Three years down…

BY MELINDA MCLELLAN

melinda mclellan

The entry in my diary for September 3, 2002 is entitled “one day down, three years to go.” For better or worse, over the course of my time here at Harvard, I faithfully recorded my thoughts and feelings, successes and failures, interviews and associateships, bar reviews and hangovers, travels, troubles, and triumphs. I wrote almost every day. The result is a document that is over 1400 pages long but, unfortunately, cannot be turned in as a 3L paper.

On the one hand it feels like I just got here; on the other hand I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes and am now a completely different person. Leafing through the diary, I was reminded of all the major events that occurred these past three years. A shuttle disaster, SARS, the start of a war, Janet Jackson’s boob, the end of Sex & the City, legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, the Red Sox winning a World Series, a very contentious election, a devastating tsunami, a new Pope – just to name a few.

In my own life, one of my cousins got married, another graduated high school, still another graduated college, my grandfather passed away, my uncle served a year in Iraq, and one of my best friends left Cambridge as another arrived. I came to Harvard from France, lived a summer in Tokyo and another in New York, traveled to Salem, the Cape, Hartford, Chicago, LA, Las Vegas, Cancun, DC, and Paris – four times. Along the way I earned a JD.

As my law school career draws to a close, it’s interesting to look back over what I had to say as it was happening. From the aforementioned September 3rd entry, for example: “my overall mood is one of ‘let’s get this whole thing over with’.” What an optimist. Well, it did get better from there – before it got worse. And then better again. Here are a few brief snippets:

September 10, 2002: A Torts Timeline9:03 – “mr. X” starts on his first rant of the class. though not off topic, it is of no value to me.9:07 – i snap back to attention as the professor makes a witty comment about finding a baby, face down in a puddle, and laughing at it. is this a tort?9:18 – i realize i read wednesday’s readings for today. shit.9:22 – the prof realizes he is going to have to move on to Wednesday’s readings although he thought he wouldn’t have gotten there by today. yay.9:47 – the professor asks a question and i think i know the answer. i do not attempt to respond. five people in a row give bad answers. i feel smart for nearly fifteen seconds.10:14 – we decide definitively that it is not illegal to laugh at a baby drowning in a small puddle of water. 10:16 – however, it is wrong to kick a baby into a puddle of water.10:16:30 – and it is really wrong to do so if you’re its parent.November 23, 2002: Harvard/Yaleyesterday night i ventured out into Harvard Square with my friends for dinner. the square was brimming with yaliens. today was the big harvard-yale football game. perhaps it is apparent from my attitude that i don’t pay these things much mind.

the yalies were just sort of drifting through the square shouting things like “FUCK HARVARD” and “HARVARD CAN SUCK IT.” very colorful. but you can’t lay all the blame at their door since the t-shirt the harvard kids designed for the game said “FUCK YALE” on the front and had the image of a yale bulldog fellating a harvard pilgrim on the back.

i have to question whether it’s really flattering to have our mascot being blown by a dog. i mean, is bestial oral sex cool now? i feel like i might be getting behind on what the hip kids are up to these days.

January 10, 2003: First Exami just got back from my first law school examination. criminal law. a first harvard law school exam is supposed to be the most grueling, horrific stress-filled event of one’s life. aside, perhaps, from the bar exam. books have been written about the experience, and movies made. all i have to say is, what the F are these people talking about?

i did have a little flutter of nervous adrenaline as i headed into the exam room. there were certainly people who had studied ten times as much as i had. i knew this and accepted it. hey, we can’t all be supreme court justices. anyway, i think i gave solid answers. it wasn’t a C exam, and it probably wasn’t an A exam. and i won’t know for months, so that’s the last I’ll say about it.

oh! there was nothing at all about miranda rights on the exam! this is funny because i felt really bad about missing the main day of classroom miranda discussion so that i could sleep in and watch re-runs of ER. ha ha! suckers!

