just a little bit. I pass you in a suit, we share a mutual glance. “I know exactly what you’re doing.” In fact, there are people – some I know, some I don’t – who’ve become – maybe just in my own head – sort of my “interview comrades,” apparently with the same class schedule as me (so that our interviews are at the same times) and with similar firm choices. I see them in the hospitality suites (“you again?”), in the hallways knocking, coming as I’m going, going as I’m coming, coming as I’m coming, and going as I’m going. There’s glasses dude, scoop neck shirt girl, and green resume folder man, just to name a few. Parts-hair-on-the-left guy, pretty earrings girl, four-fingered fellow, needs-some-Botox lady, always-looks-like-he-has-to-pee man, is-she-pregnant? woman, needs-a-shave dude, needs-a-shave girl, looks-like-my-aunt guy, smells-like-peanut-butter madam, one-shoe-untied man, flabby-elbows girl, spinach-teeth guy, and walks-like-a-robot lad. Just to name a few more.

But once interviews are done, this community too will vanish. Like the 2Ls from the Hark. And like the pink highlighting, once I use the special magic side of the highlighter that makes it all disappear. I really like that highlighter. I hope I get a callback.

Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He posts daily commentary here.

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