Monday, September 11, 2017

An inconsequential blurb.

It's a librarian's wet dream: an unending supply of young adult literature for free. Dozens and dozens of books arriving on my doorstep because I'm on a book-selection committee. Nearly every day there's a box waiting for me when I come home.

But that's for another post. This is about a different box that arrived about a month ago, which held
Harvard Law School's bicentennial alumni directory. I ordered it about a year ago for a slightly outrageous price. Because, well, vanity.

As I looked into the box, though, I felt a wisp of doubt: would I be in there? I was in no hurry to find out I wasn't, so I put the package aside.

Two weeks later, I finally pulled that hefty volume from its box and braced myself for disappointment.

And there it was, in the alphabetical section: my name, in bold letters, followed by "J.D. 1989."
I read it three times. Then I looked in the chronological section, and there I was again! I returned to the alphabetical section to see if it had changed.  And then I took a picture of it. Why was I obsessing over this silly little blurb? 

Because it was there. Because I was there!

I spent three years swimming semiconsciously in a muddy moat of gratitude, sleeplessness, and stark terror. So what if admissions had accidentally sent me an acceptance letter? I pushed forward anyway. Then they accidentally made me a teaching assistant with a little office in Austin Hall, and after that I became the managing editor for the environmental law review. A job which, by the way, I completely mangled. I graduated on time, a respectably average Harvard Law student. I took the bar and passed. I was even a lawyer for a while. Like, with a license and everything!

My God, I was really there. I slogged through snow in Cambridge and rode two trains and a bus to get home to Chelsea. I pushed my way through the masses in Faneuil Hall. I rode the Green Line to the Museum of Fine Arts. I went to Passim on Sunday afternoons, and I shopped at the Coop. I ate fried clams on Revere Beach, and I smelled the sweetly pungent garbage as I ran down the stairs to catch the T in Harvard Square.

I did all that. I was there.

Jesus Christ

If someone asks me a direct question -- where did you go to law school? -- I answer honestly. But I rarely volunteer the information. Yes, it's on my resume because it's true and it's useful. Only, it's not me I'm describing.

I thought I'd been hiding it out of false humility. But I was really hiding it out of fear: fear that people would expect me to be smart. Fear that talking about it would make me an elitist asshole. Fear that people wouldn't believe me.

Fear, deep down, that I never actually went to Harvard.

But there's my name, in that book. 

So, what would happen if I were to let myself believe it? What would happen if I were to embrace it, to feel its warm breeze on my face, to let it soak into my soul?  Would I survive?

Maybe it's time to find out.

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