June 4, 2003: In Tokyotoday is my first day of work. I’m sitting in my little office and I’m redrafting some emails and waiting for a contract to arrive from the states so i can evaluate it. i’m a lawyer! uh, sort of! wooo!

everyone here is super nice, and tokyo is amazing. i’ve had some minor difficulties as a result of my illiteracy, however. for example, all of my computer program menus are in japanese. that makes for an interesting trip through microsoft wordland. i have to just remember what each menu says and what the options are. thank god i’m so smart, right? ha. it took me a half an hour to attach a document to my email. i could have asked my very solicitous secretary for assistance, but i wanted to figure it out for myself. i won’t be billing that to the client.

September 8, 2003: First Day of 2Lwell, as far as procrastination and denial go, this weekend was an unqualified success. when i got to tax, they were passing around a sign up sheet of some sort. my assigned seat is near the very front of the 120 seat classroom, and there were only a couple of names on the list. like a damn fool, i signed my name without even asking why i was doing it. five seconds of reflection would have caused any normal person to wonder what was up with the retro sign up sheet at a school with an elaborately overcomplicated computerized registration system.

turned out that i had signed up for her to call on me. yep. on the first day of class. i didn’t have to worry about anyone thinking i was an idiot when i was questioned, though, because that was made abundantly clear by the fact that i had SIGNED UP TO BE CALLED ON IN THE FIRST CLASS.

March 16, 2004: Pie Eating Contestthey say harvard attracts really driven, motivated, overachieving types of people. but really, i say it attracts masochists. because you have to hate yourself a little to sign up for such a demanding experience.

law school, law careers, whatever, really are, as it has been said, a pie eating contest in which the prize is more pie. you work and work and work to do… more work. well, more work for a lot of money, maybe, but still more work. if you’re really good, they’ll love you! they’ll really want you! they’ll want you… to DO MORE WORK.

i’m not adverse to work, though. as much as i whine about things here, it’s not the work that bothers me. it’s the constant feeling of grad student incompetence. just when i really understand something, i’m hit with something new that flies over my head for three weeks until i really get that. in the intervening time, there have been ten more things to process. it gets to you.

so, anyway, i’ve never liked depressive personalities. i’ve really never liked people feeling sorry for themselves when they have it good. and i have it good. all of us here have it good. so i frown on this blase weariness of having it all, but wondering if we really want it all. i’m as guilty as anyone else. we’re all ingrates.

April 30, 2004: Last Day of 2La quick entry before i head to my LAST CLASS AS A SECOND YEAR LAW STUDENT.

i shouldn’t even have class today, i might add, but this is a rescheduled class because of an earlier cancellation. and i’m supposed to talk today. i was supposed to talk in my last class yesterday, but he never called on me. too bad, because i actually could’ve said something meaningful. for once.

today, however, it’s insider trading and i’d just as soon not listen to myself say things like “rule 10(b)(2)(c)(3)(a) little i… wait. i meant… c. maybe (c)(3)(b)(2)(a)(ii)?”

maybe i
‘ll get another softball question like the last time. whatever. half the people aren’t even going to show up today. it’s gorgeous, it’s friday, and this is punishment for the professor’s vacation. no one will feel bad about missing it.

i got my class schedule for next year. curiously, i got EXACTLY what i was aiming for. i say “curiously” because i really thought i was aiming for something haphazard. this just goes to show everyone that i’m excellent at gaming the bidding system. but still outrageously unlucky with the lotteries.

Perhaps symptomatic of a yearlong case of senioritis, I really don’t have much of anything in my diary about law school itself for this year. Generally speaking, my law school experience has been much less about being a law student and much more about my life outside of the classroom.

In reflection, however, I almost can’t believe how much I’ve learned and how much my time here has changed me – in good ways, in questionable ways, in unexpected ways. I’m glad I was writing it all down as it happened, because it went by unimaginably fast.So now it’s three years down, one day to go.

Then on to the next adventure.

Melinda McLellan is a 3L. Obviously.

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