When I graduated from college I was happy just to be done. And when I got my first job, I was happy just to have a job. It didn’t matter much to me what kinds of opportunities that job would open up for me. I didn’t really care whether the work was interesting. Mostly I just wanted to have something to pay the bills that wasn’t unbearable.
But then something happened. I started studying for the LSAT and found out that I would likely score very high. And then I actually took the LSAT and applied to law school. I got into Harvard. And then I went.
This little taste of success and prestige in the law school application process has made me hungry for more. Now I’m not content with being a student at Harvard Law; I need to be a top student. It’s not enough for me to get a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm in New York; I need to get a job with one of the most selective firms. It’s not enough to clerk for a federal judge; I need to clerk for a Supreme Court Justice.
In short, I’ve gotten greedy.
Instead of being content with the amazing opportunities that I know I will have as a Harvard Law graduate, I am focusing exclusively on the opportunities that I might have if I graduate magna cum laude, make law review, and get stellar recommendations from my professors. And to some extent, that’s spoiling my experience. I’m not able to just enjoy the fact that I’m here, that I have this incredible opportunity to learn law at such an elite institution.
If you had told me when I was a senior in college that I would be studying at Harvard Law school, I would be pleasantly surprised. I started considering law school a little bit before I graduated, but I had assumed that I wouldn’t be able to get into the highest-ranked schools. Because of that, I wasn’t even sure I would end up going to law school. I was worried I wouldn’t get into a program good enough to justify the exorbitant cost.
Now I tend to take it for granted that I’m here. The novelty has worn off. And I find myself feeling ungrateful because I worry that the most elite and prestigious outcomes will end up being out of my reach.
My first final exam is tomorrow. I’ve been studying hard. But I’ve also been trying to refocus myself on why I’m here. I’m here to become a lawyer. I want to do my best on exams, but it’s not like this whole thing is a fruitless endeavor if I’m a typical HLS student rather than an exceptional one. Typical HLS grads get great jobs and become great lawyers. The fact that they don’t have Latin honors on their diploma is immaterial.
In fact, the reason I want the best grades and the honors is not because they will open up opportunities that I want. It’s mostly a matter of my pride. I want the grades because they will help me to prove how great I am to myself and to the world. That’s a stupid reason to want good grades.
So I’ve been praying that God will give me humility and contentment with whatever grades I might end up getting. I want to be grateful for the opportunities I have instead of grasping at vain honors.
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.